(SPOILER) Black Mirror Review Series 4

This fourth season is more inclusive than the previous ones. These stories always reflect issues we’re dealing with in our world, which makes them so relevant and at times so disturbing. All episodes have a different duration, the great thing about Netflix is that they won’t limit episodes to a specific format and cut the storyline to fit commercial breaks. Each story has its own pace.

U.S.S. Callister

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It’s a great opener. A well-made homage to Star Trek. It tackles dark subjects like toxic masculinity, the sexism in geek culture, white/male privilege, rape culture (taking someone’s DNA without consent, Robert Daly coercing cloneworkers into [mashed the words clones and coworkers] to his fantasy).
It’s hard not to think of Gamergate while watching this episode, especially when seeing the power dynamics between everyone, whether it’s in the workplace or the fantasy world.

It shows us how someone in a position of power might justify his abuse and that appearances can be deceiving (hellooo #metoo). People on the outside are clueless. Not even Nanette’s real self sees the signs, she’s blinded by the admiration she has for Robert’s work. It’s the clone version of herself, a victim of his who takes action and tries to make contact with the real Nanette to put an end to Daly’s sick games.

At first we pity Robert, he’s isolated and we’re pissed at how his coworkers treat him. Shania warns Nanette not to get too close to him, as a viewer we have no reason to believe her from what we’ve been shown. Which is interesting and echoes the disbelief faced by the victims of abuse.

We learn that Robert murdered his co-owner’s son in the virtual “world” to torture him, which is a no-no. Robert is basically a mass-killing-machine-à-la-Columbine waiting to happen. Eventually, as he gained more confidence and his narcissism expanded, he would’ve committed a crime in the real world.

This episode raises important questions. With all these advancements in technology how do we regulate its use to combat cyber crime? What would be the ramifications of Daly’s actions? In the eyes of the law do the clones created become evidence or conscious beings with rights?

ArkAngel

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This episode gave me single white female vibes. It’s the episode that feels the most like our reality.

It’s set up in a suburb, the characters are isolated in a safe bubble. You notice that the mom is acting creepy even without the device, which only enables her possessive behavior.

It’s the voyeurism that made my skin crawl. The mom’s hoovering over the fear of losing her daughter is what led her to lose her. She even slips a morning-after pill in a smoothie after she snoops on her daughter having sex, the day before. WTF. This brings us to the debate involving the limits of parents’ rights. Kids are not their parent’s properties, something relevant to this day (whether it’s about religion, sexual orientation, their profession, lifestyle, etc.). That kid never had a chance of setting reasonable boundaries, with her mom being the only adult in her life.

She was sheltered by the autoblurring-PG-13-device and her mom. We all know someone like that who rebelled in extreme ways due to being treated like prisoners by their own families (unprotected sex, hard drugs, gangs, etc.).

This reminds me of the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017) about Gypsy, a young woman who murders her mother Dee Dee. We learn that the mother induced voluntarily all kinds of medical procedures (torture) on her healthy daughter, lying to the doctors about imaginary sicknesses.

The lesson here is that isolating kids from the real world is only going to hurt them. In fact, at the end, we see the daughter climbing in a truck… That can’t end well in the Black mirror world, maybe that’s for another episode…

Crocodile

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I feel like it’s a twist on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. It was one of the most painful episodes to watch, I felt physically sick. You knew horrible things were coming, there was no hero to save the day, it was inevitable, you felt powerless.

The most brutal scene was when Shazia says the shahada, we didn’t see her death but we heard it. When it came to the baby man, fuck that shit.
At the beginning of the episode, we were shown a hit and run. Mila’s old bf was the selfish culprit and she was the responsible one who wanted to call the police. She’s not the same person anymore, we see how far she’s willing to go to preserve her perfect little life even if that means wiping out an entire family.

As a person of color, I can’t ignore race in whatever I’m watching. This episode shows basically how far white supremacy is willing to go (ex. genocide) for self-preservation. Shazia was basically killed for doing her job, for wanting to earn a little more to support her family.

The episode was shot in Iceland. It’s vast, empty, immense, intimidating. It’s ironic but it gave me that feeling of being trapped.They picked the perfect song for the recital, it’s basically a summary of the episode. Mia had a choice, and she chose to murder innocent people to cover her ass. We are, as people of color, expendable in a world where white supremacy thrives. This woman thought she had every right to commit multiple murders to escape justice for a previous murder. Eye roll.

This episode hits hard and hits home. A lot of white crimes go unpunished or with a simple slap on the wrist. The ending’s not satisfying. Really?!?! How nice, the officers had the decency to wait for that cold-blooded murderer to watch her son’s recital, and that’s right after she killed a baby?

The writer apparently said that if ellen degeneres read the fine print she would’ve said no to the Recaller and all of this would’ve been avoided bla, bla… This episode showed us that Mila had it in her this whole time. It don’t matter how many bodies you drop, even if you killed just once, you’re a killer. We see here new technology used without being properly regulated. It’s irresponsible and dangerous to send unprepared employees to snoop on people’s minds, uncovering their dirty secrets. What about privacy, this is definitely violating human rights, no?

