Arts & Culture

Black Mirror season four hits Netflix

by Landis Urquhart and Henry Tyndall

The much-anticipated fourth season of Black Mirror hit Netflix on December 29. The new season features six new episodes, and because the show is an anthology, that means six all-new storylines. For those who haven’t heard of the Black Mirror, the series explores the dangers of technological advancement. Most of the episodes are set in the near or distant future, but several of the episodes are set in what appears to be the present, with premises that are terrifyingly plausible given our current technology. Nearly every episode, including each episode in the fourth season, is written by the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker.

Season four explores a variety of concepts, including parental control systems, memory harvesting, online dating, and artificial intelligence. Two of the episodes in season four focus on digital cloning, a concept that has been explored previously by the show.

One episode of Black Mirror’s third season, “San Junipero,” won two Golden Globes in 2017: one for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special; and one for Outstanding Television Movie. The episode was a fan-favorite, and received such widespread critical acclaim that it was rumored there would be a sequel in the show’s fourth season. However, these rumors proved to be false.

A major difference between the new season of Black Mirror and prior seasons of the show is that a number of episodes in the fourth season feature “happy endings,” whereas only one episode out of the first three seasons does. However, this tone shift did little to damage the show’s reputation, as the fourth season has some of the highest episode ratings of the whole show. Oddly enough, the three episodes with “happy endings” got significantly higher reviews than the three other episodes in the season. One episode, “Metalhead”, has the lowest ratings of any episode in the entire series, according to IMDb. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the episode, “Hang the DJ,” got the second-highest ratings of any episode in the series. For this reason, many would likely describe the show’s fourth season as hit-or-miss.  

Before the British television series Black Mirror, another program equally shocked viewers. Premiering in 1959, The Twilight Zone, hosted by Rod Serling, stunned the nation with its progressive, thought-provoking themes. The entirely black and white series explored many of the same controversial themes as Black Mirror, some of which were even more contentious, given the time period. The series encompasses a new plotline every episode, exploring genres of fantasy, science fiction, and psychological thrillers.

The series explored topics never been done before on television; sensitive topics of racism, government, war, society and human nature. Each episode is created to cause the viewer to question themselves and their beliefs. The series now is in line for a revival, as CBS paid for the rights in December of last year.

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