Sunday, January 7, 2018

TV Show Review: Black Mirror (Season 4)

Charlie Brooker's techno-horror anthology series continues with six more disturbing stories of advancements in science going terribly wrong. There are great twists in nearly every episode and great performances from familiar names and new faces. The message is not always clear and sometimes the moral comes across a little overblown as to render the effect a little less powerful. Still, the worlds created in these stories are so similar to our own that they often show the horrifying circumstances of becoming so dependent on technology. One common idea that shows up in several episodes is the idea of transferring a person's conscious mind into a device so that they can prolong their life or test out experiences that they couldn't in real life. 
The first episode shows introvert Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons), a computer programmer, who creates his own digital world based on his favorite sci-fi show. The dark part comes when it is revealed that the other participants are consciousnesses stolen from the DNA of his coworkers at a gaming company. The reality becomes clear when a new programmer Nannette Cole (Cristin Milioti) at the company wakes up aboard the spaceship. The rest of the crew explain to Nanette the awful truth, Robert has power over all of them. He uses these computer-generated realities to live out his fantasy life as the captain of the starship U.S.S. Callister. If anyone disobeys, they are turned into a nasty alien bug or forced to be the villain and suffer endless torture. Robert's partner in the company Walton (Jimmi Simpson) has been tortured especially cruelly having to watch his son be pushed out an airlock multiple times. Along with her consciousness, Nannette also has her real mind's hacking skills and manages to contact the outside world. She blackmails herself in the reality and convinces her to sabotage Robert's equipment so they can escape out a wormhole. 
Arkangel tells the story of a mother Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) who grows so worried about the well being of her daughter Sara (Brenna Harding) that she injects a microchip into Sara's brain. She is able to block out violence and other troubling images but this leads to violent behavior so Marie allows her to venture out without the filter. As Sara grows older, she struggles with her strange upbringing but also experiments like most teenagers. She falls for a childhood friend Trick (Owen Teague) who takes her virginity and introduces her to drugs. Marie lies about turning off the monitoring system and she spies on her daughter. It becomes so bad that Marie threatens trick with the evidence she has. Sara lashes out at her mother when she discovers she has been given a contraceptive without her knowledge. The story ends on a dreary note as do most of these episodes. 
The weakest episode of the new season takes on an even darker tone when two travelers, Mia Nolan (Andrea Riseborough) and Rob (Andrew Gower) hit a biker with their car. They dispose of the body and try to forget about this moment in their lives. Mia moves on and has a family along with a successful job. Rob shows up wanting to tell the wife of the biker that he will not be returning and even though he wants to do it anonymously, Mia grows worried and kills Rob. She covers up the murder but an accident on the street below sends Shazi Akhand (Kiran Sonia Sawar) on a collision course with Mia. Shazi investigates an insurance claim using a device that pulls images from witness's brains. She eventually finds her way to Mia and uncovers the murder. Mia kills Shazi and heads to her family but eventually she is caught by the police after many tragic events. 
The best episode this season begins with a couple, Amy (Georgina Campbell) and Frank (Joe Cole), on a blind date. A device determines how long they will stay together. Amy and Frank spend the night lying together but they never move any further. They regret the decision of not taking advantage of the night together and the both of them want to see the other again. Another blind date is set up with another individual and they are forced to stay with these people for longer even though they are not compatible. They run into each other at various events and pine after what could have been. They are given a second chance as the matchmaking app dictates and this time they agree to not check how long they have together. A pretty interesting twist brings this episode to a climactic conclusion.
It's never totally clear what is happening in Metalhead but the episode still effectively generates a feeling of dread. Bella (Maxine Peake) arrives at a warehouse with Anthony (Clint Dyer) and Clarke (Jake Davies). It appears to be an apocalyptic landscape and Bella is in search of a certain object hidden in a box. They move stealthily through the aisles until they find the numbered box. A robot appears and kills Anthony. Clarke and Bella flee from the crawling robot as it pursues with remarkable and relentless speed. Clarke is killed and Bella barely survives as the car she is driving tumbles off a cliff. She manages to make it to a tree where the robot waits it out. She drains its power by constantly hitting it making it think she is fleeing. She enters a house where the owners are dead upstairs. The robot recovers and chases her through the house. She manages to kill it but it shoots tracking devices into her skin before it is destroyed. Other robots are seen heading in her direction at the end as it cuts back to the Teddy bears she was trying to get. 
In a fitting finale to another excellent season, Black Museum hints at other episodes and tells three stories that slowly tie together. Nish (Letitia Wright) stops at the abandoned gas station nearby the Black Museum to charge up her solar car. She pokes around until the proprietor Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) appears. He takes her on a tour of all the horrific objects he amassed during his strange career in technological healthcare experimentation. The stories involved the transfer of consciousness into another including a doctor (Daniel Lapaine) who feels his patients pain but becomes obsessed, a husband (Aldis Hodge) who hosts his wife's mind in his own until he can't handle it, and a prisoner (Babs Olusanmokun) who is forced to suffer long after his death. The season ends with a great twist and a strong feeling of wariness against the increasing presence of technology in our lives. 

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