Summary: Stefan is a video game programmer in the 80s, programming a choose-your-own-adventure game called "Bandersnatch". He works alone on the project and slowly devolves into insanity. The ending of the story depends on the choices that are made throughout the film.
The Good: I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. Going into this, I was very skeptical about the idea of an interactive episode of television. I was worried that the gimmick would overshadow the story in its entirety and it would leave me feeling hollow. Thankfully, I was wrong and this short film ended up being one hell of an experience. Before I delve in any deeper, I will warn that this review will discuss the entire film and may spoil many of the endings.
I liked the way that the gimmick was introduced to us. While some of the early choices may appear to be meaningless to most, they all served a purpose in getting us acquainted with how this story works. The cereal introduces us to how we get to make decisions (it also has a nice easter egg later where the selected cereal will show up in a commercial before JFD's documentary) and the music shows us how the story changes based on what we select (Colin asks Stefan what music he listens to, and his answer depends on what you selected). Some people are frustrated with the first main decision of accepting or refusing the job offer as it is restricted to force you into making one specific decision with the other being the "wrong path". But I think this is a really strong way to introduce us into how this story works. All choose-your-won-adventure books have these bad endings that you can get, so they need to be implemented into this story too. This first question is used as a way to introduce you to this because most people will select "accept" (the wrong answer), since the story heavily pushes you to picking that answer. Furthermore, there is some great foreshadowing that comes from selecting "accept" as it hints at Stefan being aware that he is being controlled and also hints at the multiple timelines thing that Colin mentions later.
I thought the gimmick actually worked really nicely. I found myself projecting my own conscience onto Stefan and that made my immersion into his story so much greater than it would have otherwise been. Now that I got to make his decisions for him, I began to care about him and I had a drive to get him to succeed at making the best possible version of Bandersnatch. That's the real genius behind this format. The immersion is so much more than it could otherwise be. The only thing that is a worry is the story being told.
Seeing that the writers probably had something like half a year to get the story down before they started filming, it shouldn't be a surprise that the story is written really well with lots of connections, foreshadowing, symbolism, colour and thematic exploration. The writing here is stellar and the entire film feels like a treasure trove as you uncover the multiple endings and discover how the story had hinted at these endings beforehand. There were so many details that I heavily enjoyed uncovering with a rewatch. The foreshadowing of Stefan becoming aware that he is being controlled, the foreshadowing of the hound which digs up Stefan's dad's body in one of the endings, the secret backstory of Stefan and his mother and more are all very pleasing to find.
As for the emotional impact, it works for the most part. The story isn't anything special, but it gets its point across and is easy to get invested in. The endings are a bit of a mixed bag (see: The Bad), but there are some that I like. I appreciated the use of a 2.5/5 rating for Bandersnatch as a sort of game over to tell you that you've made a wrong choice. It was a clever way to motivate me to attempt to find a better ending instead of simply giving up there. I really liked two of the five endings. The history repeats itself ending is really interesting and even suggests that a sort of curse exists over the Bandersnatch novel and game since everyone involved seems to go insane. My favourite ending was the death ending though as it wrapped up Stefan's story really nicely and it left the most emotional impact with me. The idea of the story ending after we correct the one wrong decision that Stefan made in the past is really clever and is a thematically wonderful way to conclude this story.
I really liked seeing Stefan's descent into madness. There were two really great sequences to illustrate this. The first was Colin and Stefan's drug trip which was conveyed beautifully with all of the lightheadedness that drugs would cause. The second was Stefan listening to the documentary and slowly beginning to accept the possibility that he may be being controlled. The words were timed wonderfully with Stefan's thoughts and Fionn Whitehead's acting conveyed everything really well. I also really like that most endings put Stefan up against his dad, who is his primary source of conflict, and it's common to see Stefan killing his dad with his cigarette tray (another thing that was actually foreshadowed very nicely).
I thought there were some really interesting things about the themes in this story. It's almost as if the creators were trying to tell us about their struggles while trying to make this impossible storyline. I don't think it's a coincidence that the ending that resulted in the best game was the one where Stefan realizes that giving the illusion of free will is the proper way to go about a story like this. One of the biggest complaints I've seen is how so many decisions in this story are meaningless as the story still leads to a specific point no matter what. And while I have my problems with this (see: The Bad), I think that this is the best version of "Bandersnatch" that was out there. Stefan's epiphany that giving the illusion of free will may very well be Charlie Brooker speaking out to us through his character and letting us know how difficult it is to create a story with so many sprawling endings. It would be too messy and would only get a 2.5/5. But when the ending is pre-determined and the story is more organized, only then can "Bandersnatch" obtain a 5/5.
I really liked the idea of Stefan becoming aware that he is being controlled. The breaking of the fourth wall is really clever and makes it so that this story isn't an interactive one without reason. Instead, being interactive is an actual plot point that cannot be removed from the story being told here. Furthermore, it works as a really good twist that caught me completely off guard and delighted me. I was impressed to see the story acknowledge my presence, and I was further impressed when I was given the option to reveal myself as a Netflix watcher from the future. The continued ending with the over-the-top action scene was pretty funny and I got a good kick out of it.
The Bad: The biggest issue I had with this was that there is no way to find the best version of this story. All of the endings exist, but aside from the death ending, none of them really impacted me fully. Yet the death ending doesn't feel quite right since it all seems too quick and it misses out on some of the best moments in the story, such as the fourth wall-breaking plot twist and Stefan's meltdown. The history repeats itself ending is the opposite as it has Stefan's breakdown, but doesn't resolve the story with his mother at all. None of these endings leave me feeling wholly satisfied and that leaves me disappointed in the end. I understand that it's the purpose of a story like this, but it still feels unsatisfying.
While the game over endings are consistent with choose-your-own-adventure books, I don't really like them that much. The only ones I actually appreciated from a story-perspective were when Stefan breaks his computer and his dad runs in to console him. Aside from those, the other game overs are pretty lame. Also, if you have an affinity for constantly getting the game over endings (like me), the story gets bogged down by the fact that you're replaying moments over and over again. It breaks the engagement of the story and leaves me feeling disappointed that so many storylines I want to trigger apparently don't exist. This must be how Mr. Thakur felt when he selected to worship the demon king only to discover that it wasn't fully programmed. Disappointed and confused. It also led to me being bored a lot of the time as I waited for the story to go through parts that I have seen several times already because I keep being sent back. It made for a rather disjointed experience that countered everything the film did well with immersion.
