Netflix’s Black Mirror
Season 4, Episode 3: “Crocodile”
Directed by John Hillcoat
Written by Charlie Brooker
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Arkangel” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hang the DJ” – click here
On the road, Mia (Andrea Riseborough) and Rob (Andrew Gower), the latter driving, strike a cyclist on his bike. When they stop and check, the man is dead. They’ve been partying, too. All night. This means Rob will get punished to the full extent of the law. Against Mia’s best judgement, the two of them put the man in a sleeping bag, Rob hauls his body and she takes the bike. They dump the body in the nearby lake, along with the bike.
Skip ahead a bit. Mia’s getting along with her life. She’s married, has a child. She’s practising a speech for a big event. See, she is an architect, and she has made something of herself, quite something, it appears. That night Rob gets in touch, first time in several years. He’s gotten sober; for the best. He’s been thinking of that fateful night. A news story about the dead man’s wife has brought on guilt. Rob plans on writing the widow a letter, anonymously: “I can‘t live with it, Mia.”
But now Mia has a life built. She was reluctant those years ago, to do what Rob wanted to escape his actions, yet she did it. And after so long he wants to undo it all, to set his soul at ease. Only when he tries leaving she won’t let him. She knocks him to the floor, bashing his head. As he struggles hard, Mia chokes him until eventually she crushes his larynx. Now, she’s not just accessory to murder, she has murdered. Oh, my. So many secrets. Too many. Plus, she’s got to dispose of her friend’s body while there for a conference. That doesn’t make it an easy little fix, hauling the corpse to a construction site and dumping it there in the night.
Elsewhere, we meet Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar), who works for an insurance company, Realm Insurance. She goes around to “log” the various “recollections” of clients for liability purposes, et cetera. She lives a normal life. Her husband Anan (Anthony Welsh) is a sweet man, trying to do his best by her and their child Ali (Dilja Imana). They’re a far cry from the fucked up moral soup in which Mia lives.
Shazia does normal insurance work, aside from the whole augmented technology angle that Realm has at their disposal. They use “corroborators“: basically a machine that sticks into your temple, allowing access to memories. “Not totally accurate” and “often emotional,” they’re a way to help build the full picture of what happened during the accident(s) in question.
While investigating a claim, Shazia goes searching for witnesses to an accident involving a pizza van. She winds up finding a woman who was nearby when it happened. This leads her to also noticing there was a camera flash in a car on the same street. It takes her to see a dentist. He was taking a picture of a naked man in a window across the street, where he also saw a woman, Mia, staring at the accident’s commotion. And now – uh oh – Mia’s memories are going to wind up subject to review.
Note: The song from this episode is “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” by Irma Thomas. Remember it? You will if you’ve been watching Black Mirror from early on.
Of course Shazia finds out, from the hotel clerk, Mia was supposedly watching a porno. That’s embarrassing enough. But what about when the Realm Insurance agent starts prodding into her actual memories. Shazia ends up at Mia’s door, advising she ought to cooperate, or police will have to investigate, gums things up. Certainly the architect does not want any police involved. So the two women sit down for a chat. Mia is tense, she doesn’t want to let her memories be seen, for her crimes to come to light.
Afterwards, Mia is hooked up to the corroborator. She goes through her memories leading to the accident in the street. Slowly we see Shazia go through them, and then the sounds of what really happened in that hotel room bleed through, memories of the cyclist being dumped into the lake years ago. Way more than necessary. Highly unsettling. Shazia tries getting out of there as quickly as possible, though it’s more than obvious Mia is suspicious. The window of her car is broken and Mia drags her to an old shed.
Where do they go from here?
Shazia tries claiming her job is “like Catholic confession,” that it’s illegal for her to say anything of what she’s seen. She also says nobody knows she came to see Mia today. This doesn’t sit well with the architect. Mia decides on using the corroborator on Shazia. She winds up figuring out that husband Anan knows where his wife is going. So first Mia beats Shazia to death with a chunk of wood, and then she’s off to cauterise the rest of this festering wound she’s created.
With info from Shazia’s car Mia goes back to the Akhand house. She heads inside with a hammer. Anan is just turning off the TV for the evening, heading upstairs for a hot bath. He gets in, then Mia sneaks up behind him. She’s nearly given away by her cellphone vibrating. But that doesn’t stop her from caving his skull in.
As she leaves, that’s when Mia hears little baby Ali in his crib. Jesus.
Well, none of it keeps Mia from going to her own child’s recital. Nothing keeps Mia from anything. Back when she was in that car, when Rob hit that cyclist, she was so innocent, not wanting to tarnish herself but reluctantly doing so to help her friend. And 15 years later, she’s become a monster, doing anything and everything she must to retain the life she’s built.
And for all Mia’s precision, even killing little Ali, she forgot the guinea pig, from which the authorities can still draw memories, just as they do from people. Her efforts were all for nought. That’s technology for you. Can’t escape it.
Lord, this was a brutal episode, in the best sort of ways. I truly love Brooker’s mind. Twisted, funny, and he’s never tossing out character development, either; possibly the best part! “Crocodile” is my favourite so far this season. Just loved this episode.
“Hang the DJ” is next.