You know what I’m kind of, almost, sort of over? Black Mirror, the dystopian future forecasting “Beware your computer!” show that storms conversations once or twice a year.
The show is great and smart and one of the most exciting, creative, not to mention scary media items made this millennium but, as the recent fourth season made known, the show is cannibalizing ideas from itself while sputtering into haughty techy finger wagging that we all already know and have been administered much better before (often by Black Mirror itself). The season was primarily without morals, opting to shock and gross out instead of really think hard. It all felt rush, it mostly felt boring, and it was hard not to think back to the better times, to instances like San Junipero that show the real potential of these tech imaginings.
So. Because I love the show, because I want Charlie Brooker to succeed, I have some notes for production of season five since Netflix has a very distinct habit of taking anything successful – Orange Is The New Black, Stranger Things, Arrested Development, Wet Hot American Summer, Pee Wee – and squeezing the joy from them, expunging entertaining innovation for “Oh!!! You like the eighties!!!! HERE ARE MORE REFERENCES FOR YOU!!!!!!” I’m over that, this show is better, and they need to know that. Thus, my notes.
Some spoilers ahead. You are warned.
No More “There Are People In The Computer!” Episodes
What did White Christmas do? Offer a twist of putting people in computers as punishment. It was cool! Jon Hamm was sexy. What did San Junipero do? Twist that idea of people in computers and turn both love and death on its head. But what did season four do in not one but three episodes? Repeat this dumbass trope. While USS Callister did this quite effectively and in a delightfully fucked up way, Hang The DJ seemed like a younger sibling mimicking back a logline from all the aforementioned episodes. They were “good” but, as we saw in two other instances, it had been done before. The luster had worn off. The little twist that Black Museum offered was interesting but, still, that idea had gotten stale by the end of the season.
Justify Your Evil
Metalhead was fun, in theory, but ultimately vicious for no reason. There was no justification for the damn killer dogs and, most annoyingly, the ending of “Awww: they tried to keep human normalcy alive for the kids but died trying!” was not enough of a “reason.” I get artistic openness, making your audience work, and similar structures but what was most frustrating about this episode was the entire lack of grounding the evil dogs with an origin, motivation, or source. Were they hacked to be evil? Were they weapons? Were they created by robots? What the fuck happened? We got no answers. Only people stabbing themselves. Heartless, to say the least.
Be Scarier, Fuck…
Black Museum was the only episode that actually thrilled and chilled, primarily from the first story of the doctor who sliced himself to pieces. It was strange and scary and made you cringe. That was literally the only “scary” moment in season four – and even that was such a slim fucking pick. Remember Playtest? That was start to finish frightening. No episode this new season came close to that save for brief moments with Black Museum.
…And Have More Fun!!! Then…
While we’re on Black Museum, that episode was fucking fun. The structure reminded of bygone nineties anthology shows and movies like Tales From The Crypt and Trilogy Of Terror but had a stronger, bigger bite. It was at points campy and absurd which was great because you could tell the episode was self-aware and having a lot of fun. This series rarely affords you that and, boy, is it needed when everything trends toward the dark. Tonal shifts make a world of difference.
…Make An Actual Political Point Outside Of “LOL Computers = Bad.”
Again, Black Museum was really the only truly politically motivated episode. You knew with a name like “Black Museum” featuring a black woman as the lead that this episode would “go there” – and it did. It was great. Compare this with, say, Arkangel and how the “political commentary” there was basically “LOL: helicopter parenting is bad.” versus Black Museum‘s “Mass incarceration of persons of color is a problem and, sometimes, you have to fight to make your point known.” See the difference there? This is much more impactful than something as dumb as “Stop looking at your phone.” We fucking get it. We’ve watched four seasons of the show already, fuck.
Get More Real
Again with Black Museum: what made that episode so special was that it took a real subject – incarceration and, in some ways, racial inequality (white woman in black man’s head, etc.) – and made you look at it from a different angle. We need more of that! That’s what the show is for. Why not take on more real, specific, now subjects like climate change? Income inequality? Queer rights? Gender equality and trans acceptance? Waste? Agriculture? There are so many mundanely rich subjects that can be conquered and, as some have already been tackled, I’d rather watch a subpar episode about queer rights than a great episode dedicated to a nerd seeking revenge against pretty people via avatars of them.
Try On Different Points Of View
The new season – and series – is almost entirely dedicated to humanoid points of view. With new technologies come changes for everything. What about pets? What about plants? What about something as small as a mailbox? Explore that shit and handle it from their point of view. This is why Crocodile – The other superb episode from this season. – succeeded because it used fucking insurance to reveal a homicide that spiraled into a crocodilian animal-eats-animal-eats-animal disaster. It was spectacular. Why? Because it was literally about technology “disrupting” insurance, backhandedly from an insurer’s point of view.
Maybe No More Meta Analysis – Or Spinoffs
Again, again, again: Black Museum was fun because you could tie much of the happenings to other episodes, from White Bear to Hated In The Nation amongst many others. However, that was just a blip in the episode: any more self-references would feel fucking tired, dumb, and a reminder of frankly better episodes. To this, it would be fucking stupid to create a spinoff series dedicated to an episode. This would be a classic Netflix move, smothering great source material in lieu of streaming hits, exhausting an already thin premise in favor of “style,” particularly one that we already have two of already. Spend the time, money, and energy on making better shows – not rehashing you at your best.