The Unknown: I'm unsure about where the concept of interactive films goes from here. This film alone already did some major innovations to the genre by breaking the fourth wall and using interactive stories as a theme. The question is, how can anything else top what was already done here? This story used the concept to its fullest and already showed us its bag of tricks. It will be difficult to imagine a story that can meet the expectations of this new genre after this film. This genre has already shown me what it can do and I'm uncertain that there is more to it than what I've already seen.
Best Moment: I thought the breaking of the fourth wall was a really stellar piece of creativity. Clever innovations like that are what made this story work as well as it did.
Conclusion: This was better than I could have ever expected, but it still felt flawed. While the story did more than I expected with its theme, immersion and excitement, it was hurt by issues that have plagued choose-your-own-adventure books as a whole. While I did enjoy this a lot and had a ton of fun, I get the sense that the role of interactive films in my life will be the same as those choose-your-own-adventure books. I'll have fun with a few, but I'll always turn back to novels for a richer emotional experience, and I'll hardly ever look back.
Score: Due to how different this is from most television, I'm not sure that I can accurately score this as an episode of television. Furthermore, this is technically a movie so I'll restrain on scoring it. I will say that my overall response to it is positive, but I don't think I'll be remembering much about this in a few years. If I would give it a score, it would likely be around 65-70, but take that with a grain of salt. As of now, there is nothing else to compare that score with.
Summary: Nish arrives at Black Museum and meets Rollo Haynes who owns it. He tells her the story of several criminal artifacts in the museum. Each of the stories involve Rollo offering technology to some people's lives which ultimately ruins their lives. Rollo takes Nish to his main attraction: a hologram of a criminal who died which is basically alive. He shocks it over and over so it suffers, and it has gotten to the point that the man is emotionally wrecked. Nish reveals herself to be his daughter and she kills Rollo and burns down Black Museum.
The Good: Like "White Christmas", this episode had 3 different stories which came together at the end. Episodes like this work very well and are always very enjoyable. The format just works very well and hits very hard with each story.
The first story had some really great moments. I love the idea of the headset which was accidentally discovered while attempts were made to find something else. It added some realism and made the headset feel like a plausible idea. The way the headset slowly took over Dawson and transformed him until he flew completely off the rails was genuinely scary and intense to watch. It was a horrific way to show that by advancing through technology, we may unlock different things we really don't want, like a desire to feel pain. This storyline was filled with brutal and uncomfortable moments, so it definitely got its point across and affected us in the way it wanted to.
The second story was another scary idea. It was a good examination of how too much familiarity ends up working against us in relationships, which is an original idea to explore. It was sad seeing Jack and Carrie slowly fall apart and lose their love for each other due to the awkward situation the shared consciousness put them in. The sequence with Carrie being trapped inside the monkey with no form of communication was terrifying and very sad, once more accomplishing the goal of demonstrating how these technologies aren't helping humanity in the slightest and instead are just torturing humans. The "cookie rights" system was a fascinating idea too and it was a very logical reason to not allow Rollo to remove or kill Carrie.
These 2 stories accomplished something bigger though. They were intense horror shows, but they needed to be in order to establish resentment to the character of Rollo. He is a despicable and sadistic man with no regards to humanity as he genuinely doesn't care about what negative effects his creations have had on those who tested them. It slowly builds up unease and resentment towards Rollo which is what makes the climactic final story so impressively cathartic.
The final story was another brutally sad experience as we learn that Rollo sentenced somebody who was possibly innocent to a life of eternal torture, cementing our hate for him even further. It's by far his most despicable act and makes us really understand why Black Museum is a successful location as it hones in onto those with similarly sadistic minds. This story makes us lose any possible sympathy we may have for Rollo and makes us detest him completely, creating a desire for comeuppance.
And comeuppance is what we get. There is a decent twist that Nish is actually Clayton's daughter which is somewhat predictable, but that doesn't really matter because it is satisfying. It allows us to see this awful man get his comeuppance and gives us a sense of satisfaction and justice for all of the awful deeds he has done. In a way this is also a bit of an ironic look at the show as a whole, as the writer Charlie Brooker always creates stories where he tortures his main characters. Perhaps this episode was meant to be a look at how he views himself or thinks that other people view him which makes it an even more fascinating idea.
While on the topic of the show being self-aware, I loved the little parody which made fun of how the show always seems to have a "but" which turns everything around on the main characters and tortures them. It was a nice bit of levity in an otherwise dark and bitter episode.
The Bad: This episode does feel way more miserable than it should be. There should always be a greater purpose to show so much pain and I feel that this episode's reason wasn't good enough to justify it. Even after the episode I still felt far too uncomfortable and unhappy with what I watched. The show went a bit too far with how miserable the fates of the characters were and that made the episode so uncomfortable that I no longer enjoyed it at times.
The stories also felt like greater ideas for the plot of an episode that were just simplified and shoved into this episode. Each of the stories didn't really have emotional resonance since they were shallow and had weak characters. On their own the would feel like episodes which only had torture porn to offer us and that is a really immature take on dark content like this. The first story in particular is hurt by this. When you think about it, the entire first story had no purpose. We only really did need the second story to start hating Rollo, but instead we spent way too much time showing the disgustingness of that first story. Because it feels pointless, the problems with far too much misery stands out a lot more on that storyline.
I thought the final twist was unnecessary and stupid. It made no sense that Nish would let her mom share consciousness with her. It was just established that the shared consciousness tech was stupid and had little benefit, so it makes Nish seem like an idiot for deciding to do it with her mom. Furthermore, how did she get her mom's consciousness if she had killed herself? It doesn't make sense and creates a plot hole. This becomes an egregious error when you realize that it adds nothing to the story. It would have been the same without that final twist, making me wish that it just wasn't there.
The Unknown: What happened to Carrie afterwards? What does Nish plan to do with her? Will he be saved or will she finally get deleted and be at peace? Also, how did Jack let Carrie become a part of Black Museum?
There were tons of easter eggs to other episodes in the museum. Does this officially link all the storylines together or were they only easter eggs?
Will Nish let her mom go now that she has avenged Rollo? Was she only there so she could witness his violent death or is there a further purpose to it?
Best Moment: The violent suffering of Rollo was great and served as a powerful catharsis to end the episode.
