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‘Black Mirror’ S4E2: “Arkangel”

We’re attempting to review each episode without spoilers, so if you want to go in completely fresh, close the review now!

Logline: A mother struggles to shield her daughter from the world, before discovering a helpful new technology.

Verdict: Black Mirror’s take on helicopter parenting, taking the everyday fears of parents and injecting them with a healthy dose of technological terror. Rosemarie DeWitt’s character is a mother obsessed with finding complete safety for her kid, no matter the cost, and the technical means are already here today in embryonic form. “Arkangel” explores parental guidelines, filter systems, and the limits on what one can realistically hide from children, ending on a cautionary note about the insidious downsides of such tech.

“Arkangel” is a frenzied look at parenting-plus-tech, but some of the characters and actions are hardly believable. Brenna Harding’s scenes as the daughter pile in too many broken-teenager tropes in an attempt to find effect. Eventually the episode does find a dramatic thread to yield some surprise, but the wait is a bit much.

“Arkangel” still relishes in how uncomfortable Black Mirror can make you feel, exploring uncharted territory and capitalizing on common fears about children. Even if you’re not a parent, Charlie Brooker does a good job of transporting you inside the head of a mother who sees the whole world as a barrage of threats to her child, emotional territory we’ve not seen Black Mirror tackle before.

Veteran movie star Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) directed this episode, and she perfectly captures the sense of panic that can be part of a parent’s world, with emphasis placed on keeping the episode centered – actually, claustrophobic – at times. A sense of social realism hangs over the whole piece, with the central mother-daughter relationship redolent of authenticity. Guttural moments are peppered throughout, Foster managing to wring out every speck of horror.

Despite some character missteps and odd trope use, Black Mirror still manages to explore fully earned, heavy drama.

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