Black Mirror is such a diverse anthology show that it’s probably not even fair to classify it as TV. It’s more like a series of independent movies. With the extended runtime that Netflix offers it, so many of these episodes do, in fact, feel like feature-length films. I wish they would adhere to stricter times, though. I’m always hesitant to start watching a 70-minute “episode.” Fortunately, the longest episode in Season 4 is also one of the series’ best. “USS Callister” is mostly lighthearted and fun but still has that sinister overtone to keep things interesting and thought-provoking. Black Mirror isn’t a show I would consider rewatchable, but I’d sit through “USS Callister” again.
Like Season 3, Season 4 has two episodes that veer on the colorful and hopeful side, but if you’re worried the show is becoming too soft, rest assured that the other four episodes are your usual Black Mirror bleakness. “Metalhead,” for instance, is the most Twilightiest Zoniest episode they’ve ever done and is a great, concise, 40-minute horror story. The remaining three episodes, however, are fairly weak, making this one of the most up and down seasons. There’s “Arkangel,” which follows a very predictable trajectory that’s not at all interesting to watch play out. And the season finale, “Black Museum,” is a little too self-aware, rushing through several good ideas to support a bigger (but not necessarily better) story.
One of the draws to the show is seeing what crazy technology they’re going to cook up next. Sadly, a lot of the ideas in Season 4 are things we’ve already seen, like digital clones and memory-recording devices. I’m sure it’s really hard to think up new stuff, though, and the episodes at least tackle these familiar ideas in new and different ways. Of course, you always have to be willing to suspend disbelief to enjoy Black Mirror. The tech is cool, but because everything else is so grounded in reality, it becomes vulnerable to scrutinizing and saying, “Hey, wait a minute… if they can do that, then why doesn’t that also happen?” But if you’re willing to play along with the rules in each episode and allow yourself to dwell on the social implications more than the technology, you’ll have a gloomy, good time.