Character of the Episode: Rollo. He was a great villain.
Conclusion: This episode had an excellent overarching storyline, but the individual storylines were flawed and resulted in far too much misery to be much good on their own. In the end that leaves us with a good but not great episode.
Season 4 as a whole was a big step down from previous seasons. I did still enjoy it, but the writing in all episodes (except Hang the DJ) was notably poor and I had a lot of issues with almost every episode. I still enjoyed the season as a whole and there were plenty of powerful moments, but I feel like the show didn't ever really threaten to reach the quality of previous seasons.
Summary: Bella, Clarke and Tony go to a warehouse looking for something. They find a "dog" which kills Tony and Clarke and then chases Bella who tries to get away. Using her wits, Bella is able to kill the dog but she has trackers thrown into her which will send more dogs her way. She kills herself.
The Good: This is the most unique episode so far and it's not only because of the black and white filter. The episode is very simplistic, short and mostly dialogue-free making it an experience which feels extremely different from what we are used to. Since the show has reused some ideas in a few episodes, it's good to see them continuing to be creative. While season 3 felt pretty familiar at times, season 4 has so far done a great job providing new and different content even if the quality isn't quite as good as before (see: The Bad).
The black and white filter was really good. This episode was gruesome and dreary and that filter added a lot of that feel. The brutal deaths of Clarke and Tony were less gory in this state, but they felt more powerful and brutal. The colouring certainly gave the deaths a more eerie feeling. The rest of the episode was also certainly benefitted by the colour palette. With the world feeling so empty and abandoned, the episode needed to give off a dull and creepy atmosphere which the filter appropriately added.
There were very few characters in this episode, with only 1 surviving more than 10 minutes. That gave the episode a tough task of making us care about a shallow character and a robot enough to outlast an entire episode. Thankfully the episode did a great job of giving us basic characterization. We were able to attach ourselves to Bella on some level mostly due to some stellar acting and well-timed emotional outbursts. The other half was creating a viable antagonist and I think they did an outstanding job. The robot "dogs" were horrifyingly real, creepy and downright vicious. The idea of their existence felt plausible, especially seeing how much humanity has wished for autonomous beings and the episode used the dog as a villain to explore the fear of having our own creations cause our own destruction.
I really liked that the show gave us an idea of how the "dogs" worked. There were a ton of nice camera shots which showed us the vision of a dog, allowing us to understand how they worked. The episode also did a stellar job of introducing the many abilities the dogs had including the guns, ability to work electronics and the trackers. I really liked that they had a lot of depth to them and seeing Bella attempt to combat these many abilities was very enjoyable and tense. This could have been a great idea for a horror thriller considering how scary and complex the dogs were.
I liked the ending until the final few seconds (see: The Bad). Bella overcoming the dog was awesome and exciting to behold. But the moment of triumph was too brief as the dog had injected her with numerous trackers which ended up making escape impossible. Her decision to kill herself was bleak but also fascinating. There are so many theories I can make for why she did it. Perhaps she realized there was no point in living in a world with dogs since it's only a matter of time before they take over.
The Bad: There did feel like a notable lack of substance though. The world was woefully underdeveloped and I wish I could have known more about the current state of humanity so I could understand the stakes a little better. I spent a lot of the episode coming up with questions and it was disappointing to get answers for none of them. Instead all we got was a compact horror story.
The emotional investment was low on this episode too. There weren't any shockingly powerful moments and there wasn't anything to properly care about. This episode was essentially just non-stop fear for 38 minutes with no other purpose. While I think it worked to some degree to make us fear our own technology, I wish it had decided to be more than it ended up being.
The final reveal of the teddy bears was bad. It's impossible to buy that these 3 people risked and lost their lives to get a dying child a teddy bear. Bad storytelling.
The Unknown: What were the dogs created for initially? Did they watch over the warehouses as guards? Or perhaps they were meant to be actual household dogs which did odd jobs before they went rogue.
How did the dogs go rogue? What flaw in the design caused them all to destroy humanity? Were they hacked, similarly to the bees from "Hated in the Nation"?
Where are the humans now? How many are still alive? How do they survive from the dogs? Are they able to fight back at all?
Where do the dogs stay? There are clearly a lot of them, so the question is where do they go? And what are their motives now that they are rogue?
Best Moment: Bella killing the dog was a great moment of satisfaction, even if it was brief. It also called back nicely tot he other 2 deaths which were also caused by a close range gunshot.
Character of the Episode: Bella.
Conclusion: This was a solid and easy to enjoy episode but it felt shallow which hurts its score. It's still a good episode though and certainly one of the most unique episodes in the show.
Summary: Amy and Frank meet up on a dating system but they can only date for 12 hours and the system will find their perfect match after several relationships. They click immediately and can't stop thinking about each other, even during other relationships. They are matched together again and are happy but they have a break-up. After several other empty relationships, they meet up and choose to leave the world together. They succeed and they are revealed to be a simulation. In real life, the real Frank and Amy meet and are the apparent best pairing.
The Good: This was a much better episode of the show. This episode told a lovely story which I instantly got involved in, I got invested in the characters and had emotional investment with the story which was being told.
This episode's concept was absolutely brilliant. While the others this season have been pretty good, they do seem somewhat familiar when compared to previous episodes. However this episode felt entirely original, only having similarities with "San Junipero" which is certainly not a bad episode to be similar to. The concept is wonderful and seems like an examination of a futuristic Tinder of sorts which is another genius idea. I really enjoyed the one line about how difficult it must be to work out relationships on your own without the system as it demonstrated how a technology like this could become so appealing. Relationships are tough, and wouldn't it be nice to have a system which does everything for you?
Well now that I've established that the concept is great, how are the characters? Well they are easily the most compelling this season (with the exception of Daly), and are very easy to like and root for. My investment in these characters was what made this episode so powerful and memorable for sure. Most of that is because of the outstanding chemistry between these 2 which was on show from the moment they met. If I didn't care about these 2 getting together in the end, this episode wouldn't have worked well at all.
A lot of this episode actually doesn't feature the 2 main characters together at all. Instead it shows them in other, less successful relationships for a lengthy portion while they longed to get together. It was really good to see and I loved how both of them were put in equally terrible situations where they just longed to be with each other instead. Frank ended up with a girl who he actually loathed and was forced to put up with for a while. Amy was put with a physically attractive guy and had great sex, but the relationship had no depth to it and lacked any form of intimacy. It's easy to see why both were unhappy and the writing, colouring and cinematography was phenomenal and did well to portray the depth of their unhappiness in a very human way. On top of that, there was a ton of humour here with the various ticks of the other guy and girl which added a nice lightheartedness to the episode.
