New season of 'Black Mirror': Don't pet the mechanical dog

The cast of the “USS Callister” episode of “Black Mirror.” (Photo: Jonathan Prime/Netflix)
The cast of the “USS Callister” episode of “Black Mirror.” (Photo: Jonathan Prime/Netflix)

Black Mirror, writer-creator Charlie Brooker’s anthology series about the dangers of future technology, is back for a fourth season of unnerving tales. All six new episodes are now streaming on Netflix, and they are a diverse lot, ranging from a romance about dating to a Star Trek parody gone sour. Black Mirror fans are especially averse to any sorts of spoilers, so I’ll be as careful as I can to not reveal too much about any of them.

The three best Mirrors are “ArkAngel,” “Hang the DJ,” and “Metalhead.” “ArkAngel” is directed by Jodie Foster, and is a lovely fable about overprotective parenting featuring marvelous performances by the young actor Brenna Harding as a daughter being really overly protected, and the always great Rosemarie DeWitt as the mom doing the protecting. “Hang the DJ” suggests that it’s entirely possible to take the concept of dating apps entirely too far in the pursuit of finding your “perfect” match.

My favorite of the season, “Metalhead,” is a nifty little (it’s the shortest entry) suspense film. Shot in black and white and directed by David Slade (Hard Candy, American Gods), it stars a mechanical dog whose penchant for revenge makes him the most horrific canine figure since Stephen King’s Cujo. Maxine Peake gives a fine performance as a woman doing her best to stay away from this metal danger.

I see that the Star Trek-kie “USS Callister” is already being overrated by many reviewers easily impressed by the skill of its parody and its regularly timed plot twists. Starring Jesse Plemons as a Shatner-like commander as well as a different personality I won’t reveal, it’s the longest Black Mirror installment this season. It clocks in at a bit over 70 minutes, and its pleasures waned a bit for me well before it finally concluded.

It’s worth noting — mostly because it enables me to avoid talking about any plot points — that Brooker, in his futuristic mindset, foresaw the current movement to feature women in prominent roles in all pop culture creations. Women are the chief protagonists in every one of these Black Mirror entries, and in making us more aware of new-to-me faces such as those of Maxine Peake and Brenna Harding, Mirror and Brooker are to be even further commended.

All four seasons of Black Mirror are streaming now on Netflix.

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