Black Mirror is the most affecting, challenging, beautiful, and often uncomfortable television show in recent memory, even for someone like me who watches a lot of TV. Netflix just released season four of the BBC original program, a six-episode roller coaster, which includes two of the show’s best episodes (but also three of its worst).
Submitted for your consideration, here are summaries AND mini-reviews of each of the six episodes. Spoiler alert, there will be minor spoilers!
And if you don’t want to get too far into Season 4, scroll all the way down for a ranking of every Black Mirror episode from 1 to 19.
We begin in an office where a software team is helping build a VR world. A new employee catches the attention from her boss and soon finds that he has a special fondness for her (#MeToo). She, like her other co-workers, become trapped inside his private portal and must figure out how to liberate themselves.
Our welcome back to Black Mirror was supposed to feel like a 1970s Star Trek episode, and it probably worked better as the latter. “USS Callister” was a quick-paced, beautifully-colored, action-filled hour, flitting between two worlds. It could be a good episode in another series, but mostly it didn’t work for me because the conflict was obvious and the villain lacked depth. While entertaining, there was very little out of the Black Mirror playbook, that made you question how the technology could be good or bad.
A concerned mom implants a security system into her daughter, so she can monitor and filter out danger. As the daughter grows up and into the world, the mom isn’t ready to let go of the control she has over her daughter’s life.
Absolutely! This was back to Black Mirror showing a hypothetical solution to a current problem, and then demonstrating how letting technology solve those problems often has unintended consequences and gets completely spun out of whack. When does surveillance and censorship hit its breaking point? Where is the reasonable midpoint between protecting loved ones and trusting them to protect themselves? Also what are we willing to do and not willing to do to ensure the best life for our kin? Quintessential Black Mirror.
In a futuristic world, insurance adjusters can watch people’s memories, helping resolve disputes. But that also means that secrets are harder to keep, which our main character finds out the hard way. Time after time.
Eh. Crocodile certainly brings in “the technology—for who’s sake?” questions, but episode seems disjointed from any type of realistic world of consequence. Anytime the protagonist is faced with a dilemma, the answer always seems to be a brutal murder. While the acting and locations are masterful, “Crocodile” asks viewers to try to understand someone who will kill anyone and everyone to protect herself.
Modern dating, Black Mirror style. Subjects agree to being forced into arranged relationships for a predetermined length of time, no longer or no shorter. An algorithm is continuously fine tuned based on interactions, until each person is eventually paired with their algorithmically formulated perfect match. “Hang the DJ” is about the ups and down before finality, and whether or not to trust the system.
Incredibly well. The emotional stakes are so high, the plight of lovelorn is so devastating, and the journey is so filled with relatable misgivings that “Hang the DJ” shines as a Black Mirror masterclass. Moreover, the episode introduces a dating system so intense and dissimilar to our current swipe-right climate, that it almost makes sense… you know, if you can trust technology.
A dystopian future finds scavengers stealing from a seemingly abandoned warehouse. Unfortunately for them, it is very well guarded by advanced, relentless, robotic guard dogs. Most of the episode follows the pursuit of the thieves.
No. “Metalhead” is a fantastically exciting chase devoid of nuance and meaning. You may find yourself rooting for the human to escape the robot trying to kill her, but inevitably, the episode lacks affecting emotion. It’s a fun action thriller, but there are no reasons to become invested.
A woman wanders into an empty museum that exhibits once-revolutionary technology that is now renounced. The directors sprinkle subtle nods to former Black Mirror episodes throughout, as the woman—like the viewer—is presented with the pros and cons to life-changing inventions.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, Oprah giving away cars to everyone, yes. The superficial series of scenes come together to form a beautiful mosaic, as this episode seems to draw from the entire series and be the perfect finish to the season. Bonus points for the musical cues and the Easter eggs from ghosts of Black Mirror past!
And because here at The Prompt, we really put on a good power rankings, I went ahead and made mine for every episode from every season of Black Mirror.
The only thing I like more than watching Black Mirror is talking about it. If you agree, disagree, or want to go deeper on any of the 19 episodes, use our technology systems to start a dialogue. Find me at @joshbard and @thepromptmag on Twitter.