The rest of the episode was really well done too. Eventually they both reconnected and continued to develop their relationship in a lovely way until Frank chooses to check the expiry date and ruins the relationship. The break-up was very sad and it's really easy to understand both sides when they got upset. The follow-up was much better though. I loved that they didn't hold a grudge against each other for what happened and instead tried to move on with their life. But what came next was incredibly lonely and depressing for the both of them as they both found more empty and meaningless relationships while they craved each other. There were some really powerful scenes here, such as the montage of Amy sitting in her room as time passes and she goes from one relationship after the other, and also the scene of Frank having sex with a girl as they both just reminisced about past relationships instead of feeling anything for each other at all.
This led up to the climax where Amy and Frank immediately decide to meet with each other again and instantly kiss and embrace. They decide to rebel and leave the world they are stuck in together. This scene worked incredibly well. After everything we saw them go through, it was so satisfying to see them together again. It's such a simple and easy story, but it goes to show that with outstanding writing and a meaningful purpose, anything can become great. The decision to rebel and the realization that the world is all a simulation is so cathartic and beautifully brings the story together, making it a very successful climax which leaves no loose ends or feelings of disappointment.
Let's discuss the twist though, which is MUCH better than last episode's. The realization that everything was a simulation was really satisfying and led to one of the best endings of the show so far. I love these happy endings which we seem to be getting now, and the meeting between the real Amy and Frank was a great way to end the episode. But the twist also worked as an effective way to solve the many inconsistencies with the world-building and how inefficient it seemed to be. I was ready to complain about the world-building and how weak it was, but in the end that ended up becoming a positive. With the world taking a backseat to the central relationship, I didn't think about it often and that meant that the final twist genuinely surprised me because I didn't even see it coming. And on top of that, they even subtly included some foreshadowing when Amy and Frank teased being in a simulation which I had chalked up as an easter egg to "San Junipero", but that clearly wasn't the case.
I love the actual concept of the simulation too. This entire existence was a simulated version of both characters and put them in situations to test if they were perfect for each other. It essentially means that all of the bad relationships were just a test to see if Frank and Amy would keep thinking about each other while they were apart, and since they ended up rebelling and escaping together despite the system, they passed the test and the simulation suggests that they would certainly work out as a couple.
The Bad: The initial boyfriend and girlfriend were a little over the top, but it's not a big problem since they were revealed to be AIs anyways.
The Unknown: How does the simulation actually work? Are there just a bunch of AIs or are these actually other simulations going on at the same time? Is it a different world for each couple that is being simulated or is it the same one? What happens if the match is a failure?
Best Moment: There were a lot of really good scenes, but the stand-out was definitely the reunion of Amy and Frank at the end of the episode.
Character of the Episode: Tough to choose so I'll go with both Amy and Frank since they are better together than they are apart. Yeah I'm cheating, but it's my review so deal with it.
Conclusion: This was easily the best episode of the season which was lighthearted, well-written and very easy to enjoy. This episode worked on pretty much every level and left me with no complaints even with its simplistic storyline.
Summary: Mia and her boyfriend Rob accidentally kill a man and cover it up together. 15 years later, Rob tries to reveal what they did so he can have a clear conscience but Mia doesn't agree and kill him. A woman named Shazia is investigating a car accident with a device which allows her to see memories. The investigation takes her to Mia and she learns of what Mia did. Mia kills her and proceeds to kill her family to avoid leaving witnesses. However she leaves the guinea pig alive and its memories expose Mia's crimes.
The Good: First and foremost, I have to stress how beautiful this episode was. The cinematography was wonderful in this episode and it's easily the prettiest Black Mirror episode so far with a lot of creative shots which improve on the scenes a lot.
I really liked the first scene. Mia and Rob' kill was pretty brutal and genuinely chilling, and I think it set the tone nicely for the episode which only got darker from there. Better yet though was Mia and Rob's conversation 15 years later. Mia looks completely different and is obviously changed, but Rob looks exactly the same and the only accomplishment he seems to have made is quitting alcohol. It's an excellent way to emphasize why Mia wouldn't be bothered by their past killing because she has moved on with her life and done bigger things. Rob hasn't and as such he is haunted by his past which is quite similar to his present. Their conversation is very good and is probably my favourite part of the episode honestly. Mia killing Rob was sudden, but I understood why she did it and that's the most important part for sure and is key in making me buy into Mia's mindset for the rest of the episode.
That brings me to the next point. Mia is the antagonist in this episode and I think it's really enjoyable to watch her do whatever she can to cover her tracks. Though not all of her kills have a massive impact, they are still brutal and difficult to watch, and it makes Mia's ultimate conviction at the end feel very deserved as she wipes out an entire family.
Shazia's short story was effective too and I thought the concept of the memory device is pretty neat, as the concepts on this show always are. It was nice to get introduced to it before she confronts Mia because it allowed us to really understand the situation as Mia and Shazia talked. We want Shazia to survive but we also don't want Mia's secret to come out, so it ends up becoming really tense television as they start talking and Shazia eventually discovers the truth.
The Bad: This episode had a cool concept and some good moments but it's also the most flawed episode this season. The biggest flaw for me is the fact that this episode really had no purpose. Ask yourself this: what was the point of this episode? I asked myself this for all other Black Mirror episodes and I could come up with an answer immediately, but with this episode I just couldn't come up with anything. The episode didn't have any kind of point it wanted to explore. It was just a dark episode with people getting murdered just for the sake of it. This show has been depressing before and it has worked, but that is only because those depressing episodes had a larger purpose. Since this episode has no purpose, it feels like pointless misery and that's never something you want in television. If you are making your audience feel like crap, you have to have a reason in doing so.
The main reason why the episode seems to have no point is because of the weak exploration of technology. The technology wasn't really explored at all and very little about this episode actually focused on the affects that technology has on our humanity. That's okay though if the episode had a powerful story to tell with memorable characters. But it didn't. The characters were basic, not that likeable and their character arcs weren't that memorable. "USS Callister" did a much better job with its characters.
