‘Black Mirror’ finally returned to our screens in the final days of last year. Winning several Emmys since its last season its return was more anticipated than ever before. With six brand new episodes would creator Charlie Brooker and co. be able to deliver? While the overall consensus was that as a whole season four maybe wasn’t quite as strong as it’s predecessors, even an average episode of ‘Black Mirror’ is better than a lot of other episodes from series currently available to us.
In celebration of this six of our writers decided to binge watch the whole season and rank it’s episodes. Below you will find our combined rankings of the episodes with a short synopsis and review of each, enjoy!
At the bottom of our list comes the Jodie Foster directed ‘Arkangel’. This is a cautionary tale that ‘Black Mirror’ usually does very well, but this slipped into the mundane when the technology on hand, and the events delivered, didn’t gel in a satisfactory way. Placing a device in your child so you can track, locate and monitor their most private moments, as well as censoring anything they might find disturbing, is a device that would always be doomed to fail. The message that the story told was so obvious, and the stakes were so low that it was hard to care about the characters.
Sure every parent would probably initially welcome such tech, but in the long run it would only fuel resentment and disdain from every child involved. Just try asking your teens at home if you can have a look through their Facebook page and see the response you get. Of course poor Sara would rebel against the Big Brother Mother influence in her life. As viewers we could see what would happen, and as far as story telling goes, that’s a mistake. Apart from the basic flaws in the story, everything else was fine. The performances were all solid and it all looked the way it should. Foster is the first female director on the show, it’s just a shame the episode was a little vanilla, we expect more from ‘Black Mirror’.
This post-apocalyptic tale, with it’s sharpened black and white shades, fits extremely well in the Charlie Brooker mould of tech-horror. It features very close to the bottom of our season four list but it has a top quality in showcasing a serial killer-esque mentality within a ruthlessly programmed robo pooch. It’s strongest element lies within the almost one player performance from Maxine Peake, who struggles, fights and acts her socks off whilst fleeing from the tenacious wits of the worst kind of guard dog. The runner up is the dog itself; a metal creation that feels believable and a dangerous gadget you truly expect to be made, like some Amazon Prime tactic for late payers.
These two characters square off against one another in this bleak, colour drained landscape and you do come away with the sense of each of their fierce motivations. One; desperately trying to obtain a warehouse box, the other maliciously designed (by humans) to seek and destroy. Perhaps the reason for our placing it away from the top hitters of this season, is that the plot is simple and over the shortest run-time of any episode this year there aren’t many places for this run and hide narrative to go. It’s not a story that calls for many re-watches which ‘Black Mirror’ normally sets up nicely. We liked the touch of the mystery box and the horror brushstrokes but overall ‘Metalhead’ has little bark and just a slight bite.
‘Crocodile’ follows successful architect Mia Nolan (Andrea Riseborough) fifteen years after she and friend, Rob (Andrew Gower) covered up a hit-and-run accident. The episode features technology not miles away from what we had previously seen in ‘The Entire History of You’ all the way back in season one. Instead of fully recording all the events witnessed by the user the tech here induces memories of particular events which is used for investigating crimes & insurance claims.
The episode features some fine performances, from those already mentioned and Kiran Sonia Sawar who plays an investigator for an insurance company. The narrative gets going immediately and feels darker than the other episodes in season four so far. Initially it’s intriguing to see how, and even if our characters will cross paths. The story quickly spirals out of control and Mia’s actions get more and more desperate. Despite ‘Black Mirror’ being notorious for it’s bleak nature this might have been too prevalent in ‘Crocodile’ to elevate it further on our list, with some viewers maybe struggling to see the purpose of this bleakness in this instance. Nonetheless it’s a well executed episode but potentially the most divisive of the season.
#3. Black Museum
The technologically infused episode, ‘Black Museum’, made our top three in the ranking of this season’s ‘Black Mirror’ episodes. This episode was a story revolving around a cryptic museum that housed forbidden, crime-ridden technology and narrated three different stories within the episode. The dark history of each of these items in the museum played out like a creepy, foreboding reminder that technology will one day be the death of us. ‘Black Museum’, while staying true to the ‘Black Mirror’ vibe, brought another level of technological surrealism that we haven’t quite witnessed before. Yes, each episode has brought forth how technology continues to develop at a rate faster than ever before, but Black Museum brings it all to a halt unapologetically.
