Charlie Brooker – that smug, kinda geeky and really funny guy who pops up on telly a couple of times a year – blew our minds with the first ever episode of Black Mirror.
Sure, his work on Screenwipe ensured we aready knew he was a smart guy with a finger very much on the pulse of what makes us all tick. But with Black Mirror, he looked into the near future and often scared the shit out of us by hinting at what technology could eventually lead us into. And that pig-fucking debut episode was a hell of a way to introduce the series.
Since moving from Channel 4 to Netflix, the budgets have increased and so, it seems, has Brooker’s brilliantly twisted imagination. With Season 4 (on Netflix now) outdoing the previous offerings, there can now be no doubt that Brooker and his team are among the best television writers in the world and that Black Mirror is at the top of the pile in terms of current TV shows.
Yet, as ever, it does its best to confound the viewer. USS Callister, the first episode of the new season, begins with a cheesy, cringey scene onboard a Star Trek-Influenced space craft. I fucking hate Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and all that bollocks – yet this is hands down my favourite Black Mirror episode ever.
As always, I will avoid spoilers here, but suffice to say Jesse Plemons and Cristin Milioti are superb in their roles. However, it’s Jimmi Simpson (as James Walton) who really steals the show.
As well as delivering the season’s first laugh out loud line – “For he’s a jolly good fellow and so say… OH MY FUCK!” – he is consistently funny throughout and his real-world character’s questionable attitude works perfectly in the ‘other’ world created by Plemons’ Robert Daly.
The quality of the cast is quite incredible, with Maxine Peak and Letitia Wright adding to the the big name hitters Plemons and Milioti. And with Jodie Foster directing the unsettling second episode Arkangel, it’s clear the budget hasn’t all been blown on special effects.
And with stories this strong, who needs cutting edge CGI? Brooker’s writing is simply stunning. I hate space-themed shit, yet I devoured USS Callister. I am turned off by black and white film, yet fifth episode Metalhead had me shitting myself for a solid hour. He just gets it, whatever ‘it’ is.
Episode four, Hang The DJ, takes a depressing yet entirely believable view of where the world of dating apps is heading. That’s where Brooker is so strong. He doesn’t fall into the trap of writing the future in a way that is unrecognisable to us. In fact, all of his stories are just a step or two beyond what is reality right now.
And that’s what makes Black Mirror both remarkably entertaining and utterly fucking terrifying.