The plot had a lot of issues as well. For one, the middle of the episode really drags and doesn't amount to much. We are given tons of time to learn about how the technology works, but it has literally no payoff and there are even plot holes created by it (more on that in a second). Furthermore, it's very obvious that Mia and Shazia are on course to run into each other, so it feels like a huge waste of time until they finally do meet.
But now about the technology. This becomes a problem because the ending of this episode features what I think is the show's worst twist. First we are treated to the unpleasant killing of a baby but we learn that the baby is actually blind as the shock reveal that she didn't need to kill the baby. But there are so many flaws here. For one, we have established that to see somebody's memories they have to think about them. But babies have bad memories and how would you possibly communicate with a baby to think about what they have seen beforehand? There shouldn't be any conceivable way to access the baby's memories anyways, so that makes the murder feel even more unnecessary. But worse than that is the second twist that the guinea pig witnessed the whole thing. If you thought the communicating with a baby thing was bad, this is even worse! For one, guinea pigs have terrible memories which is a biological fact, and of course how on Earth could we communicate to a guinea pig? It's terrible writing and feels tacked on just for a shocking ending.
I was disappointed in the use of the "car won't start" cliché. I mean, how often is it that cars just happen to not start when you need it to? It's a stupid coincidence which is just there for more drama.
The Unknown: Sadly there isn't much to discuss here because the episode is pretty shallow. I only have one question, and that is why is the episode called "Crocodile"? Is it because the main character is similar to a crocodile or am I missing something here?
Best Moment: Probably Mia and Rob talking after 15 years and showing how far they have come as characters. It was very well written.
Character of the Episode: Mia.
Conclusion: This episode had potential but there was shallow exploration and a weak ending leaving this as one of the weaker episodes. Season 4 has been rather disappointing so far, so here's to hoping that the next few episodes can be of a higher quality.
Summary: Marie gives birth to baby Sara and is overprotective. She loses Sara by accident once and installs a device called Arkangel which allows her to watch everything that Sara sees and also filters things which stress out Sara. As Sara grows up, the filters start doing more harm than good so Marie stops using the Arkangel. When Sara becomes a teenager she starts doing rebellious teenager things with her boyfriend Trick. Marie isn't sure where Sara is at one point and returns to the Arkangel to find her. She discovers all of Sara's activities and starts interfering with her life. Sara eventually discovers this and turns on her mother, beating her unconscious and breaking the Arkangel. Sara leaves home.
The Good: This felt much more like a Black Mirror episode as it examined themes and explored the effects of humans improperly using technology and how it does more harm than good. This was more focused on being its own creative storyline and didn't try to imitate anything else and I welcome the return to unconventional storytelling.
The concept of the Arkangel is fantastic and allows a lot of opportunities for exploration of how this technology could affect the upbringing of these kids and how such intense helicopter parenting could do more harm than good. There are some really good scenes here and the concept adds a lot of stuff to this. The early half of the episode was particularly affecting for me because the idea initially felt ingenious, before I quickly realized how much harm the Arkangel could do. Watching the Arkangel used with the young Sara was really fascinating and created some exciting possibilities for the story to go towards.
For one, I loved the exploration of how the filter drove Sara to want to see more violent things and ultimately be pretty unaffected by the horrors because she just wanted to know what they were like. I love the detail that the Arkangel ended up shaping Sara to become a more violent and careless person because she spent so much of her early life being curious to discover what the world is all about without all those filters. I especially love the little touch that Sara became friends with the dog which scared her as a child.
Marie's character was really good. From the first scene it established her overprotectiveness of her daughter and how much she wants to shelter her. There were numerous nice touches of this overprotectiveness like the protein shakes, Marie taking Sara to the park in a stroller and more. This makes it more believable for her to go back to the Arkangel to find out where Sara was, and also makes it more believable that Marie would interfere with all of Sara's life to "take care of her". It was easy to understand why Marie made these stupid decisions and that's very important for this episode to work.
The tragic ending to the episode was fairly powerful and logical too. It had to go in the direction that Marie ultimately ruins her relationship with her daughter and I think it was decently powerful after getting to see their relationship. I also love the final touch of Sara deciding to get into a car with a stranger to end the episode, which is the exact thing that Marie wouldn't want her to do as an overprotective mother.
The Bad: The episode is way too predictable in its second half though. It goes in the exact direction you would expect and hammers the "helicopter parenting is bad" point in way too hard. While there was nothing offensive from this, it was very disappointing and failed to hit as hard as all of the best Black Mirror episodes.
The examination of how the Arkangel would affect the upbringing of kids wasn't explored enough. The best scenes in the episode focused on that in the first half, but unfortunately it abruptly stopped examining that and had very little payoff later in the episode. I found that aspect of the episode to be the most fascinating and I would have much rather preferred to get insight on that instead of on helicopter parenting.
Sara nearly killing her mother with the Arkangel certainly didn't feel earned. I can buy that Sara is very mad at her mom, but I really can't buy that she nearly killed her and left with no second thought. If that was trying to make a point on how Sara became violent because of her sheltered upbringing (and I think it was), there wasn't nearly enough focus put on that to make it feel like the reason for her behaviour. This hole makes the climax far less powerful than it should have been.
The Unknown: Where does Sara go now? Would she have fixed her relationship with her mother if she had stayed? What will the stranger in the truck do to her?
Could this have been averted if Marie had talked to Sara instead of making her decisions for her?
Was the Arkangel a good concept at all? It seems to have positives but does a lot of harm. Is there potential in the idea with a few tweaks to it, or is it just a really bad idea in general?
Did the Arkangel actually end up getting banned?
Best Moment: I'll pick the moment where Sara started to draw violent pictures and even stab herself with a pencil to try to see some blood. It was truly horrifying and examined what could happen if you try to protect your kids too much from reality.
Character of the Episode: Marie.
Conclusion: This was a good episode and was better than the previous 2, but it felt like a missed opportunity. There was emotion here but not enough, there was thematic exploration here but not enough. This was a great concept but the execution as off and so we only have a good episode instead of another great episode.
Summary: Daly is a co-founder of Callister Inc., which created a video game system called Infinity. Daly is a geeky co-boss who is overshadowed by everyone around him. When he gets home, he plays on a Space Fleet mod on his Infinity where he has clones of his co-workers in the world where he gets to abuse them. He gets the copy of new girl Nanette, but she refuses to submit to Daly. Together, the crew form a plan to escape from Daly's grasp and when an update happens to the game, they are able to escape. Daly is trapped in the system after the new update.
