Black Mirror: “Arkangel” Season 4 Episode 2 Review

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Since season one’s seminal “The Entire History of You,” Black Mirror has conditioned its audience to know how to watch an episode like “Arkangel,” where a new piece of technology deeply integrates itself into the characters’ personal relationships. It’s a formula the show has proven to work on repeat attempts (“Be Right Back” remains the series best-ever episode), even when there’s just too little in the episode to really differentiate it from other episodes. That’s where the chips fall on the Jodie Foster directed “Arkangel.”

A single mother (Rosemarie DeWitt) has one bad experience watching her daughter on the playground. Afterward, she has her daughter injected with implants that allow her to see everything her daughter sees at all times, and even censor the world around her like one would their premium cable package. This episode falls in the category of Black Mirror episodes where the very concept of the plot immediately makes you aware of just about every problem the characters will run into along the way, a feeling that does little to make the single mother’s choice here at all logical, as if she knows nothing about privacy nor parenting.

This ham-fisted intro to the technology aside, how the script has the daughter develop mentally over the course of about ten years, both with and without the implants working, is really interesting. How she learns about sex and violence is startling, and as a teenager (Brenna Harding), how she’s adapted to the world is rewarding—she feeds the barking dog she previously wasn’t able to see under her mother’s censorship, for example.

But “Arkangel” is so melodramatic in its delivery, with DeWitt often forced to cry and scream over a tablet showing a teenager simply being a teenager, that it falls a little flat. The episode is an obvious cautionary tale for overprotective parents, which is definitely a concept worth exploring on Black Mirror, it just didn’t have to feel like the world was ending throughout it. The ending doesn’t help either, oversimplifying its concept into a fight neither mother nor daughter might come back from. Foster’s directing is strong, but this is Black Mirror playing safe and trying to sell it as difficult. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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