A ranking of Black Mirror’s new episodes. Minor spoilers ahead, so probably take some time to binge the season before reading.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 1: USS CALLISTER
This episode begins as a Star Trek Parody, and to be honest, I was tempted to turn it off. I kept telling myself “This is Black Mirror, it’ll have a twist,” and it sure did. This episode is s space opera turned into a horrifying commentary on men in the tech industry that I could talk about for the rest of my life.
Plot: Robert Daly, the CTO of a video game company, is bitter about his mistreatment by employees and their CEO. Using their game called Infinity he creates a subversion based on his favourite show, a Star Trek parody called “Star Fleet”. Within the game, he makes avatars of those who have “wronged” him in the office, an example being someone who brought him the wrong sandwich. The “avatars” in his game are revealed to be fully sentient, have all their memories, and are essentially prisoners within his computer.
Fun fact: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman, is the voice of the player that contacts the crew of the USS Callister at the end of the episode.
Time of the twist: Approximately 20 minutes into the episode.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 6: BLACK MUSEUM
I heard this was the best of the season, and I can see why people think that. It is arguably one of the most important of the show as a whole, because it finally proves the long-running fan theory that all Black Mirror episodes take place within the same universe. The titular museum in the episode has artifacts from previous episodes, including Daly’s DNA processor from USS Callister, the bathtub from Crocodile, and the tablet from Arkangel, to name a few.
Plot: Nish’s car runs out of power, and after pulling into a run-down gas station, pulls out a portable car charger. Seemingly to kill time while her car charges, she enters the nearby “Black Museum”. She then begins a private tour with Haynes, the proprietor of the museum, who tells her the story behind a few of the artifacts. The artifacts are all from technology-based crimes. The museum’s main attraction, though, appears to be a fully sentient holographic murderer who had been sentenced to the electric chair, and whose consciousness Haynes saved before his execution. Guests are allowed to electrocute the prisoner, forcing him to relive his painful last moments forever. Nish doesn’t like this particular attraction very much.
Fun fact: The lab rats shown in Haynes’ first story are named Kenny and Hector, which are the names of the main characters in season 3’s Shut Up and Dance. This was either a slight nod to the audience or, since this is all the same universe, the rats were actually named after the characters.
Time of the twist: Almost an hour in, with a second, heart-wrenching twist taking place in the last minute.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 4: HANG THE DJ
Perhaps one of the only episodes of the season that gave me the feeling that I so love-hate from Black Mirror, Hang the DJ is a sweet love story with all the confusion and mind-explosions we’ve come to expect from this show. This season had a lack of episodes that had me saying, “Okay, what is going on?” only to have it all make sense in the end, but this one definitely delivered that.
Plot: Frank and Amy meet on what appears to be a futuristic dating app. They each possess a small, round device that they refer to as “Coach”. Using their Coaches, they are able to find out their “expiration date”, which is 12 hours from then, at which point they have to go their separate ways and “the System” will pair them up with new people. After both have different relationships, Frank in a year-long relationship with a woman he despises and Amy on a series of flings, they are paired up again. After this, they begin to question the logic of the System.
Fun fact: USS Callister’s Elena is using the dating app from this episode while she mans the reception desk at Callister.
Time of the twist: It starts within the last few minutes, but the last minute is where the ultimate reveal takes place.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 3: CROCODILE
There are distinctly three best episodes in this season, and three worst episodes. We are now in the territory of the three worst. While intriguing in that “I have to know what happens” sense, Crocodile lacked the feeling of a Black Mirror episode. The technology element was seemingly thrown in in order to make it Black Mirror material. On top of that, the main character’s character development is strange and drastic and overall, not very believable. She went from lifelong guilt over a hit-and-run to infanticide real quick.
Plot: Mia and her friend Rob are driving when they hit a cyclist, killing him. Rob had been drinking and therefore refused to phone the police, much to Mia’s dismay. They dispose of the body and the bicycle into the nearby lake and move on with their lives. Years later, Mia is now a successful architect. While on a business trip, Rob visits her to tell her that he is going to write a letter to the wife of the man they killed. Horrified it could be traced back to her, Mia kills Rob and disposes of his body. After killing him, though, Mia is looking out her hotel window and witnesses a pedestrian get struck by a self-driving pizza truck. Shazia, an insurance worker, is hired to investigate the accident using a piece of technology called a “Recaller”, which allows for your memories to be shown on a small screen. She needs to find someone who saw the accident, and eventually this leads her to Mia.
Fun fact: This is probably the only piece of live-action television where the hero is a guinea pig.
Time of the twist: This one… doesn’t really have a twist.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 2: ARKANGEL
The problems with this episode lay in a lack of twists or huge plot developments. It had a lot more potential, especially using the feature on Arkangel that makes it so Sara can’t see traumatizing things. I really thought it was going to go in a different direction than it did, especially after the scene with the grandfather’s heart attack. Also, why does 15-year-old Sara look like she’s 25?
Plot: Marie, a panicky, overprotective single mother, has her infant daughter implanted with a device called Arkangel that allows her to see where her daughter is at all times, and also see through her eyes using a tablet. The device also monitors Sara’s vitals and has a feature that blurs out anything that might scare or upset her. While Sara is in middle school, she gets curious about what she’s missing, and starts furiously stabbing at her hand with a pencil in an attempt to see blood. After this, Marie removes the blocking feature and puts the tablet away. Skip ahead to high school and Sara lying about her whereabouts, Marie brings the tablet back out only to tune into Sara losing her virginity. Yikes. Things just get worse from there.
Fun fact: This episode was directed by Jodie Foster, who wanted the setting to be more realistic than your average Black Mirror episode. That explains why the blender doesn’t look all high-tech. Also, some of it was filmed in Hamilton!
Time of twist: Again…this one doesn’t really have a twist. Unless you count when you find out that the Arkangel project was never launched nationwide, in which case that’s about almost twenty minutes in.
SEASON 4 EPISODE 5: METALHEAD
This one is one a lot of people disagree on, but it was by far my least favourite of the season, and the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I don’t like watching things in black and white, but I had a hard time getting through it. Also I’m not a huge fan of seeing people’s heads kind of… explode. But that’s just me. Overall it was an extremely bleak episode with an intentional but still unsatisfying lack of backstory.
Plot: In a post-apocalyptic world, Bella and companions Anthony and Clarke are searching for something to help a terminally ill boy. Upon finding the item, Bella’s companion Anthony is killed by a robot dog that afterward chases Bella and Clarke, killing the latter. They were forced to leave behind the box they were searching for, which is eventually revealed to contain a bunch of little white teddy bears. Bella continues to run from the dog for the remainder of the episode.
Fun fact: The white bears in the box resemble Jemima’s teddy bear from season 2’s White Bear.
Time of the twist: Do we consider the teddy bear thing to be a twist? That’s the last shot of the episode.