Beware the tales of technological terror that await you inside the Black Museum…
Fans of Black Mirror have always enjoyed the easter eggs and callbacks to previous episodes as they turn the anthology series into one coherent unfolding dystopian universe. In ‘Black Museum’, that background element is pushed to the fore as we enter a sinister museum full of dark technological tales of terror.
Sure, this anthology-inside-an-anthology-show which combines three interconnected stories is very reminiscent of ‘White Christmas’, even down to the fairly similar final twist. However, ‘Black Museum’ actually manages to best it due to the quality of the stories and the brilliantly meta premise.
The most fascinating aspect of the episode, though, is that it a villain who’s essentially the reason for all the twisted tech in the series. Twisty carny Rolo Haynes was previously a hot-shot in neuroscience and developed the artificial intelligence tech that is all over the show. Douglas Hodge does a great job as Haynes, practically the devil of the Black Mirrorverse. Letitia Wright is also brilliant as Nish, proving why we should be excited to see her in February’s Black Panther.
The three stories each hit the spot as mini-episodes unto themselves. I particularly enjoyed the opening act with a doctor who becomes addicted to pain after his implant that senses his patients’ illnesses is damaged. It’s smart but it also has that gory, slightly schlocky quality of classic horror anthology movies.
The second is a blackly comic meditation on what happens if you try to keep your loved ones with you after they’ve gone. When Jack puts his wife Carrie’s consciousness in his own head, it starts to drive him crazy. But that’s nothing compared to the horror Carrie experiences when he puts her in a children’s toy monkey.
The final story concerns the museum’s horrific main attraction: an A.I. of a convicted killer that the customers can electrocute for fun. It’s all looking pretty bleak by this point but ‘Black Museum’ eventually heads to a grisly but satisfying conclusion, as Rolo gets his comeuppance. The twist that Nish is a relative of the killer is one you can see coming but that doesn’t make it any less perversely enjoyable to see Rolo’s museum burned to the ground.
In many ways, ‘Black Museum’ would act as a perfect closer to the whole series. At last, the shared universe theory has been confirmed and the villain of the show has been identified and killed off. And it could be, as season 4 ends Netflix’s original 12-episode order. However, surely the success of Black Mirror is too huge for it to come to an end. While the show probably shouldn’t be this self-referential every time, ‘Black Museum’ shows that there is still lots of room for the series to expand and treat its sci-fi subject matter in fresh ways.
Cameos And Callbacks:
‘Black Museum’ is so packed with references let’s look at them one episode in a row:
- ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ – Jack is seen reading a graphic novel version of the events of this episode. No doubt a bit of merchandise from Bing’s show.
- ‘White Bear’ – A presentation on Victoria Skillane is on display at the museum, as is one of the outfits worn by the guards at the White Bear Justice Park.
- ‘White Christmas’ – The concept of “cookies”, containers featuring A.I. copies of people’s consciousnesses, is revisited in this episode.
- ‘Shut Up And Dance’ – Rolo’s lab rats are called Kenny and Hector, the two beleaguered characters from this episode.
- ‘San Junipero’ – The idea of artificial intelligence providing a sort of afterlife is reminiscent of this episode. Nish even makes this explicit when she mentions old people being uploaded to the cloud. The most interesting connection is that Rolo used to work at St. Juniper’s hospital. This is presumably where the San Junipero system was run from.
- ‘Hated in the Nation’ – an ADI (one of the bee-like drones) is seen on display at the museum.
- ‘U.S.S. Callister’ – … As is Robert Daly’s DNA simulator device, along with the lollipop he used to copy Walden’s son into the Infinity.
- ‘Crocodile’ – A mugshot of Mia can be spotted behind the monkey toy that houses Carrie’s mind.