Netflix’s Black Mirror
Season 4, Episode 6: “Black Museum”
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Charlie Brooker
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 4 episode, “Metalhead” – click here
Open on “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” by Dionne Warwick. A woman named Nish (Letitia Wright) drives through a lonely stretch of mountains and desert. She gets to a BRB Connect station, though it’s obviously rundown. Nish hauls out the solar charger, and it’s going to be three hours before she’s fully charged again.
Thus, her eyes wander to the Black Museum in the lot next door. It’s owned by a man called Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge). She meets him outside. There are no other tour goers, it’s just Rolo and Nish. He advises the place isn’t for the faint of heart. Yet in they go. They start heading through the museum. It’s a high-tech place, containing technology gone awry. We even see the lollipop from “U.S.S. Callister” among other things.
Rolo used to work for a medical technology company. He first met a Dr. Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) going around hawking the latest gadgets. He shows Dawson some of the research they’ve been doing with rats. One rat, without actual physical pain, was able to feel the other rat’s pain through sensation. They’ve made a “neural implant” to help with diagnosing patients and their symptoms. A doctor can feel “exactly what a patient feels minus the physical consequences, like reading their minds.”
So, Dawson starts testing out an implant. The patient wears a sort of neural mapping cap, and it’s linked to the implant. He feels everything the patient does. It helps everything from the basics, to serious diseases the doctor catches using this system. Rolo tells Nish that the doc and his girlfriend threw on the device to bang, as well.
But all wasn’t perfect. No. Dawson hooked up to an important patient, and it’s a brutal experience. Something he’s “never known.” The patient dies. So what exactly happens to the doc? He blacks out. He goes through death without actually dying. And this really fucked up the implant. Pain became pleasure. Dawson got off on the things he felt at work, then his love life got a bit more dangerous, very destructive.
Dr. Dawson developed a habit. Hooked on the sensuality of pain. He couldn’t get enough, lurking around the hospital hoping for a something really “juicy.” He’s a junkie, going so far as to let a woman die on the table because he’s getting off on her heart attack. This means Rolo and the hospital have to take him off duty, away from patients.
What would the doc do then to find his fix? Start harming himself. Until it gets to extreme lengths, he’s full of cuts, he’s missing teeth. “None of it was enough,” though. He needed fear to get him off. Only pain didn’t do it for him.
“You can inflict pain on yourself, but not terror. For that, you need a volunteer.”
This sent Dr. Dawson out into the streets at night, finding a homeless person to wear the neural map while he drills into him. The cops found him, of course. Put him in a mental hospital. He has a permanent smile long into his psychotic coma.
Nish looks more around the Black Museum. She finds a stuffed monkey. We hear a story about Carrie (Alexandra Roach). We see her partying, getting pregnant with Jack’s (Aldis Hodge) baby. Then one day she’s hit by a vehicle in the road. She’s checked into St. Juniper’s Hospital. Jack visits every day while Carrie lies in a coma. They start using technology which allows basic yes or no communication, nothing overly special. Rolo went to see Jack about another new technology; “digitally extracting” consciousness and transferring it to another host. That means putting her consciousness into Jack’s mind, in the extra spaces the mind doesn’t use already.
The couple go through with the procedure. Then, Carrie can feel, taste, sense all kinds of things again, all through her husband Jack’s consciousness. But this means they’ve got to spend every moment together. Even if it means him taking a piss, every last little second. “No privacy for him, no agency for her.” What happens when he’s got to start moving on and living his life again? Could get ugly. Jack goes to see Rolo, who says he can upgrade his “privileges.” They do that, meaning he can start putting his wife on a pause when he feels is necessary. Not long before he tries it out. Later, he un-pauses her back home; later as in months later, when Halloween comes around. Oh, shit.
Things went a little better after the treated things like a separation. During the week, Jack paused their shared consciousness. On the weekend, Carrie got to come out and see their child. Things were better, at least until a woman named Emily (Yasha Jackson) moved in next door.
This progressed into more than a neighbourly relationship. New problems for Jack to handle. Hard to spend time with a new woman when Carrie’s in there, “judging, bitching.” Jack and Emily go to see Rolo, who suggests “permanent erasure.” However, the widower refuses. Rolo has one more suggestion: they can transfer Carrie’s consciousness over to a stuffed monkey. Cute, right?
Now, Carrie’s trapped in a place that was just like her coma, only two responses. No different than being dead yet still awake in that hospital bed. Emily makes clear to Carrie she must be a “good toy” to stay and not be deleted forever. A sad, sad existence.
Finally, Rolo brings Nish to see a hologram, a “fully conscious upload” of a killer named Clayton (Babs Olusanmokun). Basically it’s the concept of holograms playing concerts we know today amplified, to a more real status. Rolo was trying to get into the business of celebrity consciousnesses. He went to see Clayton in jail, to snatch up rights to his digital self. All profits, he claimed, would go to the man’s family.
After Clayton was executed, his consciousness was transferred. Born again in a new cell. A horrific afterlife. Particularly after they simulate his execution, over and over, for the paying customers, y’know. Quite disturbing.
We didn’t know everything about Nish in the beginning. She’s come to the Black Museum for a reason, purposefully. To exact revenge on Rolo, for his capitalist use of the pain of others, specifically Clayton; Nish’s father.
The water Nish gave Rolo earlier was drugged. This gives her time to do her own extracting of his consciousness, right before he succumbs to the poison. Nish has put Rolo into her father’s virtual consciousness, where he can’t say shit, and he’s unprotected against however long a shock she decides on giving him. She says goodbye to her father, then throws the lever, long past the limit, and watches as Rolo dies with the hologram of Clayton.
Nish takes the monkey with Carrie inside, she lights the Black Museum up in slow flames, and drives off in her charged car on the road again. The whole time, her mother’s watching, her consciousness in Nish’s head. A real family road trip.
Okay, I loved this episode! But Charlie Brooker owes Karl Pilkington a little credit, because the premises of the first couple stories are straight out of rambling Karl did on The Ricky Gervais Show. Check it out, I was blown away by the huge similarities, and I dig that Brooker, intentionally or not, played them out in this episode.
Season 4 has been wild. Really hope we get more.