With its winningly ghoulish approach to mankind's immaturely bearish embrace of technology, Black Mirror is the rare TV series that is delivered in the perfect format, funneling a wide variety of anthologized stories through Charlie Brooker's tonal prism. The highly anticipated Season 4 will soon be released on Netflix -- good luck finding a specific release date -- and I'm extremely excited to say that fans are going to go just as rabidly gaga for this haunting and endlessly thought-provoking sextet of episodes as they got for seasons past.
Having had the slack-jawed privilege of viewing all six Black Mirror latest episodes ahead of Season 4's viral debut, I wanted to give everyone an of what we're getting into with this latest batch of nightmares; an idea that goes a tad deeper than what the trailers showed us. But worry not, for there are zero spoilers to be found in this story. Where's the fun in watching a Black Mirror when the surprise is already ruined? I mean, beyond all that delicious irony, of course.
Within Black Mirror's vast array of sordid situations, many of the things that happen in the episode "Metalhead" stand out as being quite distinct. The most obvious reason, to those who have seen the trailer, is its place as the only Black Mirror installment filmed entirely in black and white. A sprawling yet swift tale of survival, "Metalhead" is directed by David Slade, the helmer of Hard _Candy and many memorable hours of discomforting TV on shows such as _Breaking Bad, Hannibal and American Gods. He delivers another eye-catching winner here.
Truth be told, "Metalhead" likely wouldn't lose any of its raw power if it maintained a more realistic color palate, but its black-and-white aesthetic speaks to the stripped-down essence of not only its story, but of Black Mirror's core focus on "man vs. machine." This won't go down as the most quotable episode by any stretch, but "Metalhead" will prey on viewers' nerve endings until their proper breaking point. Starring The Theory of Everything's Maxine Peake, The Missing's Jake Davies and Hope Springs' Clint Dyer, this Black Mirror episode doesn't need bells or whistles to deliver the terror.
Everything we've seen so far from "USS Callister," Black Mirror's bizarro Star Trek-esque installment, has looked like a space-set Laugh-In sketch. And though that's not at all what the end result actually was, the episode was just as unpredictable and bizarre. (No Goldie Hawn, though.) The presence of The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery may make you think that another sci-fi show's space team tackling space missions would be genre overkill, but such thoughts should be depressurized. Saying more about the installment, however, would be too much.
With a feature-length running time of nearly two hours, "USS Callister" stars Breaking Bad's Jesse Plemons, How I Met Your Mother's Cristin Milioti, and Westworld's Jimmi Simpson, among others. It was directed by Toby Haynes, who's delivered some more out-there storytelling with episodes of Doctor Who and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. "USS Callister" is also the only Season 4 episode where Charlie Brooker took on a co-writer, Will Bridges, who also wrote last year's online troller "Shut Up and Dance."
The plot behind the episode "Crocodile" may center on an invasive new technology, but the story itself is just as animalistic as the titular reptile. As directed by John Hillcoat, known for films like Lawless and The Proposition, "Crocodile" does have a very western vibe to it, telling the story of someone trying not to let their past catch up with them. That said, it shares very few details in common with the genre.
Of course, much of that has to do with the aforementioned invasive technology. You see, "Crocodile" introduces a device that has the ability to capture a person's raw memory-based impression of a situation. That idea alone doesn't promise good news for anyone in the Black Mirror-verse, and things become quite a challenge for these troubled characters, as played by Bloodline's Andrea Riseborough and Legends' Kiran Sonia Sawar, among others.
Hang the DJ
Romance is a subject that Black Mirror has put through the wringer in its first three seasons, giving viewers quite a few disconcerting examples of how being in and out of love works in this fictional near-future. "Hang the DJ" isn't quite as effective as series highlight "San Junipero" or "The Entire History of You," but it shares a lot of the same unsettling themes that will keep reverberating in fans' minds.
Flowers' Georgina Campbell and Green Room's Joe Cole are two people looking for love using a popular new and advanced dating service that plans out its customers' love-lives in advance, through a series of relationships of varying quality. With its light underpinnings and darker underpinnings, "Hang the DJ" will make audiences question why we are so free to let algorithms do so much of our natural romancing for us.
The Black Museum
Much as the special Christmas episode gave Black Mirror fans a trio of short-form scenarios to allot some alarmed consideration to, "The Black Museum" offered up another disturbing medley of stories tied to a central motif. In this case, the concept revolves around an American road attraction dedicated to different pieces of technology involved in crazy crimes, with the always captivating Douglas Hodge (Penny Dreadful) and Human's Letitia Wright as the two central stars.
One of the stories within "The Black Museum" shares a bit in common with one of those stories told during the "White Christmas" episode, though obviously hitting upon a different and much deeper layer than the one before. Two of the stories involve medical procedures that initially seemed like good ideas, while the other involves a truly bizarre take on non-corporal punishment. By the end, regardless of whether or not viewers love each of the individual stories, everyone will want to learn more about everything else in the museum, especially if director Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders) is behind the visuals.
Possibly the most anticipated episode of Black Mirror's run so far, "Arkangel" boasts the stellar team-up of director Jodie Foster and Mad Men vet Rosemarie DeWitt. As such, you know the dramatic thrust here is going to be as impactful as anything that came before or after it. And perhaps because the distinguished Hollywood icon Foster is involved, Charlie Brooker's script is far more directly concerned with emotional hurdles than sinister electronics.
Not that sinister electronics are absent here. "Arkangel" revolves around a revolutionary surveillance device and stars Rosemarie DeWitt as a protective mother to Australian actress Brenna Harding. Interestingly, their relationship is explored largely through scenes where they're not even together. It's undoubtable that "Arkangel" will hit harder for parents, but even childless Black Mirror viewers should similarly walk away from the episode by taking a new look at others' lives.
Fans would probably agree that Netflix should just keep Black Mirror going ad infinitum, just in case the show's destructive legacy gets embedded into the streaming service's...negative tech-energy or whatever. Season 4 will debut on Netflix at some point before the end of 2017, so stay alert and ever-ready to be slightly more disgusted by the human race. While waiting to see when Black Mirror will arrive, set your calendars for all the other returning (and new) series with our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.