Black Mirror

Over the Christmas break, Charlie Brooker and Netflix finally decided to release Season 4 of Black Mirror. We rank each episode from worst to best (in our honest opinions), because isn’t that what the Internet is for?

So, before you jack-in, make sure you’re not already trapped inside a simulation. Spoilers within.

6.

“Metalhead”

David Slade (Hard Candy) directs this black and white episode—with events taking place in real-time—following a woman as she runs away from a tiny but lethal robotic dog (inspired by real-world BigDogs). I just couldn’t get into this episode. There wasn’t much to glom onto with its sparse dialogue and lack of world building. Most Black Mirror episodes occur in the not-too-distant-future but this one seems more futuristic than most. How did this robo-apocalypse come about? What are the humans doing? What do the robots want? Give us something! Who cares, says Brooker. We’re stuck in a bland landscape witnessing Bella’s harrowing escape from a ridiculous looking robot dog.
– Michael

Black Mirror Season 4: Metalhead

 

“Metalhead”

Either this episode went right over my head, or it was just objectively poor. In a dystopian Britain, killer robot dogs have taken over, and a woman searching for supplies must outrun and outsmart one of the machines in order to survive. And that’s it; we are given no other information about the world, the people or the dogs (or why the episode is in black and white). This isn’t happening in an intentional, fill-in-the-blanks style either, but instead simply screams:  “we couldn’t be bothered to write a real plot but thought this would look cool.” There was nothing I liked about this episode and therefore earns the last place on my list.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - Metalhead

5.

“Arkangel”

Jodie Foster directs this episode about parental controls. It starts off with an interesting premise, albeit one similar to the muting technology in “White Christmas”, where anything scary, like a barking dog, gets blurred out. This has interesting consequences as the girl ages. Censorship has dulled her senses making her a danger to herself and others. The episode quickly drops this conceit in favour of the girl’s mother stalking her as a teenager, seeing through her eyes as she “experiments” as teenagers are so inclined to do. The muddled storytelling really lets this one down here.
– Michael

Black Mirror S4 - Arkangel

 

“Crocodile”

This was probably the hardest episode for me to rank. It was dark, disturbing and incredibly tense, and by no means a pleasurable experience to watch. But, unlike similarly unsettling episodes, “Crocodile had just the right amount of horror to keep me hooked without repelling me altogether. Mia’s decisions to kill seemed pretty far-fetched, and I couldn’t understand why she was so determined to keep going. However, watching her world unravel and the future insurance investigator close in was totally gripping, despite the not so convincing technology being applied to take her down. So “Crocodile” lands here on my list, not because it was run-of-the-mill, but rather because despite its pretty gaping plot holes I was thoroughly engaged in the story.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - Crocodile

4.

“Crocodile”

This one has some neat technology—reading memories—c’mon, that’s pretty cool. And it’s used by an investigator played by Kiran Sonia Sawar who is captivating to watch as she pieces together the subjective memories. But this story is more interested in the no-nonsense businesswoman played by Andrea Riseborough, who just likes straight up murdering people. That it plays with gender roles and who we normally associate with killers is interesting but it just keeps going past the point of believability. Also, it ends so absurdly I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
– Michael

Black Mirror S4 - Crocodile


“USS Callister”

As a massive fan of Galaxy Quest, I thoroughly enjoyed the theme of this episode. As with Season Three’s Playtest I also loved the way it explored the future of gaming. The biggest issue with “USS Callister”, however, is that the technology was just too far-fetched for me. I could believe so far as to upload DNA to a game and have characters that looked like your friends (and enemies!), but to be able to upload memories and consciousness in this way was a step too far. Despite that, this episode had one of the strongest endings in my opinion, where Daly is stuck in his chair, trapped in the game, and you remember a couple of scenes back to the assistant saying the office would be closed for ten days, which means no one will notice his absence: a satisfying end to a particularly creative and different episode.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - USS Callister

3.

“Black Museum”

Like “White Christmas” before it, “Black Museum” (oh, I just realised the parallels in the naming there, very clever) delves into multiple stories within an overarching narrative like a Tale of the Crypt. Our museum guide, Rolo Haynes, is cheerful enough but something is off about him. Maybe, just maybe it’s how he’s connected to each of these stories with unhappy endings. The episode touches on Black exploitation and our lead played by Letitia Wright (Black Panther) is onto him and embodies vengeance in everything that’s come before her. It tries to connect up at the end but all feels rather messy. I think I enjoyed the ride more than I did the payoff.
– Michael

Black Mirror S4 - Black Museum

 

“Black Museum”

Another episode where multiple stories come together, Black Mirror achieves what White Christmas” didn’t: there is much less ethical ambiguity, which means when the villain gets punished it’s satisfying. I wasn’t too keen on the technology. Again, when trying to explain future neuro-tech and digital consciousnesses Black Mirror ends up leaving us with some pretty big plot holes. Each of the three stories told by Rolo are entertaining on their own, with a lot of meaty stuff going on that ties up nicely in the end. I especially loved the nods to past episodes in the trinkets around the museum. The characters are also fantastic in this one, and the ending is a wonderful rounding off of the new series.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - Black Museum

2.

“Hang the DJ”

The ultimate culmination of Tinder and dating apps of its ilk. What would happen if such technology could find your perfect match? What if to get there you have to go through a number of relationships, all the while knowing when exactly down to the second they will end? It’s an interesting take on the state of dating these days, even without technology involved in the process. The more uplifting of these six episodes. When Black Mirror wants a love story, albeit a twisted digitally-infused one, it usually does pretty well.
– Michael

Black Mirror S4 - Hang the DJ

 

“Hang the DJ”

Finally, a romantic episode of Black Mirror where no one dies, no one is being tortured, and there’s a happy ending [Is it though? What about the people in the simulations! – Ed.]. I loved the characters in this story, and the way it took a little while to realise that they aren’t living in some utopian future, but a dating simulation. Another refreshing episode where things go right, I enjoyed everything about “Hang the DJ” and its commentary on the future of romance.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - Hang the DJ

1.

“USS Callister”

I’m not even a Trekkie, but this is my favourite Black Mirror episode in all four seasons. “USS Callister” starts off as a Star Trek parody, but just underneath is something much more sinister. Jesse Plemons plays a tech guy and it seems like the world is against him. But really he’s the ultimate creep. A man that feels entitled over digital recreations of his colleagues and the true sexism that comes with the “nice guy” narrative. His newest coworker played by Cristin Milioti learns this the hard way and has to make contact with the real world to end their suffering. Such a great mix of comedy, twists and turns, and philosophical musings even if the technology is a little wacky.
– Michael

"USS Callister" - Black Mirror Season 4

 

“Arkangel”

The moment I saw this episode was directed by Jodie Foster, everything came together. I loved the way “Arkangel” very subtly introduces technology, with comprehensible limits and conceivable consequences. It was like watching a well-made short film about the life of single parent and child evolving into the dynamic of mother and teenage daughter, but with a small insertion of Black Mirror technology paranoia. Though troubling and depressing, “Arkangel” presents a well-crafted consideration of neuro-tech in the hands of an anxious mother.
– Matty

Black Mirror S4 - Arkangel