Director: Colm McCarthy
Starring: Douglas Hodge, Letitia Wright, Daniel Lapaine, Aldis Hodge, Alexandra Roach, Babs Olusanmokun
A woman enters the Black Museum, where the proprietor tells his stories relating to the artefacts. (Source: IMDb)
After maintaining for years now that it doesn’t matter what order you watch Black Mirror episodes in because it is an anthology series, I am preparing to somewhat eat my words with this final episode in Season 4. Whilst previous knowledge of Black Mirror episodes is not essential for this episode, there is a whole extra layer of appreciation for those die-hard fans, and for this reason, it is impossible to talk about this episode without spoilers, so do read ahead at your peril.
Upon entering the ‘Black Museum’ of the title, alongside main character Nish (Wright), we are treated to a veritable smorgasbord of Black Mirror easter eggs. This museum houses all kinds of artifacts from previous episodes, including White Bear, Crocodile, Hated in the Nation, USS Callister and Arkangel; additionally there are further verbal references to San Junipero and Shut Up and Dance, and some background references to The National Anthem and 15 Million Merits for the extra observant. Anyone who had started preparing a written piece about a Black Mirror shared universe, put your pens down now, as this episode near enough confirms it, or at least dangles a tantalizing prospect before us; one which no doubt we can all chew on until the next season.
Narrative wise, Black Museum shares some similarities with the episode White Christmas; three separate stories are told by museum proprietor Rolo Haynes (Hodge) to Nish, the sole visitor on that day. Whilst initially seeming random, there is a connecting arc between them, all of them focusing in some way on the idea of transferring conscious, feelings and emotions via technology. This is of course something explored many times in Black Mirror previously, but in an episode which is so obviously self-referential, it does this with a couple of knowing winks to camera which forgives some of the repetitiveness.
This episode is a real slow-burn; that’s not to say each story doesn’t have its layer of intrigue, but it is in the culmination of the stories and seeing the thread that weaves them all together that it really shines. It also shows the effortlessness of how this series skirts and bends the genres; a futuristic sci-fi edge somehow pulling together stories of genuine horror, tragedy, blackest of black comedies, and leaving you with that all-too-familiar unsettled feeling.
Whilst this episode has every potential to be very divisive amongst fans, the pay-off makes it worthwhile, and where it leaves us in terms of this shared universe of Black Mirror is an interesting one. The idea that all of these horrors can exist in one universe is a troubling one, and whilst undoubtedly exaggerated, perhaps it isn’t too far off the real world. Now that’s something to dwell on until the next season…!