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HomeBlogsMark and Candice's blogSeason 4 of "Black Mirror" Is One Incredible Story Told in Six Parts

Season 4 of "Black Mirror" Is One Incredible Story Told in Six Parts

Netflix recently launched season 4 of “Black Mirror,” their dark sci-fi series, and I think that was the best season that they've done so far.

 

Mark says

The strongest individual episodes.

 

Candice says

I hate that they're only six episodes long. The seasons are so short, but I'm happy that it exists even though this one went darker than most other seasons. This season is like season 1 dark. I remember when we watched episode 1 of the first season with the politician and the pig, and I don't think we watched another episode for almost a year.

 

Mark says

The first episode was a challenge to entry. If you could weather that and not feel a little uncomfortable then you know nothing was going to shake you from there on out. We definitely did not feel all right for a bit.

 

Candice says

This season was so incredible, and I think it's a credit to the amount of talent that this show is now able to attract because of its notoriety. One of the episodes is directed by Jodie Foster. “Meth Damon” from “Breaking Bad” is in the first episode. There's a lot of talented people behind this show.

 

Mark says

One of the segments in the final episode was written by Penn Jillette of “Penn and Teller.” I'm sure if we dissected it a little further there are a host of writers that are from shows that we recognize and obviously actors that we saw. The gentleman from “Westworld” is in that same episode. There are just so many people, like you said, being attracted to it because of the fact that I really do believe this is “The Twilight Zone” of our generation presently.

 

Candice says

What's weird is that I think that it's better than the “Twilight Zone.” I really hope now that Jordan Peele is going to take over the reboot of “The Twilight Zone” for CBS All Access that he watches this season of “Black Mirror” and uses that as the standard for this kind of bizarre sci-fi fiction. One of the things that I enjoy the most about this show is the futurism and the way that they look at possible new technologies that we're approaching but haven't quite gotten to yet, but you can see the natural progression from the technologies that we already have and the ethical questions that those things create.

When we were watching the one episode called “Arkangel” that was I think when it first occurred to me how much this show just eases you into the normalness of the decisions that are being made in the show. Everything starts off very much like a really well-written Stephen King short story where basically you are made comfortable initially by how normal everything seems. And then there’s some turning point.

 

Mark says

And by normal we don't mean that everything that happens is an everyday, mundane occurrence. What we mean is that the reaction of the character is a reaction that you may or may or may not have but you can at least understand why they do.

 

Candice says

There's enough things that the character does that you're like, “Yes, I agree with that decision. Yes, I empathize with this character.” And then up to a point where you don't, and then it's at that point where I feel like the show, rather than making you question the characters' decisions, makes you question your own judgment and decision making. And I think that's the thing that's so powerful about the show.

 

Mark says

I think that's where that comparison comes to “The Twilight Zone.” Remember there were two shows back in the day that ran sort of parallel. There was “The Twilight Zone” and there was “The Outer Limits.” “The Outer Limits” was pretty much exclusively a platform for science-fiction stories. There were some big names of the era like Arthur C. Clarke and Harlan Ellison and people like that who were associated with some of the root inspiration for their stories. And then “The Twilight Zone” was sometimes paranormal; sometimes they were science fiction. The idea was that there was always the M. Night Shyamalan twist before that ever got associated with him. There was something to it that was out of the ordinary. But the thing that “The Twilight Zone” excelled in more than “The Outer Limits” ever really managed to do was that every story came with a social conversation. The questioning of the paradigm.

You have a story where there's a character who is a bookish guy who really doesn't like people and he wants to be alone with his books and he asks for that, and he gets a world where there is nothing but books and no other people. Then he breaks his glasses to bring out these questions of how much do we really need society or do we need each other. What do we need each other for? The glasses breaking is a symbol for the things we rely on other people for: police to keep us safe from criminals, firefighters to put out fires, teachers to teach our children, and doctors to take care of us when we're not well. And so even though you might not like the people, you need society. You need these people because you can't do everything for yourself. It raised that question in an era when “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” was more than the mantra.

So I use that as an example to say what “Black Mirror” does very well is raise the issue and tell an interesting story but then it goes further to deepen the conversation about what does this mean? Especially when we talk about speculative technology. That's a question of when, not if, and what will these things mean when they actually are a part of our world.

