For the first few seasons, Black Mirror was known as the show that successfully occupied our mental faculties. With three episodes each during the first two seasons, the show put its best foot forward. When the first episode of the series, The National Anthem ended, it introduced us to a future that felt pretty believable. Episodes like White Bear maintained the mystery for the entire duration only to reveal the horrifying climax that left us questioning our moral code. And an episode like White Christmas showed cinematic brilliance with a strong plot line that kept us glued.
Charlie Brooker’s vision is simply unparalleled and it’s difficult to name another personality in the world of entertainment who has a better understanding of the world than him. But even with Charlie Brooker’s genius attached to the show, this season feels underwhelming.
It would be wise to say in the times when binge watching has become the most popular way of consuming content, Black Mirror still remains a show that just can’t be binge watched and the sole reason for that is the superior quality it always delivered. Many episodes in the past have left us gobsmacked and spiraled us down a wormhole where we were left imagining the destruction that technology could cause to human life.
But sadly, the new season of Black Mirror doesn’t hold up to its predecessors.
The six independent episodes of the fourth season aim to recreate the same impact but most of them, unfortunately fail. Black Mirror has left us googling the real-life inventions that have already happened and how they could have an effect on our lives. More often than not, these episodes paint the picture of a bleak future and there would be no exit from that. This season has a significant change in tone as the stories aren’t as dark as we expect them to be.
Black Mirror’s new season tries too hard to recreate the legacy that it created for itself but can’t match it.
This story of a mother-daughter duo is set in the near future. Their relationship is nurturing but quite interfering for the daughter and the consequences, as expected, aren’t pleasant for anyone involved. The storyline focuses on the over-protective nature of parents and the measures they take to save their child from the monstrous world. The decisions, even taken from a good place, turn toxic for an impressionable mind. While the concept is futuristic, the impact from the climax of the story does not leave you scarred or scared. The story is engaging but somehow does not match the expectations that one has from a Black Mirror episode, considering its legacy so far.
2. Black Museum
One of the best episodes this season, Black Museum serves three stories that are entwined in one episode in the best way possible. This one has a lot of easter eggs from the previous episodes of the series and is quite engaging for the viewer. The creepy factor that has been associated with Black Mirror for all these years remains consistent in this episode. With the duration that lasts over an hour, this episode has the kind of impact that we have associated with Black Mirror.
3. USS Callister
This episode is Black Mirror’s ode to the likes of Star Trek. This feature length episode is about an organisation and the intellectual politics that dictates an individual’s decision making. The introvert who is pushed around at work but lives an alternate life that allows him to be whosoever he wants to be, an extrovert who swoops in at the right time and takes away the cake, this episode explores these personality archetypes. The introduction scene of this episode is enough to raise the interest bar and even the tension remains consistent but it’s only the payback that leaves you questioning if it was worth it.
This episode is entirely filmed in Iceland and is set in the near future where raw impressions of live events can be extracted out of one’s mind. The protagonist has a dark secret and in her struggle to keep that secret buried, she ends up making more devastating mistakes. The story is predictable, and even when the big shock drops in the end, you know you could see it coming. Crocodile was certainly the least impressive episode this season with events that don’t really hold your attention for long. The picturesque beauty of Iceland is wonderfully captured but at the end of the day, we expect more from Black Mirror than a few shots that look stunning.
5. Hang the DJ
As told by Charlie Brooker himself, Hang the DJ is a follow up of San Junipero. San Junipero was a rare episode from the Black Mirror universe that did not leave us disheartened. Hang the DJ has the same tone of hopefulness attached to it, at least for most part of the episode. This is set in a world where dating apps match you with prospects and study your relationship patterns revealing who would be the right fit. Two characters remain the focal point of this story and we see them struggling through this course where they are matched with people they might or might not have an interest in. Unlike other episodes, this one does not constantly border on the dangers of technology directly but toys with the idea very cleverly.
The first episode of Black Mirror that has entirely been shot in black and white. It is a tale of survival that has been shot quite aesthetically. Metalhead isn’t meant for everyone and does require one to be invested in the plot. It’s shot beautifully and stands out in the bouquet of the episodes that came out this year.
A re-run of all the previous episodes is much needed now.