All six episodes of the fourth season of the critically-acclaimed Netflix series “Black Mirror” were released last week, giving fans plenty of content to binge watch at the end of the holiday season and into the new year. Over the past three seasons, “Black Mirror” has offered viewers twisted tales of technology with an almost nihilistic spin, a “Twilight Zone” for the internet age. Season three delivered one of the most widely praised episodes, “San Junipero,” so can the team behind the anthology series deliver another solid season with an award-worthy episode or two?
While season four of “Black Mirror” is still good, it seems that they went for quantity over quality. Season three suffered from the same problem, as that was the first time they went from three episodes a season to six, but “San Junipero” really stood out as an anchor for that season. Season four has no real standout like that. Some of the episodes were solid, but with nothing spectacular. In fact, one certain episode was downright boring, weakening the season overall.
The episodes that stood out as especially bad are episodes three and five, “Crocodile” and “Metalhead,” respectively. In “Crocodile,” the technology used felt out of place and unnecessary. The story of a woman’s desperate attempt at covering up murders does not need a tech-based spin. The technology felt shoe-horned in, especially in comparison to episodes like “USS Callister” and “Hang the DJ,” where the tech used in each was central to the plot. In “Metalhead,” it felt like they were going for a story about technology taking the world over from humans, a la “The Matrix.” However, the pacing made the shortest episode in the season feel like the longest. Other episodes ran nearly 30 minutes longer, and this episode could have benefited from more time, possibly fleshing out the world and giving a motivation to the robots.
On the topic of “Hang the DJ,” some of the episodes felt a little preachy about reliance on modern technology. “Hang the DJ” is clearly a commentary on dating apps, “Arkangel” is a cautionary tale about monitoring children too much and “Metalhead” is, as mentioned earlier, about technology becoming too powerful. The problem, though, when trying to convey a message in a television episode is that the message should be clear. “Metalhead” does not give any backstory to the world and how these robot dogs took over. Everything about “Hang the DJ” feels purposefully obscure, from the strange ending to referencing a song in the title that is infamous for having an incomprehensible meaning.
This isn’t to say that everything in this season is bad. “USS Callister” and the final episode, “Black Museum,” were great episodes that felt more reminiscent of old “Black Mirror” than new. Without spoiling anything, the ending of “Black Museum” would be a very suitable ending for the series, as long as “Black Mirror” does not have a fifth season. However, if this is the end of the series, as that episode suggests, it is disappointing to see it come to an end with a such a mediocre season.