Black Mirror season 4 debuting at the tail-end of 2017 is a welcome gift. The “reality is an episode of Black Mirror” refrain is still relevant in these surreal times—most recently, people have been getting weird vibes from the wildly popular iPhone game HQ Trivia. But you can take your pick of moments this year that elicited dread or made you wish you could block people in real life. At this point, Black Mirror is almost a respite.
In season 4, the series is sewn even closer to reality via two episodes where technology—as always—is integral, but broken humanity is the ultimate source of dread. The first is “USS Callister,” which presents Black Mirror in space—a welcome premise. Jesse Plemons (Fargo) stars as the captain of the USS Callister, which appears to borrow its hues and design from Star Trek. Chewing Gum’s Michaela Coel, Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson, and How I Met Your Mother’s Cristin Milioti are among his crew, but the episode painstakingly builds from that premise, offering up a critique of men in power and what women who work with them must endure. Plemons plays the “captain” with winking charisma but also presents a man who is weak and insecure, offering up a character both repellant and sympathetic. Given the parameters of the episode, there’s a secondary critique of gaming culture and its objectification (and harassment) of women. Perhaps it wasn’t aiming to be as prescient, but this is Black Mirror, after all.
After season 3 was released last year, series creator and co-showrunner Charlie Brooker pushed the idea of an extended Black Mirror universe. “USS Callister” could link to last season’s augmented-reality thriller “Playtest.” “Hang the DJ” could exist in the same social-climbing universe as season 3’s “Nosedive,” sketching out a world where young people’s only responsibility is to find a life mate, with the help of an app, of course. This is season 4’s only “relationship” episode, but it doesn’t reach the same ecstatic heights as season 3’s Emmy-winning standout “San Junipero.”
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The Jodie Foster-directed “Arkangel” furthers the series’ conceit of blocking someone in real life—an extension of the universe presented in season 1’s “The Entire History of You” and season 2’s “White Christmas”—as a mother (Rosemarie Dewitt) tries out an experimental technology on her daughter. The implications are, predictably, not good, but the episode is especially relevant right now, as YouTube scrambles to dismantle disturbing kids’ content and stop its (apparently lucrative) proliferation. Despite the technology, it’s one of the more humanist episodes.
Staying on the memory thread, “Crocodile” is a muted look at a device that accesses memories, but the John Hillcoat-directed episode never quite finds its center or gives its antihero much of a personality. “Metalhead” is the least engaging episode, plot-wise, though it does rank in terms of sustaining anxiety. A woman is hunted through the lush countryside by a murderous robotic canine, and there’s never a moment when you think this won’t end badly.
The season’s other anchor is “Black Museum,” directed by Peaky Blinders’ Colm McCarthy. A young woman (Letitia Wright) stops by an isolated roadside museum of criminal artifacts and meets owner Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge). Holding the thread of “White Christmas,” Haynes inhabits Jon Hamm’s con-man character, telling three stories that set up the final act. While the first two stories are interesting, I wish the whole episode had been about the final one: “Black Museum” could be seen as inhabiting the same universe as episode 2’s controversial “White Bear,” in which the suffering of people of color is a spectator sport. There are many layers to peel back there.
This season zooms out a little more, presenting the extended universe theory via a smaller detail—one that’s fun to spot on your own. It posits that maybe we’re all part of the same consciousness, but it doesn’t make the themes any easier to absorb.
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What that new ‘Jessica Jones’ character means for the season and the series
Friend or foe?
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones has been a revelation for women ever since it premiered in 2015. Not only did it present us with a deeply flawed and traumatized protagonist, it dealt with her history and insecurities head-on.
In Season 2, we still have a host of varied, complicated women; from Carrie Ann Moss’s struggling Jeri Hogarth to Rachael Taylor’s unraveling Trish to our newest character, played by Janet McTeer. It’s a pivotal role with DEEP complexity and physicality, the likes of which is rare for women in action shows – especially women of a certain age.
McTeer is first introduced as Dr. Leslie Hansen, a scientist linked to the ominous IGH, but we quickly learn that there’s far more to her. She has abilities like Jessica’s, but dialed up to 11; with her super strength comes a rampant rage – a dissociative disorder that’s a side effect of the experiments IGH actually conducted on her.