That guinea pig should’ve cuffed ellen.

 

Hang the DJ

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This episode lightens the mood à la San Junipero. It’s a sad, funny and truthful look inside the workings of relationships today with tinder and dating websites. How the “ritual” goes, what it does to a person (one-night stands, staying in unfulfilling relationships, maturing, etc.). The pursuit love without the unnecessary BS, in a very funny, sanitized way. It becomes predictable when you hear Frank talking all that matrix talk.

There’s one amazing shot where we only see Amy and Frank’s hands (She reaches for his hand while they’re lying in bed). The angle, the lighting is beautiful.

The acting’s good, the chemistry between the two main characters is palpable. I remember seeing Joe Cole in Skins, this is a total 360 for him.

It would’ve been interesting to see how the system worked is it like in “USS Callister”? Maybe that’s where dating apps are headed. With a 99.8% rate that’s money well spent.

 

Metalhead

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This episode is so basic, but so nerve-racking. So much suspense, Hitchcock would be proud. It’s in black and white, which allowed me to focus on whatever’s happening.

Too much talking tho. At the beginning it’s ok, but when the character’s on her walkie-talkie, ugh. She could’ve said less we would’ve understood, we’re very familiar with the codes of the post-apocalyptic film (landscape, costumes, setup, story).

This was a very scary “preview” of how robots could potentially be used in a near future (war, the police force) and how we could lose control over something we barely understand. #Skynet

Metalhead’s not even a story, we were part of a fleeting moment, witnesses. I was as nervous and stressed out as the character, I was yelling at my screen. It captured very well the essence of the typical post-apocalyptic action film.

 

Black Museum

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It was a great ending for the series. If the show isn’t renewed, all the “questions” were answered. It was cathartic and a payback for Crocodile (plus all the episodes in the previous series where people of color were victims). It referenced previous episodes, confirming that all the events took place in the same universe.

The episode is set in a museum. A “legit” institution. We don’t know who were the people behind every invention, but Rolo, the museum guide, speaks as if he was responsible for all those technological advancements. He rewrites “History” without being questioned and he profits from it financially, even though he was fired from his job as a neurological research recruiter. He’s responsible for many deaths and so much pain, yet shows no remorse.

Nish is a young black woman and the only visitor. He finally shows her the highlight of his exhibition, a “hologram” of a black man, Clayton who was wrongfully convicted and executed by electrocution. What’s twisted about it is that you can pull the lever on the electric chair and he’ll feel it, you even get some memorabilia; a fragment of him screaming in pain in the form of a keychain.

The owner is giving off creepy vibes, as a viewer you grow worried for Nish. The story is flipped when we learn her true identity. She took the power back by using Rolo’s “own” technology against him. Rolo’s words are contested when we learn that Clayton was coerced by him into submitting himself to this horrible and inhuman experiment when reminded of his family’s precarious condition.

Rolo represents the outdated system that is capitalism, he will tolerate anything under white supremacy (nazis, violence, exploitation, etc.) in exchange for cash. “Artefacts” with a twisted history are displayed for the visitor’s pleasure. Interestingly, the people who visit the museum are mostly white, there’s one Asian guy representing complicit non-black POC who participate actively in anti-blackness and benefit from it. #GetOut

We see here that black people’s pain is entertainment, this shit happens in real life (videos of black folks, adults and children killed, brutalized by the popo, shared massively on social media without any respect for the victims and their families, no repercussions for the perpetrators). We see nazis, psychos and regular people all pulling the lever with smiles on their faces.

This is a “write your own narrative/ take back the power/ Payback’s a bitch” allegory.

Visually, the scenes outside are easy on the eyes. The landscape, the lighting and the retro car could be a nod to Thelma and Louise. The inside of the museum is a mix between kitsch and futuristic esthetic. Some might be pissed at the aesthetic and the storytelling in this episode, I feel it represents the eclectic quality of this show which is known for mixing genres, tones and styles.

The white writers and directors probably didn’t realize how much impact this episode would have. They might’ve sprinkled some POC to gain the diversity tag. Many black critics have said that the themes here are slavery and rebellion, I agree. I think this is why seeing Nish getting justice felt so exhilarating, it gave us all hope.

I believe that episodes like these demonstrate why we need more POC not just in front of the camera but also behind the scenes to bring fresh stories, so we can use our imagination to help create a better future.

A few of the many interesting reviews on Black Museum.

‘Black Mirror’ S4, E6: how Hollywood inadvertently gave us the Black retaliation story we needed by Hari Ziyad

I’m a Black Critic Who Dismissed the ‘Black Museum’ Episode by Noel Ransome

Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” and the History of Medical Experimentation on Black Bodies by Katie Mitchell

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