Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole in a world from “Hang the DJ” in Season 4 of “Black colored Mirror.”
There are a perverse type of symmetry at the job with the latest season of “Black Reflection” arriving during the holidays. With many prospective viewers still hanging out with their own families — or steering clear of them via our many hand-held monitors — what better way to bring them deeper than through Charlie Brooker’s bleak and frequently biting anthology series about the countless ways technology could further ruin our lives?
Named following the visual reflection of our devices when run off, “Black Mirror” started out in 2011 as an transfer from the U.K.’s Channel 4, and memorably kicked off with a bizarrely prescient instance about a prime minister’s close relationship with a pig (Google it). Since that time it offers resembled a sort of “Twilight Zone” for the digital era, imagining not-too-distant futures of Yelp-like rankings for people, a dystopian endgame for “American Idol” and how digital footprints could produce a haunting type of immortality. The series was acquired by Netflix in 2015 and the six-episode fourth season — debuting Fri — marks its second since approaching to the loading service.
Of course, for any its cautionary types of technology run amok, the series gained its very best notice for “San Junipero,” a ageless, digitally increased love storyline that constituted its most hopeful second and received two Emmys out of three nominations previously this year.
Brooker has recognized that the grim sociopolitical weather while he was writing in 2016 led him toward similar such flickers of hope in this year. But whether that will be enough to keep someone observing will end up being in the eye of the beholder, and the show’s often nihilistic world view isn’t the biggest issue.
With rotating casts and directors, anthology series are uneven by nature, which season feels way more as “Black Mirror” occasionally challenges to capture the sense of shock that was long its greatest strength.
“Arkangel,” the cinematic series opener directed by Jodie Foster, imagines a superior monitoring device that seizes upon the worries of a helicopter parent or guardian (Rosemarie DeWitt). In a familiar flourish, the episode’s technology is less of a danger than the action it enables and amplifies, and the deterioration of the relationship between mom and child (Brenna Harding) feels all but inevitable, which diminishes its impact.
Similarly atmospheric with its frozen Icelandic setting up, “Crocodile” would be the season’s least gratifying for its downward predictability. Directed by John Hillcoat, whose work on “THE STREET” and “The Proposition” testifies to his skills in depicting the most severe man impulses, the episode hinges on a woman with a dark top secret (Andrea Riseborough) and the lengths she’ll go to protect it. The technology of the event — a lot is achieved in the “Black Mirror” universe by positioning a lozenge-sized device on your temple — becomes almost extra as the average person’s descent to cruelty strains disbelief more than what eventually implicates her.
The post-apocalyptic chaos of “Metalhead” will also look familiar for anybody who’s seen “The Road” or “28 Days and nights Later,” but it benefits from a concise, breathlessly paced story (the season’s shortest at around 40 minutes) that pits a eager female (Maxine Peake) against a mechanized “dog.” Shot in black-and-white for maximum bleakness, the event draws inspiration from the clumsily sweet yet terrifying four-legged themes from the Boston Dynamics robotics videos that go viral once every couple of months, and is even more haunting for it.
In a revealing to sign that Brooker’s intuition to reduce this season were correct, the most pleasurable shows are also his least weighty. The “Star Trek”-spoofing “U.S.S. Callister” was teased in one of the season’s trailers, and a wealthy cast of Jesse Plemons, Michaela Coel, Cristin Milioti and Jimmi Simpson relish mocking some of that series’ antique tropes, though a recovery effort that’s attracted directly from the “Black color Mirror” playbook may be its most meta second of all. And “Hang the DJ,” an assessment an all-encompassing, decision-making seeing app into the future, appears toward the messiness of a burgeoning romance (Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole) with a sneaky optimism that may go over what made “San Junipero” so involving.
As though to purify the palate from those records (and, in a glancing research, “San Junipero” as well), Brooker closes with “Black Museum,” sort of anthology show in its own right that features a perhaps Brooker-esque curator (Douglas Hodge) of any roadside fascination leading a guest (Letitia Wright) through his assortment of artifacts of technologically assisted torment and injury. “Fun account, huh?” he asks her at one point, sneering such as a carnival barker.
It’s probably the season’s darkest, most grotesque trip and, to an extent, increases the question of whether the viewer is the main one most tormented. Or whether, possibly the episode’s extended examination of crime and consequence will be a favorite for someone with a specific appetite.
In the tradition of “Black Reflection,” the best and worst are often all in your representation.
When: Any time, starting Friday
Ranking: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)