The Good: The style of this episode was unique and fun. I'm not a Star Trek fan, but I'm sure there were tons of nods from the whole "Space Fleet" concept which was used here. I really loved the style of the space fleet world and the opening scene with the VHS effect was really neat. The special effects and cinematography certainly stood out in this episode.
Daly was a really good character. He was a very good concept for a central character. He initially comes off as just an awkward geek character who has a big heart but isn't really accepted by the people around him. This is a pretty dull stereotype, but what makes him stand out is his Space Fleet character Captain Daly, who is a sadistic monster who extracts revenge from his co-workers by creating copies of them and controlling them inside of his game world. It's a horrifying twist which completely changes our perspective on Daly after about 20 minutes. It's a great change and immediately makes the episode much more interesting.
I liked that we got to experience Daly's cruelty through the eyes of Nanette who becomes our new protagonist after 20 minutes. It's a cool twist and it's the change of focus which changes our opinions on Daly. Without a different protagonist to root for, Daly may have ended up being similar to somebody like Kenny who we could still possibly root for. By showing us Daly in a very negative light from the people around him, it makes him all the more creepy and unsettling, ensuring that we root for Nanette instead which makes the climax much better.
I loved Nanette's initial failed escape. At first I was uncertain because it had seemed like she immediately found a way to escape despite everyone else saying there was no escape. But it didn't work and instead served as a way to demonstrate Daly's commanding power and how hopeless the crew's situation really was. This was essential to make the eventual escape so much more satisfying.
Walton's story and character arc was very interesting too. I liked the brief examination of his relationship with Daly and his character came full circle by the end when he gave his life to help out the crew. His horror story about Daly where he tortured his son was quite terrifying and helped give Walton's character more motives and was another scene which continued to portray Daly in a negative light.
I like that this episode expanded on the tech from "White Christmas" with these clones which reminded me off the cookies. The reveal that the clones were actual people in a way with memories and feelings was a genuine surprise and it was just as effective in garnering my sympathy as Greta from "White Christmas".
The Aaron Paul cameo at the end was funny and awesome. I also thought that the sci-fi parody aspect was pretty funny too at times and I'm sure that huge sci-fi fans really enjoyed this aspect of the episode.
The Bad: I was disappointed by the parody aspect though. Much like the weaker episodes of "Friends", it felt like the parody took away from what made this show so great to begin with. I enjoy its realistic take on technology, the powerful symbolism and unpredictable storytelling which always ensures to hit with genuine emotion. This episode completely missed out on that by becoming a conventional sci-fi flick with tension and basic straightforward storytelling which is much harder to get emotionally attached with due to its simplistic nature. The episode is also overly long, and with such a simple story it really feels its length. In a lot of ways this is pretty much the same issue I had with "Hated in the Nation", and I sincerely hope that the show isn't going to be heading in this direction more frequently.
The technology concept was odd as well. I wasn't happy with the idea that DNA could lead to the clones remembering their past lives. It makes no sense that the DNA could retain memories and with the realism removed from this episode's technology, the episode fails to unsettle me with the thought that this could potentially happen in the real world.
The writing in the episode was pretty unsatisfying towards the end as well and it really took away from the ending of the episode. First of all, why would the update make a vortex in Daly's offline mod? How did the characters even know what it was? It was pretty convenient and dumb and only served to make a cool climactic storyline. Also, why didn't Daly just exit game when they were charging the vortex? That would make the ship stop moving and Daly would regain control over everything. Furthermore, can't he just use his god powers to stop them from escaping? We needed a better explanation for why he couldn't deal with these flaws.
The ending with Daly dying was dumb. Why did he die? How did he get stuck? I have no idea and that's a problem. It felt like he just died because there needed to be a happy ending.
The Unknown: What world is open to the clones now? What will they find there?
Is it possible for anyone to save Daly? Did he deserve this fate for what he did, or were his actions totally justified?
What will happen to present Nanette? Will she get apprehended for a potential role in Daly's death due to her connections with the pizza guy?
Best Moment: Nanette being introduced to Daly's world was really good and when he actually arrived it became rather unsettling. It was pretty enjoyable. There weren't many stand out moments from this episode.
Character of the Episode: Daly.
Conclusion: This was a fun and enjoyable episode, but it was deeply flawed and failed to capture most of what makes Black Mirror great. I had a good time watching this and there were some great aspects here, but I still feel rather disappointed because this could have been so much more.
Summary: Karin and Blue work together on a murder case when somebody who was getting a lot of social media hate was murdered. They discover it happening multiple times and learn that somebody is killing them because they are unpopular on social media with a hashtag. The most popular person to receive the hashtag in a day dies. There are ADIs, which are artificial bees which are being hijacked and controlled to do the killings. The mastermind is discovered to be Garrett Scholes who leaves a trail for the detectives to find. When the detectives think they have won, it unleashes a mass murder of everyone who used the hashtag.
The Good: The mystery thriller is always entertaining to watch and I think it's smart that the show used an exciting plot line to make the longest episode so far feel a little bit shorter and tense. It was a fun case to watch unfold and I got a decent amount of enjoyment out of it, as with all mysteries.
The idea of the artificial bees and the death hashtag is brilliant and is another innovative, impressive and surprising concept from Black Mirror. I'm impressed that the show continues to spout out genius concepts for episodes so consistently, with the last 3 episodes being creative highlights in concept. The bees were logical on one hand, but quickly became terrifying when taken over, not only as spy tools but also as murdering weapons. Even scarier though was the DeathTo hashtag which allowed the people to vote on whoever they wanted to die.
The episode had a very tense and horrific nature to it as well. The bees were certainly a cool concept, but they were turned absolutely terrifying by the episode's end when they became killing devices. The sequence when Karina and Blue were attempting to protect Clara in the house as bees swarmed the place was horrific and traumatizing and it was absolutely brutal seeing the bees all desperately try to get into the bathroom where one viciously kills Clara. What's even more unsettling is the way the bees just stop and act completely normal after Clara dies, almost as if nothing had happened. It's creepy and terrifying, and once more became unsettling in the episode's climax.
This episode had a great look at social media and how cruel people can be. The idea that social media shouldn't be used as a way for us to say what we want without consequences is good and I liked the moments in the episode which focused on that topic, like learning about Garret's book and seeing the effects that all the social media hate was having on Clara.
