The excellent Black Mirror series returns for a fourth season in which new technologies, but also our society as a whole, will take their toll. Nothing and no one is spared, but always with realism and finesse… despite sometimes rough situations.
In 2011, Black Mirror arrived on Channel 4 in the UK. Already at the time, the series had made a name for itself by its ability to criticize with precision both our society, human turpitudes but also the possible excesses of technological evolution. This, through three different stories, each episode lasting between 45 minutes and an hour.
And for that, the team did not hesitate to go beyond the conventions, even if it meant shocking them. Many still have in mind The National Anthem (S01E01) and its famous story of the pig. But beyond its brilliant moves, Black Mirror was already a lot of finesse and a subtext often as exciting to decipher as the main action was interesting to follow.
Each episode is independent, with its own team, cast and approach. A sort of Tales from Crypt brought back to life, with less horror, more technology, but just as much cynicism. The only common point that links all these elements is Charlie Brooker, creator of the series who is involved in the composition of each episode.
It is only in 2014 that we were able to discover this confusing little gem in a French version. Unfortunately, it was France Télévision who acquired the rights at the time, as the band wasn’t especially known for really respecting its series and their fans. The followers of Doctor Who and Mr Robot know about it.
The second season was broadcast a little over a year later than the original version, and in a disorderly fashion, from May to June 2014. The same will be true for theChristmas Special which will not arrive in September 2015: Snow White.
It was at this time that we learn that Netflix is taking over the rights to the series worldwide. A third season is thus announced for 2016 with twelve episodes. In the end, there will be only six, with simultaneous broadcasting in all countries on 21 October 2016. The first two seasons are also available on the SVOD platform.
And if we could fear a change of tone, everything that had made the charm of the series was there, with at the time a broad criticism of our behavior in the era of the all-social, the issue of virtual reality and San Junipero(S03E04) which has remained in the memories of many, especially for its twist final.
So we were looking forward to season 4, which is like all the previous ones: far too short. Episodes are devoured in just one day, especially during the holiday season, and it is often very difficult to accept letting go of the screen rather than discovering what happens next.
Especially since, as usual, the teams around Charlie Brooker manage to surprise us from the first minutes of the first episode: USS Calister. It’s quite difficult to chronicle the viewing of a season of Black Mirroras it’s necessary to preserve the surprise and the details that allow to discover all the finesse of each episode.
All the more so as this fourth version does not bring out a particular theme, except that of criticism of the many shortcomings of humanity. From our thirst for power to our desire to control everything, sometimes feeling that we do so out of simple benevolence. An act that is meant to be positive, but which only masks a layer of filthy selfishness.
All the strength of Black Mirroris precisely to manage to transcribe this in universes that are at the same time contemporary, but also futuristic by many small details that nevertheless seek to be part of a certain realism, and with a willingness to push the reflection on different grounds.
Thus, when we talk about the autonomous car, it is not to show us that it is the means of transport of tomorrow, but rather a solution that can be used to solve specific problems, which will not be without impact from a legislative or societal point of view.
When facial recognition comes into play, it is both to bring out the best in people and to accomplish a far less noble purpose. When we see a phone or an interface, we feel that their composition has been worked on so as to place them in a future that remains fairly close to us.
From this point of view, Hang the DJ (S04E04) is undoubtedly one of the greatest success stories, which allows us to immerse ourselves in an interesting analysis of the governance of our lives by AI while at the same time giving us a rather new, concrete and realistic (although abusive in some aspects) vision of how it works in practice.
Conversely, a Metalhead(S04E05) is more raw, colder, like its robotic protagonists. Filmed in black and white, it delivers less and less background reflection. It is above all a race against death that will leave us little respite in a world devoid of pity.
We also appreciate the ability to play with the trailers since the episodes can sometimes reveal some surprises compared to what we expected. The same goes for the winks to the fans, who do not escape criticism because of their inordinate taste for series where everything is sometimes solved in big blows of Deus Ex Machina, thanks to the supreme intelligence of a Captain adored by all.
This does not prevent the series from saluting, in its own way, the impact that such works can end up having in the real world, inspiring in a much more concrete way geniuses and visionaries who shape part of our future, for better… and sometimes for worse.
Another special mention to Black Museum (S04E06) which is undoubtedly the most striking episode of this season, which combines everything we like in Black Mirror : a criticism of our society on many aspects, with a zest of new technologies and drama of connected objects with a hint of violence, a certain lucidity on human relationships and finally an interesting reference … to the universe of the series.
In short, if you have an afternoon to kill by the beginning of 2018, spend it on this season 4 of Black Mirror. You will rarely have the opportunity to sharpen your critical thinking about the world around us, and the future that awaits us.