Charlie Brooker’s hit Netflix drama Black Mirror returned to our screens in time for the New Year, as anxious as ever about the moral implications of our technological future. Or is it now present? Just before the episodes were released a YouTube trailer indicated that this season would address contemporary concerns with Donald Trump deliberately placed in the centre of a montage of images combining previous episodes of Black Mirror with news clips from current events. Yet series four fails to deliver on this promise.
Rather than directly tackle the very real effect technology is having on the politics of today (granted this has been explored previously in Black Mirror but these episodes are now years old), Brooker remains on the existential ‘can artificial-intelligence eventually be human?’ motif, no doubt bolstered by the success of last season’s award-winning episode San Junipero. This is unfortunate because otherwise excellent episodes such as Hang the DJ are tempered by the fact that the series has already addressed the same themes multiple times. Apart from the admittedly brilliant Arkangel the only two other episodes that do not focus on AI, Crocodile and Metalhead, are hampered by surprisingly lazy scripts featuring payoffs that feel unearned.
It is just a shame that the show famous for subverting expectations fails to take any risks this season
Whilst never a perfect show, for the first time in its history Black Mirror feels stale. Yet overall it is still a fantastic piece of entertainment. The characters in USS Callister and Black Museum are enjoyable and often hilarious (in a dark way, of course) and the technical elements of the show such as the cinematography remain consistently good throughout the series. Black Mirror is one of the best Netflix original series going, and I look forward to Series 5. It is just a shame that the show famous for subverting expectations fails to take any risks this season.