Why Black Mirror Season 4 Doesn’t Feel Like Black Mirror
The season is crippled by a lack of coherent ideas and questions.
Having watched and written an analysis for each episode of Black Mirror’s fourth season, I cannot help but notice that season four is bad. In fact, I would say it is the worst season of Black Mirror thus far.
Admittedly, it was difficult to discern exactly why the season rated so poorly. The directors for each episode are extremely talented and have done beautiful work in the past with very few low points. The cinematography was on point, especially in Crocodile and Metalhead.
Crocodile really captured the Icelandic landscape beautifully. Metalhead made the dreary and boring Dartmoor look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland better found in Fallout. Or my personal favorite shot of the season is in Metalhead when Bella is hiding behind a sheet covered chair.
Her shotgun makes a line that almost divides the screen in two, and then the robot slowly creeps across the other half of the screen. It is a perfectly done shot, no one could have done better. The acting was certainly well done too. In USS Callister we see Robert Daly switch from introverted tech nerd to sadistic bastard within a mere cut. Or in Crocodile, the pure conflict and desperation on Mia’s face as her crimes escalate.
Needless to say, season four was not bad because of the directors, cinematography, or acting. The common element in each episode is the writer and creator of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker. The script of each episode, though not exactly poorly done, lacks coherence. The main themes often contradict each other or are incomplete.
For example, Hang the DJ could not decide if it wanted to be about a dating app that used the AI version of you, the concept of knowing when your relationships will end, or being forced to date app-chosen people.
When the end of the episode revealed that everything was an in-app simulation, it is confusing at best. If the main point was an overly controlling dating app, then making the episode a simulation clouds the theme unnecessarily.
Or in Metalhead, a robotic security system manages to take over the world, but Brooker does not take the concept further. It is a mere fact of Metalhead, not a question that requires an answer from the audience.
This theme (if you can call it that) is further clouded by the end of the episode, that poses a question about humanity in comparison to the robot. Since the robot is a rather ruthless and cruel murder machine, it is doubtful the audience would think to ask whether or not Bella’s life was worth a teddy bear for a sick family member.
To compensate for this lack of cohesion, Brooker used Black Museum to place season four into one universe. The previous seasons of Black Mirror implied a shared universe between episodes, but it was not explicit.
Black Museum displays items from USS Callister, Arkangel, and Crocodile as artifacts of crimes. Rather than let implications lie like in earlier seasons, Black Museum purposely uses dialogue to reaffirm that the events of all three episodes were crimes.
USS Callister merely questions the personhood of a sentient and self-aware AI. Especially to those that enjoyed the sci-fi series it is referencing, the personhood of an AI is never unquestioned. If the character of Data did not have enough episodes dedicated to determining his personhood than surely the holograms of Fair Haven made a great case for themselves.
Arkangel is about psychological abuse on a child, a subject that should never be anywhere near the word ambiguity. Crocodile is a cautionary tale against driving while intoxicated and dealing with the consequences of that.
Metalhead pits a ruthless killing machine against human compassion. Hang The DJ lacks consequences and complete ideas. Black Museum is the only episode with a morally ambiguous question, even if the answer is clear in the episode.
As such, despite the talent behind each episode, season four of Black Mirror is not well written. The season is crippled by a lack of coherent ideas and questions. Furthermore, season four lacks the impact of moral ambiguity that earlier seasons have promised and as result falls flat.
Want to see what we thought about each episode of Season 4? Check out our Black Mirror hub.