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Black Mirror series 4 review and episode guide

Possibly the most anticipated series on Netflix this year was the return of Charlie Brookers Black Mirror. Originally an idea for Channel 4, Brooker struck gold when the anthology series was picked up by the streaming service. The first series expanded the run to 6 episodes, originally we only got 3, and the elevated budget brought us bigger stories with more effects and well known faces in the roles. Netflix enjoyed massive success with their first run and we are now blessed with a second set of stories, but the question is, are they any good?

For the purpose of this review we shall run briefly through each story and give you a general feel for them. I will avoid spoilers but instead give a personal response to the tales.
Episode One: “USS Callister”
Cast: Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson, Michaela Coel
Directed By: Toby Haynes
Written By: Charlie Booker and William Bridges

The first story, ‘USS Callister’, is a clever parody of classic Star Trek mixed with a dark story of office tensions. It’s clever and looks good but as far as Black Mirror goes, it misses the mark. If you took out the bad language and adult references it could have been a discarded Steven Moffat Doctor Who script. For me this just didn’t work.

Episode Two: “Arkangel”
Starring: Rosemarie DeWitt, Brenna Harding, Owen Teague
Directed By: Jodie Foster
Written By: Charlie Booker

‘Arkangel’ is more of what we expect from the show, and with Jodie Foster directing, things looked good. The story of over protective parenting taken to the extreme was closer to what we expect from the show. However the stakes were low and the performances slightly annoying and the conclusion was what we expected with no great revelation. Nicely done but going nowhere.

Episode Three: “Hang the DJ”
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Joe Cole, George Blagden
Directed By: Tim Van Patten
Written By: Charlie Booker

The third entry was a dark and twisted story probably meant to shock us, the tech here allows an insurance investigator to access memories so they can gather evidence in claims. Cue a murder that gets wrapped into a mundane claim investigation and we have a Black Mirror thriller. Trouble here is the tech itself, I struggle to see how a world that has that kind of equipment can be so stalled in other fields. The pizza delivery truck that is at the heart of the initial accident has no camera or equipment that would record it’s every motion? The investigation to find out how fast an automated driverless car was moving should at this stage be redundant.

Episode Four: “Crocodile”
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Andrew Gower, Kiran Sonia Sawar
Directed By: John Hillcoat
Written By: Charlie Booker

The 4th outing is essentially a love story in a society that puts people together to see what happens. It’s slow and plodding and really goes nowhere. We know the ending after the first scene and despite the best efforts of the actors we don’t really care what happens.

Episode Five: “Metalhead”
Starring: Maxine Peake, Jake Davies, Clint Dyer
Directed By: David Slade
Written By: Charlie Booker

‘Metal head’ is episode 5 and seems to have borrowed from the third story in the classic Trilogy of Terror anthology from the seventies. Instead of being chased around an apartment by an African Warrior demon in a doll, Maxine Peake is chased around a post apocalyptic landscape by a metal killer dog. Filmed in black and white probably to help sell the CGI, it’s an exciting story that ultimately goes nowhere and if curious go look up the 3rd story in Trilogy of Terror and see what I mean.

Episode Six: “Black Museum”
Starring: Douglas Hodge, Letitia Wright, Babs Olusanmokun
Directed By: Colm McCarthy
Written By: Charlie Booker

Black Museum is the last story in this series and it would seem it saved the best for last. It’s by far the darkest in the run and is more what I enjoy from Black Mirror. It’s a small anthology within an anthology and despite coming across like a 90s Tales From the Crypt episode, it’s chilling and bleak.

So overall a mixed bag for me this series, there are no episodes I immediately want to watch twice so that gives me a clue as to how I felt about it, but I did enjoy the series and I think Charlie Brooker is a just brilliant. I hope this does well and Black Mirror returns soon.