The new season of Black Mirror is out, so say goodbye to your faith in humanity. Charlie Brooker’s bleak sci-fi anthology series asks the tough questions about technology and how it fucks with us humans—most of the time, it transforms us into huge assholes, or lets us show our inherent assholery in new and frightening ways.
Season four is no different. The overall theme is consciousness, with episodes showing the spooky side of everything from artificial intelligence to brain implants, dating apps, and video games. This gives Brooker and his team of writers, actors, and directors—including Jodie Foster!—plenty of room to explore what happens when extremely shitty people encounter technology that society hasn’t caught up with yet. If TV show characters are like our friends who we love to gossip about, here, ranked, are the ones you will be shit-talking for the next few weeks.
Warning: Below are spoilers for Black Mirror season four. If you haven’t watched it yet, read at your own peril.
8. Anthony from “Arkangel”
Don’t remember Anthony (Paul Braunstein)? That’s OK—he’s the smallest jerk on the list, but I'm leaving no stone unturned. Here’s a refresher: He’s Marie’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) smoldering, tattooed patient who's recovering from a bike accident in the beginning of the episode and booty-calling her by the end. His bleak, entitled quip after getting out of bed with her—“Same time next week?”—calls back to a time when Marie had control over her daughter and her own life. While it’s not clear that this depressing situation drove her over the edge and into her backfiring mama bear rampage, it’s still a shitty thing to say to someone you're involved with.
7. Nicola from “Hang the DJ”
Enter a world where romantic satisfaction is guaranteed—that is, if you trust in an algorithmic dating app called Coach. Not every pairing is a winner, though, and a date like Nicola (Gwyneth Keyworth), who Coach pairs Frank with for a whole year, is so horrible it could only be concocted by a sadistic computer program. Nicola essentially goes out of her way to make herself miserable, bringing Frank along with her. As an algorithmically generated personality designed to eventually connect Frank with his true soulmate, she’s the closest thing to a villain this episode has.
6. Marie from “Arkangel”
Anthony may have been an asshole, but Marie was no saint herself. Sure, if given the technology to watch over their child like a guardian angel, any parent would do evertthing in their power to keep their 15-year-old daughter away from hard drugs and careless sex. But Marie took it too far by withholding information that Sara (Brenna Harding) had a right to know. Not only does she not tell her daughter she’s spying on her, but she also intervenes in her teen life like it’s The Sims. The ultimate blow is when she finds out her daughter is pregnant. Does she have a conversation about actions, consequences, love, mistakes, and choices for the future? No—she slips the morning-after pill into her breakfast smoothie. Who the fuck does that?
5. Captain Daly from “USS Callister”
This one really needs no explanation: An awkward nerd who sulks by day, fails to muster up the empathy for a real friendship, and plays make-believe that he’s the center of the universe by night. But it turns out all his dolls might have souls, and he tortures them until they do his bidding. This dude fucking sucks, and so does every sadboy who would totally do the same thing if they were smart enough. When I first watched this episode, I was sure Daly—acted by expert douchebag portrayer Jesse Plemons, a.k.a. Todd from Breaking Bad—would top the list. He’s even loosely inspired by Donald Trump! But here we are way down at number five. That just goes to show how dark this season got, despite Brooker's recent claim that he's apparently an optimist.
4. Mia from “Crocodile”
This episode also surprised me. "Crocodile" follows a woman who investigates insurance claims using a device that can read memories. From the description, I was expecting a dystopian interrogator using memory-mapping magic to squeeze hard truths from her victims, a la Jon Hamm in “White Christmas.” Instead, Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) injects her boring bureaucratic job with tons of adorable moments, like greeting a vicious-looking guard dog by crooning, “Puppy!” Her interactions with her husband, such as when he brings home Chekov’s guinea pig as her birthday present, are super endearing, and I live for her jamming out to the song I will now forever associate with brutal murder.
Shazia's human decency just highlights how selfish and awful Mia (Andrea Riseborough), the main protagonist, really is. When she’s young, she’s too weak-willed to do the right thing. When she’s older, she’s too strong for her own good—always in the name of protecting her family, of course. But she breaks bad so quickly and thoroughly it’s impossible this darkness wasn’t inside her all along. She never takes joy in killing, but she’s suspiciously good at it. And she’s ruthless.
3. Doctor Dawson from “Black Museum”
Here's where Black Mirror enters cartoon villain territory. We meet Dr. Psychopath—er, sorry, Dr. Dawson (Daniel Lapaine)—during a flashback in the beginning of the anthology-within-an-anthology episode, "Black Museum." Dawson is an ass, even before his brain's accidentally rewired so he literally gets off on the pain of others. He's a specious doctor secretly dating a nurse from his hospital, and letting kids die with some regularity. He probably would have made this list even before we learn that he gets little old ladies killed and tortures homeless men for his own sick pleasure. It’s impossible to empathize with him—but it's true that he never had the chance to not be shitty, thanks to...
2. Rolo Haynes from “Black Museum”
What kind of name is Rolo Haynes? If there isn’t some secret connection to those sickly sweet caramel candies, then it’s just the futuristic flourish of a flim-flam man who flew too close to the sun. Haynes (Douglas Hodge) is the curator of the Black Museum, a collection of criminal artifacts that incidentally lends some proof to the fan theory that all Black Mirror episodes take place in the same universe. He has the gift of gab, mercilessly regaling Nish (Letitia Wright) with macabre stories about how he used unregulated brain interface technology to fuck people over for his own profit. When she offers him water, he drinks the whole bottle! Who does that?
Apathetic opportunists like Haynes, as well as the nature of corporate bureaucracy, are probably responsible for more human suffering than all the serial witness murderers and sadistic nerd-gods in the world. But by the end of the episode, he transcends the apathy of the business world and moves on to outright slavery and torture for profit. He's another cartoon-status villain whose just desserts are some of the most delicious in the series.
1. The Dogs from “Metalhead”
"Metalhead" takes place in a barren wasteland infested with robotic “dogs” programmed to be man’s worst enemy. These sentient killing machines—or whoever invented them—are unequivocally the worst characters in the series. They have not motivation but to kill, no lesson to teach except that death is inevitable, and no morality except the hunt for human flesh. Whoever's responsible for them must be a one-dimensional, uninteresting, irredeemable pile of shit for creating the perfect death bot and not leaving a single conceivable takeaway about the nature of the human folly that caused it. What an asshole.
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