Black Mirror has received critical acclaim and widespread viewership since it first premiered on Channel 4. Series creator Charlie Brooker was applauded for his unflinching dark satire on the nature of humanity and the road an over-reliance on technology may be leading us down. Series Four has just premiered and while it is still excellent TV, it is notably different.
The most substantial difference this series is an uncharacteristic abundance of optimism. Happy endings were, prior to this, a rarity in the show. Every episode from the first two series ended on very bleak notes, as did the majority of those in Series Three. Series Four is a stark contrast to this. There are no episodes quite as blood chilling as there were in prior series, though the episode ‘Arkangel’ is certainly thought provoking and one of the more realistic Black Mirror episodes.
One criticism of this latest series however is an over-reliance on certain ideas. The Series Two Christmas special ‘White Christmas’ introduced the idea of ‘cookies’ – seemingly conscious virtual reality versions of people taken from their brains. The episode lead to several questions regarding the ethics of such an enterprise and whether cookies could be considered sentient. The idea of cookies was approached again in two episodes this series. As a result, the concept feels increasingly stale.
The finale of this season, ‘Black Museum’ is something of a mixed bag. While Douglas Hodge’s performance as the enigmatic and menacing Rolo Haynes is fantastic, and the first story of the three presented in the episode is truly spectacular, the following stories fail to maintain this high standard.
‘USS Callister’ is a delightful watch, and perfectly mixes the campness of Star Trek with the darker notes of Black Mirror itself. The episode also seems to have been inspired in part by I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Despite some dark overtones, it is one of the series’ more comedic episodes and the cast, including Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, and Jimmi Simpson, all perform their parts superbly.
The other serious contender for standout episode of the series is ‘Hang the DJ’, perhaps the most optimistic of Black Mirror ever aired. The performances of the two leads are charming and there is a palpable chemistry between them. The premise is interesting and the twist ending is heartwarming rather than chilling. It is one of the more interesting and original takes on online dating that has been done and it fully lives up to all possible audience expectations.
Ultimately, Black Mirror has, once again, subverted our expectations and fans will no doubt be craving more. With any luck, a fifth series will be on its way soon.
Image: Lindsay Silvera via Flickr