Clarence shines the Emmy Spotlight on Black Mirror Season 4. Will an unexpectedly great ode to sci-fi nerds hold the best chance at an Emmy repeat?
Black Mirror Season 3 emerged as one of my very favorite discoveries of 2016. It had everything I want in a TV show: fast-paced thrills, a biting sense of humor, and a running time that never wore itself out. My ADTV cohorts and I spent hours debating which episode topped the season. While San Junipero probably receives that honor (and received the Emmy), Bryce Dallas Howard and Nosedive held our hearts at the end of the day. With Black Mirror Season 4 upon us, however, I’m not sure we’ll spend quite as long debating the ranking.
Black Mirror Season 4 falls prey to a sense of repetition. Season 3 varied the thematic ways technology interacted (largely negatively) with our lives as in previous seasons. Yet, Season 4’s episodes feel less unique than in previous seasons. There’s a more consistent theme throughout the season of people living inside the technology. Of hiding behind a virtual world. It’s as if the applause for San Junipero drove the content for the new season. While each chapter remains brilliantly made, they feel less fresh than previous seasons.
As a result, there’s really only one standout chapter, but it’s a great one. USS Callister plays with the well documented tropes of one of television’s greatest sci-fi series, Star Trek. Here, a successful but downtrodden developer/CTO Robert Daly (Fargo‘s Jesse Plemons) enters a world where he commands his own Enterprise-like vessel, the USS Callister. Initially, our sympathies reside with Daly as he’s so badly treated in the real world by his techie start-up counterparts. But those sympathies shift in interesting ways as Daly vents those frustrations in the Star Trek-like world he created, populated with copies of people who he perceived to have wronged him in the real world. The great Cristin Milioti becomes the newest member of the fleet and shakes things up in fun ways.
And that’s the one thing that Black Mirror Season 4 really lacks overall: a sense of fun. It’s partially why I’ve responded to USS Callister so intensively. It’s why I suspect the Television Academy will respond in kind as well. It’s really the series’ best bet at Emmy glory. And that’s also somewhat due to the pathetic state of the TV Movie recently. With a stronger crop, I’m not even sure Black Mirror would repeat.
Performance-wise, if Bryce Dallas Howard couldn’t break through to an Emmy nomination with Nosedive, then no one in Season 4 stands a chance. The best bet is Crocodile‘s Andrea Riseborough, but her character makes a terrible, bone-chilling decision at the end of the episode that, I suspect, nullifies those chances. There are no bad performances in Black Mirror Season 4, but without a TV Movie-specific performance category, it’s tough to imagine anyone getting in against the flashier Limited Series performances.
Here’s my final ranking of Black Mirror Season 4:
- USS Callister
- Black Museum
- Hang the DJ
- TV Movie – USS Callister