While Season 4 is the weakest Black Mirror to date, it still provides just enough intrigue and bleak twists to make this one of the best anthologies on Television. Just don’t expect it to live up to previous seasons.
Created by Charlie Brooker
An anthology series exploring a twisted, high-tech world where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.
If you’re familiar with Black Mirror then you know what you’re in for, and you will most likely be dissapointed with some of Season 4. It lacks the sharp edge and smart writing from the earlier seasons, and never explores technology in any new ways. Artificial Intelligence seems to be the theme for this season, which is problematic since it was already so well covered in “White Christmas”. In fact, this season sees a return of many themes, from “White Bear” to “San Junipero”, it feels like the series is taking a step back to play it safe, instead of moving forward. But is it still good?
For the most part, yes! None of the episodes are a total failure (though there are some duds), and this is still must watch television. For newcomers, this is probably the most accessible Black Mirror has been. Just know that this does not represent the show at its best, though there are a couple of stand outs.
Much of the joy of watching Black Mirror comes from the twist and surprises, so i’ll just give a list of the worst to best episodes, along with a grade and a brief review, completely spoiler free. Again, go in blind and dont even read the synopsis.
The most meandering of all 6 episodes. It barely explores technology, and provides uninteresting characters that you don’t care for in the least. What remains is a unpleasant story, with little payoff. It also doesn’t help that the plot feels thinly written at best, with way too many conveniences (and inconveniences) to push the story forward. After thinking about it for a couple of days, the memory of this episode only gets worse and worse.
Visually, its directed with a wonderful sense of style and tension. This is a stark exercise in simplicity, and also the shortest of all the episodes. I suspect it will be the most divisive of the season, but for me, the simplicity worked. Its a Mad Max inspired tale of survival, with echoes of “The Road”.
I’m torn on Arkangel. On one hand, i appreciate the more grounded approach to the story. It lends a lot of grace and humanity to the characters, and it makes you care about the themes it brings up. On the other hand, it feels incredibly rushed, and would have benefited from a long run time to space out the time shifts. The ending also falls flat, and you will see it coming a mile away. The more i think about this episode, the more underwhelming it becomes.
3. Black Museum
This is Black Mirror at its most self aware and comical. If you can accept that, you will enjoy what is essentially a loving send up of the show itself. Its a fun, grimly grisly episode that recalls “White Christmas” a little too much for its own good, but is still satisfying to watch nonetheless. Its a neat little collection of small stories that focuses more on instinctual desires rather than a deep dive into any one theme.
2. U.S.S Callister
This is the episode i was most worried about going into this season, and what do you know, its one of the best episodes of the series! The marketing has thankfully kept all of the surprises intact, and there is a ton to unpack here. What i can say, is that the performances here are incredible, especially from Jesse Plemons who continues to kill it in his brief appearances. Easily the most fun i’ve had this season, but also presents some of the most thought provoking material. I’m not completely sold on the ending, but those are nitpicks.
1. Hang The DJ
I just flat out love this episode. And yeah i’m not going to spoil anything. You dont deserve that. Just know that this is probably the funniest, most heartwarming Black Mirror episode to date. Its also one of the best love stories I’ve seen in recent years. The chemistry here is incredible, and i prefer it over “San Junipero”, even though it isn’t as high concept. But it makes the most of its premise and explores them at an immensely satisfying pace. So what are you waiting for? Don’t check the time, just watch it now!