The Bad: This episode had a good concept but in execution it was really dull and uninspired. This was essentially just a generic and boring cop drama with minimal originality and twists which make us question the story. We have victim characters who are introduced to die and provide the leads a big clue, and we even have the cliché of good guys thinking they won before everything goes bad. Add in the evil government spying on people and this episode really feels like it lacks in originality. Seeing that all other Black Mirror episodes were more interesting (yes even Waldo), this ends up being really disappointing. This episode lacked the ambition I had expected it to have.
The characters were very weak too. The 2 leads were as dull as they could be and I had no reason whatsoever to care about them or their storyline. I can't even tell you who they are or what their motives are. That's much worse than the impressively written characters in the previous episodes. Furthermore, the side characters are also very lame. Shaun serves no purpose in the story except for being the one who gets everyone killed, and even that moment lacks impact because it's hard to buy into him being thick-headed enough to press the button anyways. The villain isn't good either. He's 2-dimensional and we have no idea why he decided to do this and lacks motivation completely. The villain from "The National Anthem" who had 30 seconds of screen time was more developed than this guy.
The ending didn't do anything for me either. The main climax lacked the emotional resonance it needed because we weren't shown the actual onslaught of bees. Usually I would be happy to be spared of the misery and death, but in this case I feel like we needed to see more than we did for there to be an appropriately powerful climax, especially considering that I didn't care about the fates of all main characters. The actual ending scene was dumb too. I didn't at all care about Blue getting revenge on Garrett and to make things worse we don't even know what she did to him. I usually do like vague endings, but in an episode where I don't know the motivations of any character, this kind of vague ending is horribly unsatisfying and just feels like a total waste of time. That's where the episode's length really works against it too. At an hour and a half in length, there needed to be a satisfying conclusion for the episode to feel like it was worth a watch but there unfortunately wasn't.
I had plenty of nitpicks too. The whole time they were protecting Clara, I was practically screaming at them to cover her face with a mask and give her earplugs or something like that. These are cops, surely they would be smart enough to realize that if they block the entry points into the head, Clara can't die. Another nitpick is Nick sending the hashtag out o Garret. Why wouldn't he ask somebody about doing that before he did it? And why on Earth did he do that on a personal account of his? It's idiotic. Furthermore, Garret's entire plan revolved around this idiot sending that hashtag so he could make his mistake which is really dumb. Who would leave a critical aspect of their plan to the chance of somebody doing something stupid?
I also think this episode did a weak job of raising intriguing moral questions. I certainly don't think we should be killed for our roles in social media, and it feels like a stupid question to ask because the answer is far too obvious.
The Unknown: What happens to Garret and everybody else at the end? Will Shaun be blamed for what happened? Will the people ever find out the truth? What happens to the ADIs and Granular now? Will they be shut down?
Did everybody deserve to die for what happened? I certainly don't think so.
Best Moment: The bees attacking the safe house when Karin, Blue and Clara were in it was terrifying and tense television.
Character of the Episode: Karin.
Conclusion: This was a solid and enjoyable episode but nothing more than that. This episode was unoriginal in everything except concept, meaning that it totally lacked the ambition and brave approach which has so often made Black Mirror compelling. A disappointing end to the season.
As a whole, I thought this was another really good season. While I don't think it hit the highs of previous episodes as frequently, it was certainly very enjoyable and I don't think any episode was actually bad. With the exception of "Hated in the Nation", every episode delivered on my expectations and continued this show's streak of powerful and creative ideas to focus on.
Summary: Stripe works for the army, who protect villagers by killing roaches, which are basically like zombies. He has an implant called a mass. After Stripe kills 2 roaches and is hit by a strange device which disables his mass. Stripe realizes that the roaches are people too and that the mass makes him think that they are something else. The leader of the army, Arquette, imprisons Stripe and explains that the mass wipes memories and replaces them and that Stripe agreed to have it implanted in him. Arquette gives Stripe no choice and forces him to reset his mass and forget everything he learned.
The Good: This was another remarkably powerful episode which delivered more compelling television.
The early parts of the episode came off as a basic military action episode and were easy to get engaged with and fairly fun. The technology was very cool and smartly conveyed to introduce us to the concept of the mass, which was another creative and realistic innovation of technology. The early parts of the episode also did a wonderful job of introducing the roaches as zombie-like enemies that needed to be purged. There was a really great sequence of the soldiers exploring the house while we got some subtle exposition from Medina which I really enjoyed.
The big twist about the roaches being real humans was executed brilliantly. While I unfortunately did see it coming (see: The Bad), I thought that the foreshadowing was superb and the execution of the twist was wonderfully shocking and powerful. The fact that the reveal was aided by a sequence of Rai gleefully mowing down humans while anticipating her reward made for genuinely unsettling television and it was easy to understand why Stripe would knock her out to stop the mindless bloodshed. The video game-esque shots of Rai killing were really clever too and nicely symbolized how killing the roaches is almost like a game for those under the influence of the mass.
The best parts of the episode were unquestionably in Stripe's confinement cell though. Here we get to see Arquette again, who had initially seemed to be a sort of therapist for those who felt something from killing roaches. But now we learn that he is essentially a higher power in the military who controls the masses and sees nothing wrong with what the military is attempting to do. The episode succeeds here by adding a ton of layers on top of the predictable twist that roaches are humans. While that thought is terrifying enough on its own, the terror is ratcheted up with a ton of other additional information and thoughts. We learn that not only is Arquette and the military fine with the extermination of the roaches, but so are all of the other villagers who apparently just really don't want some genetic disorders. It's horrifying to think that all of these people are just innocents being killed off because of disorders which somebody decreed shouldn't exist in this world.
The most horrific part of the episode comes from the mind of Stripe though. Malachi Kirby did a superb job in this episode and by that final scene I was really sympathizing with his awful situation. It traumatizes him to know that innocents are being killed, but then it just keeps getting worse. We learn in a more surprising twist that Stripe himself agreed to the terms of the mass to exterminate the people with disorders, essentially proving that there are no people who actually seem to think this is wrong. Then we are taken on a trip to experience Stripe's nightmare as we realize that he's practically sold his life at this point. Arquette has total control over him and makes him lose sight and then experience the torturous pain of killing an innocent civilian with threats to ensure that he suffers from this until the end of time. It's horrific, immoral and painful to watch and really emphasizes the unsettling life which we may find ourselves in if military technology is used immaturely.
