Monday, 1 January 2018

Black Mirror - Season 4 (2017) - ranking from best to worst

Source - Ranking 'Black Mirror' Season 4's Episodes From Worst To Best

[I totally agree with the ranking and comments. Here I cite the article, ranking from best to worst].

1. Episode 1 - USS Callister [the best one]

Jesse Plemons [nickname Meth Damon; Breaking Bad] plays a reclusive tech CTO working on essentially a kind of ultra-immersive VR, but he’s routinely abused and ignored by coworkers to the point where he’s made his own, private version of the sim where he’s a Kirk-like starship captain and he gets to boss around digital versions of the guys that harass him and the girls that snub him.

But just when you’re feeling sorry for him, things take a hard left turn when you realize that the office workers are in fact fully digital copies of their real selves, complete with memories and agency, realizing they’re in a twisted sim run by an “asshole god,” as they say. They’ve been spawned illegally from copies of their DNA the CTO has grabbed without their knowledge. As the imprisoned CEO [Jimmi Simpson; House of cards] puts it, it’s like being trapped in a waking nightmare that never ends.

This could have gone even more dark, as there’s a funny sequence where it’s revealed no one kisses with tongue and no one even has genitals in the sim because Plemons wants to keep it PG like the original production. But as we go on, we do wade into deep waters as we learn the CEO’s child was replicated for the sim and forced out an airlock in front of his father to get him to yield and play along.

I’m not sure if there’s a truly “happy” ending at the end of this one, but it’s certainly one with some measure of justice as the CTO rots in his apartment, stuck in his deleted sim, and the digital crew gets to live on infinitely in the sim, now in control of their own fate.

I’m not sure if this is an all-time great episode, but it’s definitely the strongest of this season, and one of the only ones that felt like it truly captured some of that Black Mirror magic missing in most of the other new episodes. If you watch only one episode, I’d make it this one.

2. Episode 6 - Black Museum


Black Museum ended up being one of my favorites of the year, because not only are the individual neurology-based vignettes good on their own, they all blend together by the end expertly as well, making for one of the most satisfying conclusions of the year.

There’s the doctor addicted to a pain-transferring device to the point where he starts murdering people for a rush. Then there’s the comatose wife transplanted into her husband’s head where she constantly nags him until he transfers her into a stuffed animal instead. And there’s the death row inmate who signed away his life rights only to have his consciousness trapped as a hologram where patrons of the Black Museum pay to electrocute him over and over, with him reliving his death for their amusement endlessly.

All of this ties together as we come to realize that the last man’s daughter [Letitia Wright; Humans], who is being given the tour by the owner, is there for revenge. Like the 1st episode, Black Museum ends with a hefty dose of justice, one that makes for a satisfying episode even if everything before it was kind of a bummer. It’s a standout offering that could have been a miss given the structure, but it works.

3. Episode 2 - Arkangel
[Director: Jodie Foster]

I liked this one quite a bit because it wasn’t just inventing tech for some twisted plot’s sake, it’s something that I could actually see existing and being used with good intentions, only to have it fail miserably.

The tech here is “Arkangel” a tracking system for children that not only lets you see their physical location and vital signs, but also literally see through their eyes so you know what kind of trouble they’re getting into. It also has a “filter,” where stressful content can be rendered mute and blurry to protect the child’s psyche.

This is all well and good when you’re telling little Susie not to steal from the cookie jar or find her when she wanders off from the park, but less good when her grandfather has a stroke and she blurs out the entire episode instead of calling for help.

In the episode, eventually the mother realizes she needs to scrap the system and let her daughter go, only she’s tempted into using it once again when her daughter starts lying to her as a teenager. To make sure she’s not in trouble she reactivates it only to find her daughter having sex and trying drugs. The system also notifies her she’s pregnant, and her mother grinds up a plan B pill in her morning shake to end it.

It’s a pretty gripping tale of best intentions going horribly wrong and alienating the child you were trying so desperately to protect. Yes, the commentary here IS a little in your face, but the episode is handled so well, I don’t think it matters.

4. Episode 4 - Hang the DJ
"Everything happens for a reason."

Episode that I liked, for the most part. I do think Hang the DJ was trying to be this year’s San Junipero too hard. It works, but only to a point. It’s charming enough, but the concept is a bit wonky.

Couples exist in a little bubble world where they’re assigned timed relationships that can last between 12 months and 5 years. Go through enough of them and the system will automatically match you with “the one,” and you can quickly deduce that this is very much about both modern romance and dating apps. After a sparks-filled 12 hour first date, the central couple are separated. The guy alternates between a dreary one year relationship and being single, the girl [Georgina Campbell; Broadchurch season 3] has a long affair with a vain guy and a large amount of flings. Ultimately when the two are given the chance to meet up again, they decide to “buck the system” and run away together.

This veers out of YA dystopia territory when it’s revealed that the couple, and all the couples, exist in the algorithm of a phone-based dating sim. Running the bubble world sim reveals a perfect match if you and the other person decide to rebel to be together.

It’s… cute, but a little too cute, and while I appreciate the rare happy ending on this show, there simply is not the emotional weight present here that we got in San Junipero.

5. Episode 3 - Crocodile

Black Mirror is usually bleak, but this one just felt bleak for bleak’s sake with tiny tech angle that seemed shoehorned in to make it qualify for the miniseries. A woman is confronted by a man from her past threatening to try to “make amends” with the family of a biker they accidentally killed and covered up when they were younger. She kills him, as it could doom her career, but after the elaborate disposal of his body, finds herself in hot water as a new traffic accident, a man getting mildly injured by an automated van which took place outside her hotel room that night, requires to come forward as a witness.

The tech used here is a device that recalls memories that can be used in police investigations and in this case, for insurance purposes. Sort of an ultra stripped-down version of the tech from The Entire History of You (season 1, ep. 3), a past, much better episode. The problem is that the questions bring up memories of both murders and she promptly murders not only the poor insurance investigator, but also her husband and baby as both could potentially ID her.

I didn’t much care for this overly dark episode to begin with, but the final pair of twists are just eye-rolling. The first is that the baby she murdered was born blind, so it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d left him as a memory eyewitness. The second is that she’s ultimately caught because you can also extract memories from a guinea pig, it turns out, and she didn’t think to murder the pet that was sitting in the same room as the kid. This episode is well acted by its major players, but ultimately too dark and dumb to like.

6. Episode 5 - Metalhead

It’s a post-apocalyptic future where robot dogs are hunting human survivors, including our protagonist (Maxine Peake), who faces an unrelenting and surprisingly capable pursuer across a barren landscape.

[...] desolate post-apocalypse where the world is run by murderous mini-robots, it’s just not a very good episode.

I would have been curious to learn more about this world and what happened to it, but Metalhead is only given 40 minutes when some other episodes are well over and hour, and the entire thing is essentially the story of one woman’s escape from a murderous dog-bot the size of a trashcan who does everything in its power to murder her.

It’s… innovative, I guess, in the sense that when we think of killer robots they normally look like Terminators and not like a terrier, but this is just not terribly deep, kind of boring (one scene is literally the woman sitting in a tree until the bot’s battery runs out of juice) and features one of Black Mirror’s stupidly unnecessary final reveals (they all risked their lives for teddy bears!). It’s my least favorite episode of the batch.
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