Okay, now I’m getting a little worried. While Black Mirror’s move to Netflix did give us some outstanding episodes in San Junipero and Shut and Dance, it did struggle with overall quality, something that the show had managed to uphold until this point. Season 4 seems to be continuing the trend of quantity over quality that I was worried about upon hearing the 6 episode series structure.
It’s not that Crocodile is a bad piece of television. In many ways it is very engrossing indeed. The setting and frantic pacing do give it a nice dab of style which definitely elevate it above most hour-long episodes of other shows. The main problem with Crocodile is that there is nothing to grasp on to, nothing to route for. Black Mirror has always been about horrible things happening to good people ( or in the case of Shut Up and Dance, to a secretly terrible one). Here though, we spend our time with Mia, a one dimensional, remorseless (though a Mother nonetheless) killer. She is the most unlikable character I’ve been forced to watch in recent memory, with none of the charm or wit which usually makes you route for the baddie.
After being complicit in the murder of a cyclist, she will go to absolutely any length to get away with it. We’re given a somewhat likeable character in the form of Shazia Akhand who is responsible for trawling people’s memories in aid of confirming insurance claims. But even Shazia fails to make any real impression, most likely due to the lazy character building and her overall short screen-time.
The episode starts off with a truly strong open, one which builds the tension up to a fever pitch, leaving the audience to ponder and theorise as to how and when the Black Mirror dystopia will kick in. Unfortunately this moment occurs about half way through the episode in the form of the memory-device which to be honest seems a little old hat at this point. I’d like to talk about the core concepts for some of the episodes so far this season. Is it just me or is it starting to feel a little like the writers are starting to run out of ideas? The season premier USS Callister, though a brilliant episode, chose to base its plot around yet another VR device. Crocodile chooses a memory storage device which again, we’ve seen before. Maybe it’s all building towards something but I hope to God it is not some kind of overall shared spooky-tech universe. In my opinion the reason Black Mirror works is precisely because of its anthology structure and the separate nature of each episode.
One thing that was a nice call back though was the use of Irma Thomas’ song “Anyone who knows what love is” which has featured in a number of episodes now. While it was a cool addition, by the end it was completely over-used but I guess at least the kids at the end weren’t singing it.
Another fairly mediocre episode then. Crocodile pretty much falls at every hurdle but its main crime is in its main character Mia. I’m trying to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible (though I do recommend watching beforehand) so I will merely touch on the ending. We’re used to some dark shit at this point but honestly, the ending just rubbed me the wrong way. It turned Mia’s character from being dull and evil to downright deplorable. I just don’t buy for a second that anyone with a child could do what she chooses to do. But anyway I digress. There’s some fun to be had here in watching the wolves slowly close in on Mia but after an hour of non existent character development and so-so drama, the pay-off is just not worth it.
Verdict – 5 Out of 10