Utopianism rests upon a single, basic reality: that we might be higher than we had been earlier than. However what if we are able to’t? What if we’re caught in a loop, slave to new improvements that solely amplify hate, human flaw, and social fragility? Within the techno-dystopian wheelhouse that’s Charlie Brooker’s darkly imaginative anthology collection, Black Mirror, that’s typically the case at hand.
In Brooker’s inverted paradise, proximity comes at a worth. What one is prepared to surrender for it—both to create the gulf or to clear it—is the supply of all of the unhappy chaos that outlines his futurescape. His tales are of a world within the throes of insanity—be it dread introduced on by gadgets that govern human emotion (“Nosedive”; “The Whole Historical past of You”) or the mayhem that arises out of 1’s lack of ability to entry, or maintain, a selected social standing (“The Nationwide Anthem”; “Shut Up and Dance”). What at first appears like a twisted fairytale slowly unravels right into a imaginative and prescient of the quotidian, as if Brooker is saying: our rising actuality is way more unnerving than pure fiction.
For all its technological sprawl, Black Mirror is a present in regards to the flesh and bone of human struggling: the other ways people damage and grieve, the way in which human innovation expands the gap between individuals, communities, and ideologies. It’s not solely a matter of distance, but in addition of what one is prepared to do to bridge that distance, that causes the collection’ small, fertile tragedies. In some methods, that is Brooker’s central thesis. People get into bother not once we make progress, however once we attempt to overcome humanity by treating emotion and spirit like science—the hunt to articulate and optimize the ineffable.
Black Mirror’s true utopianism, although, has at all times been presenting a reasonably multicultural future with out remark, and with “Black Museum,” season four’s closing episode, all of Brooker’s work—and the query of proximity—coalesces into one among his best visible, narrative, and thematic treats but. With much more daring, its ending invitations a studying that’s not so apparent to everybody.
(Spoiler alert: main spoilers for the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum” comply with.)
We first meet Nish (Letitia Wright), a younger black ladies touring by means of the southwest, who finds her option to the Black Museum. Uncoincidentally, the ominously-titled roadside establishment is a set of techno-crimes assembled by its devious white proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), a person with an urge for food for the carnival and the felony. The heroes and villains that furnish the anthology collection have by no means wished for audacity, however Haynes’s huckster bile manages to really feel singularly evil, an opportunistic sociopath in the vein of P.T. Barnum.
The episode’s first flash of genius comes with the introduction of the museum itself. It homes “genuine criminological artifacts,” a lot of that are from earlier Black Mirror episodes—together with tech (the cloning system from “USS Calister”; an ADI from “Hated within the Nation”), sinister curios (the tub from “Crocodile”), and private memorabilia (the pill from “Arkangel”). Delicately, Brooker positions the Black Mirror universe inside a linear narrative, bookending his galaxy with a starting and maybe an much more terrifying, unexpected finish. It’s a museum constructed on a mad dream, but in addition one imbued with a troublesome reality: that every one of us—the inventors, the fun seekers, the intrigued, the “race-hating wealthy man with a hard-on for energy”—are ultimately complicit within the society we create, and particularly in its final result.
Akin to the present’s haunting vacation particular, “White Christmas,” “Black Museum” performs out in a nightmarish triptych, massaging three seemingly disparate tales right into a single narrative. Haynes comes from a profession recruiting individuals on behalf of a cutting-edge neuro-tech firm, and his tales element using gadgets that supply the power to really feel one other individual’s bodily sensations, and even switch one individual’s consciousness into one other’s thoughts. The ultimate arc particulars the story of Clayton Leigh, a black man accused of murdering a journalist. He’s sentenced to loss of life however agrees to signal over his digital imprint, in hopes that the income from its use will present for his household as soon as he’s gone. The three tales are threaded collectively not simply by Haynes’ nefarious puppeteering, however by Brooker’s insistence on proximity: every character—a down-on-his-luck physician, a mom in a vegetative state, a person who maintains his innocence—desperately needs to stay related to the world, and the individuals, round them.
Within the episode’s closing twist, it’s revealed that Nish is not any British vacationer, however the daughter of Clayton Leigh, whose hologram has grow to be the principle attraction of Haynes’s museum—imprisoned and tortured, advert infinitum, by guests. In a world quick on karmic pittance, Nish will get retribution: she poisons Haynes, vegetation his consciousness inside her father’s digital physique, fortunately executes him, and units hearth to the museum. In doing so, she frees her father, a restitution that’s infinitely compounded when you think about trials just like the Tuskegee experiments, how the carceral state continues to irreparably fracture black households, and the ugly modes by which the nation income off black ache.
It’s a victory, and an ending that defies the pure biology of the collection—and in being so, it’s a type of reparation not everybody will perceive. Sophie Gilbert at The Atlantic accused the episode of trafficking in “eye-for-an-eye justice,” asking: “Is that this actually the world we would like?” Adi Robertson at The Verge was equally miffed by Brooker’s scope. “If something,” she wrote, “it obscures the industrial-scale cruelty of mass incarceration by specializing in one man’s roadside attraction.” For me, that’s the purpose of “Black Museum”—the cruelty of the jail system, whereas an enormous and horrific enterprise, is a deeply private one. It reaches households, moms and sons, daughters and fathers, on a one-to-one degree. It’s a nationwide disaster constructed on non-public pains, of individuals looking for their manner again to family members. Brooker’s macabre futureworld is proving more and more true for us, and in the meanwhile we’re caught within the loop, beholden to improvements that may proceed to amplify hate and trigger destruction, however there’s nonetheless a option to struggle for what you consider is true, for what is true. What’s extra actual than that?