Director: Jodie Foster
Starring: Rosemarie DeWitt, Brenna Harding, Owen Teague, Aniya Hodge, Nicholas Campbell, Sarah Abbott
After nearly losing her daughter, a mother invests in a new technology that allows her to keep track of her. (Source: IMDb)
Just getting this out the way upfront; parents, Arkangel will be the most terrifying hour you’ll watch. Black Mirror is always at it’s most frightening when exploring technology which doesn’t seem to far from where we’re at now, and even more so when playing on very real human fears.
Every parent wishes to protect their child from the outside world, and Marie (DeWitt) is no different. When her 3 year old daughter Sara (Hodge) goes missing, a panic-stricken Marie decides to take part in an experimental trial which will allow her to track her daughter via an app. Let’s take a moment to say that this is technology which does exist today, and there are a number of GPS tracking apps to put paranoid parents minds at rest. Of course, this wouldn’t be Black Mirror if it didn’t take this just that little bit further, and via the app (known as “Arkangel”), Marie is not only able to track her daughter’s whereabouts, but she can check her vital signs with the tap of a finger, see everything that her daughter sees, and also instill a filter which in real-time blurs the things that may be causing Sara any stress or fear. For example, a barking dog is muffled, and the playground talk is blocked out when it becomes too graphic or inappropriate.
This idea of course feeds on the idea that parents want to protect their children, and I can imagine every parent would want to apply this filter if possible in an effort to help keep the child safe. Despite Marie’s best intentions however, the control she has over her daughter’s life sparks a natural curiosity, particularly with what is being filtered out. Realising her daughter is becoming dangerously desensitized to the bad things of the world, Marie makes the decision to stop checking the tablet and just allow her child to grow up with a bit more free reign. However, when the 15 year old Sara (Harding) starts to go off the rails a bit, the curiosity and fear of her mother has her reaching for Arkangel once again.
Avoiding spoilers of where this episode ends up, I will just say that it is every parental fear realised, which makes this one of the most punishing episodes of Black Mirror. Akin to the devastating Shut up and Dance from season three, there is the crushing realisation of watching these events occur, knowing they’re extreme in many senses but so rooted in real fear and real anxiety that it will hit you hard, and stay with you for a very long time afterwards.
In the directors chair, Jodie Foster does an amazing job of creating a closeness to the characters in such a short space of time, and despite her questionable actions at many times, the sense of closeness to Marie as the mother character is palpable. The end is completely devastating and its closing moments will be ones which haunt me for a long, long time. And I don’t even have kids!