Black Mirror: Black Museum


Black Museum (EP6) is the season finale of Netflix’ dark standout series Black Mirror.

This sci-fi anthology series explores a twisted, high-tech near-future where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.

We first meet Nish (Letitia Wright), a young black women traveling through the southwest, who finds her way to the Black Museum. Uncoincidentally, the ominously-titled roadside institution is a collection of techno-crimes assembled by its devious white proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), a man with an appetite for the carnival and the criminal. The heroes and villains that furnish the anthology series have never wanted for audacity, but Haynes’s huckster bile manages to feel singularly evil, an opportunistic sociopath in the vein of P. T. Barnum.

The episode’s first flash of genius comes with the introduction of the museum itself. It houses “authentic criminological artifacts,” many of which are from previous Black Mirror episodes—including tech (the cloning device from “USS Calister”; an ADI from “Hated in the Nation”), sinister curios (the bathtub from “Crocodile”), and personal memorabilia (the tablet from “Arkangel”). Delicately, Brooker positions the Black Mirror universe within a linear narrative, bookending his galaxy with a beginning and perhaps an even more terrifying, unforeseen end. It’s a museum built on a mad dream, but also one imbued with a difficult truth: that all of us—the inventors, the thrill seekers, the intrigued, the “race-hating rich guy with a hard-on for power”—are in some way complicit in the society we create, and especially in its outcome.

Akin to the show’s haunting holiday special, “White Christmas,” “Black Museum” plays out in a nightmarish triptych, massaging three seemingly disparate stories into a single narrative. Haynes comes from a career recruiting people on behalf of a cutting-edge neuro-tech company, and his stories detail the use of devices that offer the ability to feel another person’s physical sensations, or even transfer one person’s consciousness into another’s mind. The final arc details the story of Clayton Leigh, a black man accused of murdering a journalist. He’s sentenced to death but agrees to sign over his digital imprint, in hopes that the revenue from its use will provide for his family once he’s gone. The three stories are threaded together not just by Haynes’ nefarious puppeteering but by Brooker’s insistence on proximity: Each character—a down-on-his-luck doctor, a mother in a vegetative state, a man who maintains his innocence—desperately wants to remain connected to the world, and the people, around them.

It’s a victory, and an ending that defies the natural biology of the series—and in being so, it’s a form of reparation not everyone will understand. Sophie Gilbert at The Atlanticaccused the episode of trafficking in “eye-for-an-eye justice,” asking: “Is this really the world we want?” Adi Robertson at The Verge was equally miffed by Brooker’s scope. “If anything,” she wrote, “it obscures the industrial-scale cruelty of mass incarceration by focusing on one man’s roadside attraction.” For me, that’s the point of “Black Museum”—the cruelty of the prison system, while a massive and horrific enterprise, is a deeply personal one. It reaches families, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers, on a one-to-one level. It’s a national crisis built on private pains, of people trying to find their way back to loved ones. Brooker’s macabre futureworld is proving increasingly true for us, and for the time being we’re stuck in the loop, beholden to innovations that will continue to amplify hate and cause destruction, but there’s still a way to fight for what you believe is right, for what is right. What’s more real than that?
(source: WIRED

Written by Charlie Brooker;

Directed by Colm McCarthy

Starring Laetitia Wright, Douglas Hodge, Daniel Lapaine and more