Review: Black Mirror 4×03 – Crocodile

A woman’s past comes back to haunt her in an episode that is more about our own human sins than the evils of technology…

 

In an episode I’m going to refer to as Black Mirror Knows What You Did Last Summer, a successful architect with a husband and son has her cosy life threatened when a hit-and-run she committed as a young woman comes back to haunt her. With modern technology meaning memories can be recorded, she must go to desperate measures to keep her past a secret.

First of all, let’s applaud Andrea Riseborough’s terrific performance as Mia. She is simply terrifying as a woman pushed to the edge; someone who seems perfectly normal but is hiding a steely resolve that means she will do anything to protect what she cares about. We start with a fair amount of sympathy for Mia but, as things escalate, we realise we are watching the birth of arguably a monster of a human being.

Many Black Mirrors are set in set-based quasi-futuristic places, but “Crocodile” bucks the trend by filming in the beautifully desolate vistas of Iceland. The endless snowy wilderness makes for a hugely atmospheric backdrop and ensures this shocking story of murder and violence really comes alive. In many ways, the episode feels like Black Mirror‘s take on nordic noir.

Speaking of which, Charlie Brooker proves he’d make a good crime writer as he shows a flair for a well-constructed mystery. The episode is a masterclass in placing throwaway moments that turn out to be significant later on. Keep an eye out on a rewatch for the tragic insurance officer Shazia’s mention of having troubles with her son and the fact that the apparently inconsequential Codger the gerbil is so key to the denouement is a stroke of genius.

While I have to hand it to the lead actress and Brooker’s knack for spinning a good crime yarn, however, this episode is a bit of a step-down from the last two for me. Bleakness is Black Mirror‘s bread and butter, of course, but “Crocodile” seemed to revel in it more than most. There were also not too many questions to ponder afterwards, with the episode instead leaving a bitter aftertaste. Still, “Crocodile” remains a chilling showcase of the terrible sins even normal people can be pushed to commit.

 

Cameos and Callbacks

  • There are several nods back to season one’s “Fifteen Million Credits” in this one. The hotel clerk mentions catching “that judge from Hot Shots” with a male prostitute. Hot Shots was the talent show that Abi auditioned for. What’s more the song she sung on the show, “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)”, is played throughout this episode. The song was previously used in “White Christmas” as well. One of the porn movies Mia flicks through is titled “Wraith Babes.” Jude Wraith was another Hot Shots judge who was also a major figure in, er, the adult entertainment industry.
  • The Recaller device uses seem to be more rudimentary versions of the buds seen in “San Junipero” and “U.S.S. Callister” that download an A.I. version of yourself into the net. This suggests “Crocodile” is set slightly closer to our time with those other episodes placed further in the future.
  • By the way, if you’re wondering about the title, crocodiles’ memories are connected to smell and sound, just as the Recaller helps drudge up memories in this episode. It could also have a double meaning as Mia becomes a predatory animal over the course of the story.

 

Rating:

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