Black Mirrothon Part 16: ‘Crocodile’
‘Arkangel’ certainly isn’t my favourite story in the series, but given the overall quality of the brand I’m sure it’ll bounce right back!
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Charlie Brooker
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Andrew Gower, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Anthony Welsh, Claire Rushbrook
Premise: Mia Nolan is involved in a hit-and-run accident as a young woman and helps cover up the resulting death. As a successful architect later in life she has to take drastic action to keep this secret.
Review: During the prologue to this story we see young Mia (Riseborough) and her boyfriend Rob (Gower) hitting the party scene hard and subsequently kill a cyclist while driving home on a mountain road. In fear of facing the repercussions they wrap the body in a sleeping bag and throw in into a lake. There’s something about this opening that immediately doesn’t click for me, and on a repeat viewing I couldn’t put my finger on it. It may be in the performances or the script, or possibly that we haven’t formed a connection to the characters in the time we’ve been given and don’t feel the fear they’re suffering.
We have a sudden transition to the future where Mia has grown out of her party lifestyle, built a successful career and started a family. I like how this transition works, the bleaker and saturated colour palette is at once jarring an eye catching. John Hillcoat is a talented director with some very challenging works under his belt, often in collaboration with the great Nick Cave. It’s the direction and style that makes this story so compelling, along with the secondary plot thread soon to be introduced.
Mia meets with Rob, who has gone sober and haunted with guilt over the death he caused. In order to make amends her wants to write to their victim’s widow, anonymously revealing what happened to their husband who they never stopped searching for. Mia is paranoid that the letter will be traced back to them and in the ensuring argument murders Rob.
At this point we get introduced to Shazia (Sawar), an insurance investigator looking into an accident which occurred outside Mia’s hotel moments after the murder took place. Shazia is equipped with a device that lets her view people’s memories to get a complete picture of what happened. I really like this character and her thread as she goes about her work, dealing with issues surrounding privacy issues whilst putting people at ease in order to access their memories. The use of music and smells to evoke clearer memories makes the whole thing decently fleshed out.
One of these elements, the song that was playing during the memory, is another use of the haunting ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is’. Overall we like the recurring motif of this song throughout the series, but this feels heavy handed. Easter Eggs shouldn’t be playing a central role in the story. It proves more distracting than anything.
Once our characters intersect Shazia learns of Mia’s actions, resulting in Mia killing her to hide her snowballing series of crimes. Using Shazia’s technology against her, Mia learns that her husband knows where she is and sets out to kill him as well. After this she also murders their infant son once she realises that she would have been seen by him and could be recalled using the memory reading technology. Unfortunately for Mia, once the police arrive on the scene, she failed to notice a caged hamster who could reveal her awful crimes.
It’s terribly hard to sympathise with Mia as she continues down her path of destruction and when it reaches the climax it feels as though they didn’t know how to wrap it up. It’s implied that Mia will be caught once the hamster’s memory was accessed, so the additional ‘twist’ that the murdered baby was blind and couldn’t be a witness feels mean and pointless. Shazia is a more engaging character but doesn’t get the screen time needed for her to be developed beyond a narrative need.
The entire episode looks fantastic, with the Icelandic setting adding a literal and figurative cold atmosphere to the tale. The script may have needed a few more runs through during the drafting stage however, as it lacks a solid emotional core.
That Moment When You Feel Your Stomach Drop: When Mia sees the baby. Grim business.
Links to Other Episodes: It almost feels like the more blatant to the Easter Eggs the weaker the episode. There’s an advertisement for ‘Wraith Babes’ dominating a screen while Mia browses porn channels in addition to the central role of “Everybody Who Knows What Love Is” in the narrative. In a more subtle nod the pizza company from ‘U.S.S. Callister’, Fences Pizza, owns the delivery truck that causes an accident.
Ranking Black Mirror: In spite of some interesting notions, being stuck following this character isn’t very pleasant.
- ‘U.S.S. Callister’
- ‘Fifteen Million Merits’
- ‘San Junipero’
- ‘White Christmas’
- ‘Shut Up and Dance’
- ‘Be Right Back’
- ‘White Bear’
- ‘The National Anthem’
- ‘Hated in the Nation’
- ‘The Waldo Moment’
- ‘Men Against Fire’
- ‘The Entire History of You’