 

Candice says

Maybe it's because technology has progressed so far since “The Twilight Zone,” but “The Twilight Zone” relied so much on supernatural things occurring that I feel like there was still some amount of emotional distance that was created with the audience because of its implausibility. Always. There is no situation in which a monkey’s paw will ever happen. But in “Black Mirror,” there was never an episode where it didn't end and I didn't immediately turn to you and say, “What would you have done?” At what point would you have gotten off and stop making these decisions?

Because I think sometimes with these episodes, “Crocodile” in particular, the character keeps digging, and I had to ask myself, “At what point would I have stopped?” What different decisions would I have made? And I think that that's the power of this show. It's how it makes us examine ourselves and what our own morals are. These are technological morality tales that really make you question. It's the Heinz question of would you steal the medicine to save your wife. It's six episodes of those. It's hard to say which one of the episodes was my favorite. I know the episode called “Hang the DJ” was a much needed happiness break from the other really dark ones.

 

Mark says

If you're familiar with the show, that's this season's “San Junipero,” which is not to say the stories are similar, but because it is a story about love the feelings the emotions it evokes are similar and much needed in the midst of some real bleak storytelling. You get that pause to think about things that are a little lighter and about the happy parts of human existence and not the sad ones. One of the things that Candice realized, especially since we binged the series, is that there is definitely a very strong through line tying together all six episodes and the placement of them is just so intentional.

 

Candice says

Yeah, it felt curated.

 

Mark says

Yeah, it is. It's like a curated museum experience, and it's so good. Back in the day my favorite thing when I was reading a lot of science fiction was actually the year's best collections, which are short stories usually. You have these guys that collect from science-fiction magazines and other novels and the best short stories of the year and they take a lot of pain usually to select the order those stories come in so that you have a certain feeling and tone going throughout the collection. And this is definitely that experience.

 

Candice says

I definitely feel like season 4 has a rewatchability to it. I don't know that the previous seasons have that, because with the other seasons, once you knew the ending or you knew the twist to it, there was no point in rewatching it. But this season didn't really have that gimmicky nature to it. The stories were all very emotional. I definitely want to watch them again so I can think about them more.

 

Mark says

And to watch them again back to back to have that experience of what is being told throughout these six stories as well because each of them is part of a bigger narrative. And so watching the season as a whole is in conversation with the creators just as much as watching each individual episode is its own experience. So I think you're right. I think there's a rewatchability that comes from that binging six hours essentially of story and then talking about it and thinking about what results.

 

Candice says

I feel like Black Mirror is one of those special gifts of a show. Very much like “Rick and Morty,” because it takes so much time to make something this brilliant and smart, and then we get it and I don't know how long it's going to be before we get another one.

 

Mark says

And I feel like this is the interesting thing about this season moreso than any other season because they are so tightly intertwined. There are elements that we recognize from one episode to another that could continue. Little visual nods and then the final episode literally shows elements from previous episodes intentionally. I feel like part of the time-consuming part of the process must be when they look at the stories that they're talking about doing for a season and discussing how those stories relate and what's the theme and all of that. And so a lot of time went in before anything was filmed or cast. So before production actually began, just in the planning phase and looking at the stories and the attention to detail, I think paid off incredibly this season when you're talking about episodes that start from scratch and how do they relate to each other as part of a whole. You can just really see the level of expertise in storytelling and the talent involved from that perspective.

 

Mark and Candice

Mark and Candice

Sometimes the best part of reading an article online is engaging in a conversation in the comment section. However, discussions involving opposing points of view between strangers can devolve into a toxic environment. So what if these conversations were had between two people who loved each other?

At Cheek to Geek, our contributors consist of a diverse group of couples who are steeped in geek and popular culture. Our reviews reflect the back-and-forth, opposing or concurring, debates that geeks are notorious for having. But our founders, Mark and Candice Roma, have always felt that the love and respect felt for certain fandoms should carry over into the way we discuss them. Candice hopes that by modeling fruitful and productive discourses in our blogs, vlogs, and podcasts that we can show our readers the value in having disparate opinions and that differing perspectives don’t have to lead to hostile confrontation. “Mark and I have been together almost nine years, and every time we go see a movie, read book, go to a new restaurant, or see something awesome, we immediately ask what the other one thought. We don’t always agree, but having a conversation with my husband is my favorite part of experiencing something new.”

Although Cheek to Geek focuses on the opinions of specific couples, Mark believes that our vision for the site will extend far beyond that. “Ultimately the goal of art is to communicate, and the goal of communication is to build a community.” Our mission is to create a positive, inclusive, and safe environment for the appreciation and discussion of popular art in all its forms. 

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