Black Mirror has returned and further confirms Charlie Brooker as both a madman and has incredible foresight into the very near future.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had to keep my mouth shut about the new season. Anticipation is at an all-time high, especially since last seasons San Junipero was a smash hit that took home numerous Emmy awards and brought greater awareness to the series. I found last season a bit of a miss*, but I’m happy to confirm Season 4 is an incredibly strong season. Its full of shocks, twists, horror and a tiny sliver of hope.
Don’t stress, this review will contain no spoilers. I’m just going focus on surface-level details. Each episode is completely different from the next but I figured I’d start with the most hyped up episode, USS Callister.
USS Callister is a feature-length episode set in space and is easily the most ambitious episode of the season. The episode is very much modeled after an old Star Trek episode with a Black Mirror spin. The episode stars Jesse Plemons (Fargo, Breaking Bad) who’s one of my favorite young actors out there right now. Plemons has the ability to light up the screen in every role he’s in and this episode is no exception. Rounding out the cast include Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother), Jimmy Simpson (Westworld) and Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum). This episode probably won’t receive the same accolades that San Junipero did but it’s a really great funky sci-fi episode that isn’t too dark. Plemons and Simpson are amazing together and it makes me wish Plemons would star on Westworld next season.
The first episode I watched was Crocodile which was directed by John Hillcoat (Lawless, Triple 9). The cinematography is incredible as they filmed on location in Iceland but the episode is the weakest of the lot. It’s very much a Black Mirror episode but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Andrea Riseborough who plays Mia does give a fantastic performance but it’s not enough to save this rather dull episode. It does feature a very intriguing device that is able to access a person’s raw impressions of past events and that alone is worth watching it for but keep expectations in check.
Arkangel is the first episode of the season and was directed by Jodie Foster. It tells the story of a relationship between a mother and daughter over the course of a few years. Arkangel plays like an indie movie and is my favorite episode of the season. The center of the episode focuses on a sophisticated surveillance tool that has me second guessing my recent Amazon Echo purchase.
Hang The DJ is the San Junipero episode of the season. It was directed by Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Game Of Thrones) and is about characters using an advanced dating system. The system is able to map out a series of relationships for you in advance. This episode has some major twists and turns and an incredible soundtrack by Sigur Ros. This will probably be most people’s favorite episodes. I’d start with this one before getting into the more darker episodes.
Black Museum is a compendium episode, with three interconnected stories, similar to the White Christmas episode starring Jon Hamm. Each story builds into the next. This episode is incredibly bleak and gruesome so be warned. Of course with “museum” in the title you can expect a lot of easter eggs and callbacks to past Black Mirror episodes. You might not recognize Letitia Wright but she’s about to have a huge year with roles in Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ready Player One in 2018.
Finally, there’s Metalhead. Directed by David Slade (Hannibal, American Gods) this episode is intense. I’m a huge fan of Slade’s work and this episode delivers. It’s the first Black Mirror episode to be filmed entirely in black and white. It’s extremely violent and incredibly well done. This is the shortest episode of the season coming in at only 40 minutes. If you liked the Punisher and Slade’s other work you’re in for a treat. This is a good reminder to go watch American Gods after you finish this season of Black Mirror.
Black Mirror continues to be one of the best anthology series out there and I’m glad it’s getting a bigger audience thanks to Netflix. There’s not a bad episode in the bunch. Each one is worth watching and it’s nice to watch at your own pace. Charlie Booker is an incredible writer and I’m excited to see where he takes the series and his career. After a so-so third season, it’s nice to see Black Mirror back on top and just as good as it was in season 2.
Black Mirror launches on Netflix on December 29th. Here is the launch trailer:
*For those wondering I liked San Junipero, Shut Up and Dance, and Nosedive last season. Nosedive is one of my favorite Black Mirror episodes of all time.