Arts & Entertainment

Ranking Every Episode of Black Mirror’s Fourth Season

Which was your favorite episode?
IMAGE Netflix
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Now that the holidays are through and we’ve all had our decompression days, it’s a good time to look back at everything we binged on over the last couple of weeks. That includes a good amount of lechon, no doubt, but we’ll let you sort that one out with your conscience while you’re on the treadmill.

Instead, we can talk about the fourth season of Black Mirror, which dropped on Netflix Philippines on December 29—just in time to be everyone’s holiday marathon. It’s comprised of six episodes, all about an hour long, and as with previous seasons, it follows an anthology format, so that each episode tackles a different story, and can stand alone. But even as the episodes are different, all are marked with the series’ signatures: technological anxieties, plot twists, and morals-of-the-story. That said, some episodes were better than others. Here’s how we’d rank the episodes of Black Mirror Season 4 (and, again, feel absolutely free to disagree):

6: Arkangel
Conceived as the ultimate repudiation of overprotective parenting, “Arkangel” revolves around a children’s brain implant that allows parents to concurrently see (and censor) everything that the child sees. To its credit, the episode’s premise is fairly compelling, and would certainly appeal to parents who regularly consider the consequences of their own protectiveness. But the episode pans out exactly as you’d expect it to (in fact, you could probably predict the entire episode within the first few minutes). Ultimately, it doesn’t do enough to make audiences feel like the characters actually consider how dangerous the technology is—they fall right into its most obvious trap, and it’s all a downward spiral until that unconvincing ending.

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5: USS Callister
This episode is a popular favorite, and will likely be remembered as the season’s icon, because of its unique visual packaging. The riff on Star Trek made for some pretty cool, colorful pictures, and the occasional use of a vintage ’60s film treatment added to its novelty. But among all the episodes this season, this one feels least like it had something to say about the real world. It didn’t play on our anxieties about technology, inasmuch as it engaged in a thought experiment: What if we could make digital clones of our consciousness and then beam them into a virtual-reality video game? Other than the ultimate fate of the main character, Robert Daly, there weren’t any real-world consequences by the end of it. Everything seemed to happen within a vacuum, which would be fine, if it only had a clearer and more relevant message.

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4: Black Museum
There were a lot of layers to Season 4’s final episode, which actually works as its own sort of anthology involving three different but interconnected story arcs. The first involves a technology that allowed a doctor to feel his patients’ pain; the second involves a technology that allowed a man to share his brain with his comatosed wife’s conscience; and the third is the story of how those technologies were used to punish a wrongfully convicted man for eternity. This episode has a lot of relevant reflections, chiefly about how technology has made us all desensitized to cruelty. But it takes a while to form its message, and isn’t always convincing along the way.

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3: Hang The DJ
“Hang The DJ” is the Tinder episode—the one that asks us to consider the future of human relationships by imagining a totalitarian dating app. It works great as a love story between two people who are constantly kept apart by the app. The main actors manage to sell their chemistry really well throughout, as they navigate all the other relationships that the app puts them through. It could have easily been the season’s best episode, just for how endearing the love story was. But it was spoiled by a vague ending that, like “USS Callister”, situated everything within a virtual vacuum. It almost felt like an “It was all just a dream?” type of ending, and even as it managed to invite reflection on the nature of dating apps, it ultimately felt like a cop out.

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2: Metalhead
All Black Mirror episodes have a dystopian aspect to them, but the dystopia of “Metalhead” best fits the mold. Like something out of Mad Max or the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead, this episode is set in remote, abandoned areas, and is about a drone that hunts and kills people. Admittedly, this one feels the least like a Black Mirror episode, in that it doesn’t really ponder on its assigned tech anxiety: an artificially intelligent robot uprising. But it does work as a suspense thriller, shot in a beautifully nightmarish monochrome, keeping you at the edge of your seat throughout.

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1: Crocodile
What would we do if the law mandated us to submit recordings of our memories for police investigations? The premise of “Crocodile” revolves around this sort of “recall” technology, and how it allowed an insurance claims investigator to uncover darker and darker secrets. Among this season’s episodes, it most deftly and frantically tackles its assigned tech anxieties: surveillance, and the perpetual, public documentation of our lives. Considering the lengths we would go to bury something in the past, what would we do if the past were always accessible? “Crocodile” reflects on this, and sets these problems in the vast and beautiful expanses of Iceland—making it also the most visually stunning episode in the season.

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Catch the fourth season of Black Mirror on Netflix.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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