When that switch flips, she becomes incredibly volatile, but with an almost childlike fixation on the source of her distress. McTeer communicates all this with a clenched jaw and unwavering gaze – and that’s before all the stunt work.
“That was fun, you know, the idea of being someone who works really hard to control her emotions, control herself,” McTeer told Mashable at the Season 2 premiere in New York. “She doesn’t know how to do that particularly but she tries very hard in all kinds of different ways and doesn’t always succeed.”
And then there’s that Episode 6 reveal, the shaky word a disbelieving Jessica says after tracking her quarry back to the house where she lives: “Mom?”
At first, turning this new character into Alisa Jones feels like a bit of a MacGuffin for Jessica’s quest to figure out exactly who or what she is. The tragic loss of her family is one of Jessica’s most formative experiences, like so many other superheroes. It’s infuriating to think her mother was alive this long and that their paths never crossed. Alisa didn’t even seek her out.
Episode 7 addresses all of that in flashbacks, but it’s still maddening. Especially with an ostensibly retconned dead boyfriend plot for Jessica that ends up being her mother’s fault (that jacket reveal though…:crying emoji:).
As the season builds to a climax, it’s hard to reconcile those revelations with a forced mother-daughter vigilante bonding subplot. Sure, there’s a tenderness to Alisa tending her daughter’s bullet wound that we haven’t seen Jessica experience before, but Mama Jones is a ticking time bomb and combustion is all but inevitable.
By now, we know how this ends: Alisa goes rogue (Jessica with her, for a time) and there’s no reeling her back in. By the final episode, she’s lost the only person who could help her scientifically and joined Jessica in the dead boyfriends’ club – she also murders a detective in a surge of violent energy reminiscent of Kilgrave himself.
“I’ve never seen a woman play a part like this,” McTeer said. “I’ve seen men do it very often but you know, I’m a middle-aged woman, so that was fun. Hard, harder than playing it when you’re 25 because it’s very physical, but still great.”
“You do something like this and you hope someone will go ‘Oh, that’s a good idea, let’s do another one!'” she added. “‘Does an FBI agent have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman. Does that person really have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman.’ I’d like that to happen more.”
If any show was going to do it, it’s this one.
Jessica Jones Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Offred is 1000% over it in new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ teaser
The Handmaid’s Tale just served up an International Women’s Day teaser of Offred and her sisters fighting back. After a first season that explored women losing all their agency, Season 2 shows shows the women of Gilead refusing to be oppressed any longer.
The teaser is mostly a few flashes of footage and imagery – including Offred in front of a noose and a weeping Moira (Samira Wiley) – narrated with the emotionless cadence Elisabeth Moss perfected as Offred. She lists the requirements of the handmaid like commandments: “Wear the red dress, wear the wings,” and eventually, “Shut your mouth, be a good girl, roll over and spread your legs, yes ma’am, may the lord open.”
And then the teaser ends with a burst of frustration: “Seriously, what the actual f–”
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25 on Hulu.
Obamas in talks with Netflix about original shows, report says
Netflix Originals from the Obamas may be coming.
You could soon be watching Netflix Originals commissioned by Barack and Michelle Obama.
According to a report by The New York Times, the former president and first lady are in “advanced negotiations” with the streaming giant to produce a series of shows.
The proposed deal, the Times reports, would see Netflix paying the Obamas to commission exclusive content, which would “highlight inspirational stories.” Exactly how many shows and episodes we can expect, whether these will be documentaries, mini-series or otherwise, has not yet been confirmed.
How much the Obamas will be paid is also still unclear.
Netflix currently boasts 117 million members in over 190 countries — quite the robust platform for the already social media-dominant Obamas to potentially leverage.
But the Times surmised that Obama wouldn’t be using the platform as “a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com,” writing:
Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming.
Netflix isn’t the only streaming service interested in content commissioned by the Obamas it seems, with the Times reporting that executives from Amazon and Apple had also “expressed interest in talking with Mr. Obama about content deals.”
Mashable has reached out to Netflix for comment.
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