‘Black Mirror’ Season 4 Review: ‘Crocodile’ and ‘Hang the DJ’
With the next two episodes, Black Mirror continues to challenge your perception, with every plot twist coming in from left field. Crocodile and Hang the DJ are a duo of thematically opposite narratives that will take you on a journey that will make you lose your faith in humanity and regain it right back.
Episode 3: Crocodile
Crocodile has one of the most unlikeable and irredeemable protagonists in TV history, with that necessary hyperbole out of the way, let’s get into episode three.
Crocodile dials up the darkness. In traditional Black Mirror fashion the existence and proximity of technology prompts one sociopathic mother to take pre-emptive steps. Crocodile is a journey of depravity that strips the protagonist of the very innocence that she tried to protect; her livelihood for the sake of her children.
In Crocodile the technology is a visual memory Recaller that creates visual images whilst the subject mentally recalls a certain memory. The impromptu, fluid and unfiltered nature of memory leads to the inevitable; a simple insurance investigation leads to the revelation of Mia’s deepest and darkest secret.
It begins with a hit-and-run incident, our protagonist Mia helps her friend Rob cover it up by dumping the body and never speaking of it again. Fifteen years later, Mia is a successful married businesswoman with a son. Rob is at rock-bottom fighting his guilt of the incident and wanting to tell the truth. In a recent news article, the victim’s wife still believes him to be alive and Rob suggests writing her an anonymous letter to reveal the truth.
At this point, it’s not difficult to sympathise with Mia, an incident that was not directly her fault is threatening to come up for air and tear her life apart, fifteen years later. She thinks about her son and how it could ruin his life. Rob, drowning in guilt, seems unreasonable in trying to drag Mia back into an incident that was his fault. However, that first encounter is the only one where Mia seems well-adjusted. Rob’s suggested solution sends Mia into a fit of rage and she kills him.
We then follow an insurance investigator named Shazia who is investigating a nearby road collision, by contacting witnesses and using their memories via the Recaller to find more witnesses.
The side effect of entering someone’s stream of consciousness/memory is the innate inability to hide things. ‘The harder you try to forget something, the more you think about it unconsciously’ – Jostein Gaarder.
This is an obstacle that Shazia routinely comes across with each witness, she is subject to memories or thoughts that she doesn’t necessarily need or want to see. One of those witnesses is Mia, who was in the hotel room above the road where the collision occurred.
There is a very sombre and almost mundane build-up to Shazia meeting Mia. Shazia has spent much of her time from witness to witness, trying to figure out and solve this dragging insurance claim. It’s not until we meet Mia once more, that we realise she is willing to go any lengths to hide her crimes. Despite shedding crocodile tears, Mia adopts a cold and calculated demeanour in such a depraved manner that it’s difficult not to think that she was always capable of such vicious villainy.
I won’t spoil where this leads but with everything said about Mia already, there is STILL a plot twist that will make you sick in your stomach, and for some weird reason, just before she does it, I still sat there assuming, “surely, she can’t go there..”
With all that said, there is still a reprieve for the viewer. Black Mirror continues its theme of trying to end the worst of episodes on a positive note, though with everything that Mia does, it doesn’t quite feel like justice.
Episode 4: Hang the DJ
A spiritual successor to San Junipero, Hang the DJ tells a wholesome tale of a couple that could not be separated by the System.
In a near future, the process of dating has been simplified, it is now completely dictated by an artificial intelligence system called ‘Coach’ installed on a circular tablet that talks to its owner, sets them up on dates and gives their relationship a life-span. It can range from an hour to years. Every date builds a profile of the person’s personality and Coach suggests after an unspecified number of dates, a person would be assigned a life partner that is perfect for them.
Hang the DJ writes an astute commentary on the current relationship revolution that has incorporated technology, from Tinder to Twitter and everything in-between. Hang the DJ takes it a step further and tackles the paradox of choice. The paradox of choice is a concept that is invisible to you, until you experience it, and with the choice that is available with the interconnectivity of the internet, it’s visible now to more people than ever.
Barry Schwartz said that: The paradox of choice is common in western societies where welfare and freedom is an established right. Therein the freedom of choice causes the feeling of less happiness, less satisfaction because one cannot choose a perfect match when there are so many options. This can be due to anything from a lack of meaningful choice or an overwhelming amount of choice that can lead to a sort of psychological paralysis.
With Coach assigning matches, the concept of choice is removed and every couple can focus on making their respective relationships work. The assigned life-span that determines how long each relationship will last is kind of counter-productive, though it adds a little excitement to each new match as the episode progresses.
The director Tim Van Patten managed to capture a visual essence in Hang the DJ that encapsulated and intricately differentiated the tediousness of the process of dating and the beauty of finding the one within all the noise.
When Frank and Amy are apart from each other, the scenes transition noticeably quicker, whereas there is a lingering shot whenever Frank and Amy are together that makes you feel their need to stay together a little bit longer than their circumstances allow.
When our protagonists Amy and Frank match each other; they are sad to find out that it’s only meant to be for twelve hours. The time passes and they go their separate ways, they both match with several other, clearly incompatible, choices and their unhappiness begins to bubble. The episode ends with a plot twist that is a little too real when it comes to online dating. Hang the DJ ultimately has a beautiful message about those who are meant to be, will be. Their energy and vibe will gravitate towards each other no matter what.