Black Mirror Drama

TV Review: Season Four of 'Black Mirror' Goes Where the Series Has Never Gone Before

December 26, 2017Ben MK

How far would you go to protect your child? To be with the person that you love? What about to prevent your deepest, darkest secret from coming to light? Would you violate someone's privacy? Would you risk banishment from society? Would you commit cold-blooded murder?

In the six episodes that comprise the fourth season of Netflix's acclaimed anthology series, Black Mirror, show creator, executive producer and writer Charlie Brooker explores these questions and more. From the low-key Arkangel to the darker and significantly more disturbing Black Museum, Brooker paints a portrait of a futuristic but recognizable world in which technological advances have allowed concerned parents to monitor their children to an unprecedented degree, for doctors to actually feel what their patients are going through, and for the human consciousness to be digitally extracted. But at what cost?

The answer, more often than not, is our own humanity. But whereas previous seasons' episodes often found its characters at the mercy of technology, in Black Mirror: Season Four, it's we ourselves who are largely responsible for bringing about our own misfortune — the technology is merely an enabler. Whether it's being motivated by pure greed, being driven by our own selfish ego, or being led by our own misguided notions of what's best for our loved ones, there's a certain undeniable bleakness — more so than usual — that serves to link together these seemingly disparate narrative threads.

Of course, that's not to say that there isn't a bright spot among this latest batch of episodes. Like San Junipero before it, Hang the DJ is the rare episode this season that doesn't deal with death or homicide, instead revolving around a couple named Frank and Amy (Joe Cole and Georgina Campbell) who risk it all to be together. Set in a society where romantic relationships are not only aided by a sophisticated dating app, they're enforced by it with an Orwellian iron fist, Frank and Amy must decide whether they should trust the app to determine who their "ultimate partner" should be, or whether they should trust their own instincts.

Contrast that with the black-and-white episode Metalhead, and the difference is virtually night and day. A prime example of what happens when Black Mirror ventures more towards the spectrum of visceral storytelling, the admittedly thin plot here involves a dystopian world and a woman named Bella (Maxine Peake) who finds herself in a fight for survival against a relentless, dog-like robot. Suffice to say, if you were to pick the season's grimmest episodes, it would be Black Museum, this and Crocodile, a story about a successful architect (Andrea Riseborough) whose life takes a gruesome turn when she is forced to confront her role in a hit-and-run 15 years earlier.

Then there's USS Callister, the season's most imaginative and visually spectacular tale, and one that seems very uncharacteristic of what Black Mirror has become know for — at least at the outset. Unfolding aboard a starship that calls to mind the aesthetic of the original Star Trek TV series, this look at the tensions that develop between a space captain (Jesse Plemons) and his long-suffering crew also takes on an ingenious and more sinister twist as the story progresses. However, unlike Crocodile and Metalhead, the endgame is decidedly less depressing.

It all adds up to one of the most interesting — and perhaps divisive — seasons of Black Mirror to date. The show has always been about using science fiction to reflect and dissect the world we live in, and the same holds true for this latest season as well. This time, though, it all feels a little more abstract, a little more speculative, a little more ambitious, and a little more uneven. But with directors like Jodie Foster, David Slade and John Hillcoat behind the camera, and actors like Rosemarie DeWitt, Jimmi Simpson and Letitia Wright among the cast, there's no better time to take a look in this mirror, darkly and see for yourself.

Black Mirror: Season Four begins streaming December 29th on Netflix.

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