The fourth season of Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror”— a series often compared to The Twilight Zone—starts strongly, but is so mired in its own past that it is prevented from being interesting.
The season opens with “USS Callister,” the story of a sadistic man and the virtual world he crafted to torture those he believes have wronged him. While this episode makes use of the same virtual world as season three’s “San Junipero,” its exploration of this technology in the wrong hands is sharp and important. It earns its spot as the standout episode in terms of delivering on social commentary, and reveals itself to be a standard the rest of the season does not live up to.
“Arkangel” begins with an interesting premise; an overprotective mother attains the means to monitor her daughter at all times and even censor unpleasant things she may encounter, all with an implant. It begins to drag somewhere before the 30-minute mark. Between poor casting and a bland, predictable plot, what had the potential to be a gripping take on surveillance states and girlhood falls flat.
“Black Museum” is a lot of cruelty without any real substance. It’s set up as an anthology within an anthology, but any feelings of wanting to know more from its promising first ten minutes die fairly quickly. Thematically, it’s scattered and fails to make a point.
“Hang the DJ” is a hopeful story, if not maddeningly repetitive. A man and woman meet within a sort of real-life Tinder, but are kept apart by an algorithm that insists they are not compatible. Its ending is a lukewarm, watered-down “San Junipero.”
Season four feels just like Black Mirror’s previous seasons, but stripped of all nuance.
Unsurprisingly, this makes for a very heavy-handed yet still meaningless collection of episodes.