We are thrown into each story, but somehow the appeal is embedded within the emotions and heart of it. I mean, who wouldn’t seek vengeance for their father, right? Sure, this is perhaps a winded road to take but that’s the beauty of ‘Black Mirror’ and we enjoyed every minute of this insane mind trip. What made ‘Black Museum’ even more appealing was the subtle Easter eggs infused throughout the episode, taking us back to episodes of ‘Black Mirror’ past, such as the mechanical bee from last season’s ‘Hated in The Nation’ or the costume used in season two’s ‘White Bear’. Suffice to say, ‘Black Museum’ was a satisfying treat for ‘Black Mirror’ fans and kept true to the constant edge-of-our seat drama that we love about this show.
#2. USS Callister
A lonely, seemingly innocent guy runs a lifelike video game simulation caked in ‘Space Fleet’ nostalgia (a would be ‘Star Trek’ of our universe). The spaceship USS Callister is a virtual domain for Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) to exact his desire to be the hero of his favourite TV show. This episode unearths the hypocrisy and falseness of Daly’s belief in the Space Fleet code as he uses it more to enable his misogyny and punishment towards others’ emotions. In internet terms, Daly is a “nice guy”. He thinks he deserves the attraction of his crush – and, furthermore, the respect of his business partner and power over the employees in his company – and when they don’t, he traps a virtual copy of their selves into his video game. There, he breaks them into submission. This is the set up of ‘USS Callister’, established early in the episode.
What is exceptionally insightful about ‘USS Callister’ is Daly’s projections onto his video game. To name one, his sexist ideas of a woman’s value – to admire him. Women serve only as a reward, where he takes his kiss after he completes every episode, ensuring that he, the solo male, is a victorious hero. And if they don’t comply, he tortures them in ways I will not describe. And so, through the victims of ‘USS Callister’, we have a unique viewpoint from the victims of “nice guys” (or any self-entitled egomaniac, really). A masterful examination of how one stands to lose ownership of one’s self through eyes of Daly, and the fact that this episode comes in the form of Star Trek, a familiar territory (and practically a breeding ground) for this type of people, makes ‘USS Callister’ a brilliant Trojan horse of a black mirror.
#1. Hang the DJ
‘Hang The DJ’ is the fourth episode of the fourth series, focusing on the two characters of Amy and Frank. They live within a walled-off society, in a seemingly dystopian state in which all they are destined to do is date, and date, and date, until they find the inevitable ‘one’ and get paired off with them. It’s quite obvious the focus of this episode in particular is our current dating methods, in which it’s incredibly simple and easy to just move from one person to the other, entirely based on an algorithm. Hell, just think about the number of friends & family who download Tinder the day after a relationship ends. The biggest strength of this episode in particular is the narrative and the core relationship between the main characters. Big props to everyone involved for creating such a realistic rapport between the two of them, whether it be the direction, the writing, or the fantastic actors themselves, we end up feeling for these characters in a similar way as we did for Yorkie and Kelly in ‘San Junipero’.
In regards to the narrative itself, it was a quite a simple one, and one that has been seen before. If anyone has had the pure delight of watching ‘The Lobster’ (2015), there will be some glaring similarities at first. However, ‘Hang The DJ’ is undoubtedly much more grounded in reality, and tells its own unique story in such a fascinating way, with the characters of Amy and Frank being so, well, normal. In conclusion, it truly was a delight to watch, and we will forever be grateful that we live in a time in which this show can exist.
Written By Troy Balmayer, Ariba Bhuvad, Hamish Calvert, Louie Fecou,
Joseph McFarlane & Jimmy Sherwood
Thanks for reading, please let us know what you thought about this season of ‘Black Mirror’ and tell us how you would rank the episodes! Leave us comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.