The ending scene was powerful too and showed that Stripe has also lost the life he had before. We see the girl in his dreams appear inside of a beautiful bungalow which is what Stripe sees, but in reality all he is coming home to at the end is a rotten old house with nobody real to comfort him. It's a sad and disturbing final image to conclude the episode.
I appreciate that this episode got creative. Some episodes in the past 2 seasons have treaded familiar territory, but this one felt entirely original with its take on military technology and the future it may pave for us. The original feel to this makes it one of my favourite episodes this season for sure.
The Bad: The roaches twist was very easy to predict. The zombie reveal was given very quickly, and as this show has become known for its painful twists, it took no real effort to think of the idea that the roaches may have been real people, especially with the amount of hints we were given. I could understand somebody else not being able to see through this twist, but as I predicted it with ease, that took away from the episode a little bit.
All the villagers wanting the roaches dead feels a little too insane. There needed to be more people like Heidekker who would think of this execution as inhumane. Surely somebody would have drawn comparisons to the Holocaust or any other big genocide which negatively impacted humanity.
The Unknown: Did Stripe even have a wife or is this woman just conjured from thin air? Or perhaps has she left after Stripe signed with the military?
What convinced Stripe to sign up anyways? He seemed like a bit of a careless fool in the video and it seems like he only joined because he had nothing better to do. It would certainly have been interesting to learn more about him.
Is it right to protect the roaches or did they deserve to be killed off like that? Would it be for the better to prevent genetic disorders in the future? Could there be another more humane way way to prevent these disorders?
Best Moment: Every moment between Stripe and Arquette at the end was superb. The scene had me gripped and provided one hell of a catharsis.
Character of the Episode: Stripe.
Conclusion: This was another excellent episode which continued the show's brilliant explorations into technology and how deadly of a weapon it can be.
Summary: Yorkie is making visits to San Junipero, a sort of heaven for those who want to stay there after death. She meets Kelly and they fall in love. Yorkie reveals that she became a quadriplegic and is going to be dying soon. She is getting married to a random guy so she can choose to be in San Junipero forever. Kelly chooses to marry her instead. Yorkie wants Kelly to choose to stay in San Junipero after she dies, but Kelly doesn't want to because her husband and daughter both didn't get to experience the world. After an argument, Kelly ultimately decides to stay in San Junipero and the 2 remain together forever.
The Good: This was a very different episode for Black Mirror and the new approach with new themes and different storytelling served to create one of the very best hours of the show so far.
The setting of the episode was a small thing which was done completely right. The colouring of all the scenes was excellent and the setting did a great job of establishing the tones of all of the scenes, from the creepy aura of the Quagmire to the loving beauty of the beaches. This ended up becoming a really atmospheric episode and it only added to the experience.
The world itself is really interesting and I was always trying to figure out what time period it was from. I love how the reveal that San Junipero is a sort of heaven was given to us slowly so that it could be pieced together. It was really great and it also allowed me more time to process the characters' stories and what they were doing in San Junipero. The concept of this sort of heaven which is accessible by humanity is really interesting and I liked this unique exploration of technology.
The characters were outstanding though. Both Kelly and Yorkie felt relatively fleshed out, had motivations and had background to provide insight on why they were that way. I love seeing such detailed characters in an episode like this and it definitely made me care a ton about their fates in this episode. The relationship they had was great as well, and while I don't think it's as good as it could have been, it was enough to get me to buy into their bond, especially when you take into account that these 2 are essentially just 2 really lonely old woman who are looking for their place in the world before they die.
Kelly's character story is excellent. Her backstory is suitably tragic when we learn that her husband left her in the world after 49 years and it's easy to sympathize with her and understand the void that he has left behind, as well as the feeling that she doesn't want to be left behind again so she is scared to love. But somehow, the show digs deeper to really pull at our heart-strings as we learn that she had a daughter who died before her time. This adds even more layers to Kelly and makes her unease in choosing to stay in San Junipero so much more understanding. After all, her daughter didn't get to enjoy the luxury so why should she? It's painful, it's real and it's understandable, giving Kelly's character a truckload of depth which really impressed me and made me feel, as the show does all to well with episodes like this.
Yorkie's story was another tearjerker though. Her tragic life was very sad and it was awful to learn about her quadriplegia, but that also made it understandable why she would want to keep going back to San Junipero and stay there. Her life was robbed from her in the real world, but here she gets to enjoy moving around and doing what she pleases. The reveal that she was dying and seemed to be on borrowed time was also heartbreaking, but it led to a much happier moment as Kelly and Yorkie got officially married, providing a rare glimmer of hope in this show.
That hope would thankfully stay though. After their fight, it seemed destined for both ladies to live separately forever in a pained existence, just as miserable as other episodes of the show. But thankfully that wasn't the case and instead we actually got a happy ending where both women got to live out their lives together forever. In an episode with no real twists and turns, this happy ending actually ended up becoming one of the show's biggest twists. It was powerful, genuinely unexpected and satisfying as we finally got to see some characters living happily without any kind of misery or pain thrown at them. It's a wonderful change of tone and makes this episode really stand out and feel special. Not to mention, it's wonderful to feel happiness after an episode of Black Mirror for a change.
The Bad: I wish that Yorkie's joy at being able to move again was played out a little bit better. We really got no reaction from her, but I feel that it would have been much more powerful and affecting to have some scenes showing Yorkie's joy in San Junipero.
The Unknown: What would you choose? San Junipero or passing over peacefully? Which is the better option? Can you ever leave San Junipero if you die there?
What is passing over? What happens to those who do? Is there another world out there?
Will Kelly and Yorkie remain happy forever in San Junipero? Will Kelly be satisfied with her life or will she still feel the guilt she felt earlier about staying in San Junipero while her family passed over?
Did Kelly make the right choice or should she have honoured her old family by passing over?
Best Moment: The happy ending was powerful and for once this show managed to make me feel complete happiness. That's really impressive and I hope this show continues to demonstrate an ability to provide a wide variety of emotions.
Character of the Episode: Kelly was better than Yorkie in my opinion.
Conclusion: A stellar episode, and one which isn't afraid to do something different. Black Mirror has always been a bold and powerful show, and this episode exemplifies both of those aspects in wonderful fashion. Easily one of the show's finest hours.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.