Season four of ‘Black Mirror’ broken down

The six newest episodes ranked from best to worst

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"Black Museum" served as a strong finale for season four of "Black Mirror."

Courtesy Netflix

“Black Mirror” returned to Netflix for a fourth season, bringing along six new episodes. Introducing a series of completely new plots and characters, season four ranges from sweet to downright sadistic. Each episode follows a self-contained storyline, the longest of which clocks in around an hour and 16 minutes, while the shortest barely passes 40 minutes. With each episode able to be viewed independently regardless of episode or season number, each season of “Black Mirror” is uneven, and this newest release is no exception. With this in mind, here is the complete breakdown of every episode of “Black Mirror” season four, ranked from worst to best. 

6. “Crocodile”

Easily the worst episode of Season 4, “Crocodile” is painfully predictable, with every major plot point marked by heavy foreshadowing. Following a fatal accident in the opening moments, the episode becomes increasingly more brutal and less believable as it progresses. The endless gore of “Crocodile” seems to stand in place of an actual storyline. Following the two separate but interwoven lives of a woman hiding a secret and an unwitting insurance investigator who harvests people’s memories to determine fault in an accident, the use of technology is just a blip along a senselessly violent downward spiral. Unlike most “Black Mirror’”episodes, “Crocodile” does not question any larger societal structures, focusing instead on replacing cleverly intricate themes with scenes of cheap shock value. It represents an unfortunate downgrade in the sophistication ‘Black Mirror’ has come to be associated with. 

5. “Metalhead”

The shortest episode in this season, “Metalhead” is heavily stylized and produced entirely in black and white. The bulk of the episode revolves around a ruthless chase in a futuristic wasteland, where humans are hunted by deadly, metal “dogs.” The premise is promising, but the lack of details leaves the storyline half-hearted at best. There are inklings about a larger storyline, but these hints do little more than leave the viewer to build a backstory from their own imagination. The low ranking of this episode is nothing against Maxine Peake’s acting, as she admirably captures the heart wrenching and agonizing race for her life. Unfortunately, “Metalhead” is simply much sparser in plot than the usual episode of “Black Mirror,” and it does not benefit from this. 

4. “Arkangel” 

A notably uneven episode, the biggest drawback of “Arkangel” is the ultimately predictable ending. Though it ranks above the worst two episodes, it is compelling enough to watch all the way through without feeling the inexplicable urge to turn it off. The episode follows a mother who inserts an experimental implant into her young daughter, which allows her to track her child's every move, censor her vision and see through her eyes, among other things. It goes without saying that this technology does not work out, since its flaws are easily visible from the first few moments of its introduction. Still, “Arkangel” does a good job of introducing just enough minor storylines to keep the episode engaging, despite the disappointing final scenes. 

3. “Hang the DJ”

It seems like the creators of “Black Mirror” caught on to the success of last season’s love story “San Junipero” and decided to give viewers another episode with a happy ending. “Hang the DJ” is easily one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. It misses out on either of the top two spots on this list because it is not, technically, a quintessential “Black Mirror” episode. More light-hearted than usual, “Hang the DJ” follows a young man and woman who try out a matchmaking program that ultimately is supposed to pair them with their soulmate. For viewers who love the gore and suspense of a typical “Black Mirror” episode, this one might not deliver. Still, “Hang the DJ” provides an incredible piece of television with a story which is considerably deeper than it appears on the surface.

2. “Black Museum”

The finale of Season 4, “Black Museum” follows a twisted storyline with multiple subplots that unfold through flashbacks, like the Christmas special episode “White Christmas.” Set in a museum filled with seemingly benign technological devices turned criminal artifacts, the episode is both darker and more multifaceted than one would initially expect. “Black Museum” and the following episodes represent both the bookends of the fourth seasons and the best of the bunch. Yet it is disappointing these two episodes rank so far ahead of the other six episodes in composition and complexity. A unique facet of the finale which adds an additional pull is its inclusion of several subtle references to other episodes of the series, raising questions about whether each episode is as self-contained as the creators had previously implied.

1. “USS Callister”

The opening episode is the longest in this season of  “Black Mirror” and the episode’s duration lays the groundwork for a complex chain of events to unravel. “USS Callister” does exactly what viewers expect from a “Black Mirror” episode, as it explores multiple plot points and storylines which not only question the sinister nature of technology in modern life, but also the way humans interact with each other. Volleying between a real world and an artificial gaming experience, “USS Callister” blurs the lines of reality and makes heavy suggestions about the self-awareness of artificial intelligence, while simultaneously acknowledging gender politics in the workplace and examining the way men exercise power.  

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