Sophie Gilbert and David Sims will be discussing the new season of Netflix’s Black Mirror, considering alternate episodes. The reviews contain spoilers; don’t read further than you’ve watched. See all of their coverage here.
When Black Mirror’s third season premiered in late 2016, it began with “Nosedive,” a wrenchingly comical episode about the horrors of a connected world, where every interaction or transaction with another person is rated and judged on social media. Its fourth season begins with an opposite horror: a hermetically sealed world, disconnected from the rest of the internet, a sci-fi fantasy perversely controlled by one man. In “Nosedive,” escaping the online universe was the goal; in “USS Callister,” it’s the opposite. Credit to the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker (who co-wrote this episode with William Bridges): He can conjure nightmares from anywhere.
What I liked most about “USS Callister,” which makes for an exceptionally strong start to this new season, was the nasty, winking twist of its set-up. Our sad-sack protagonist, Robert Daly has the profile of a misunderstood nice guy. He’s an unheralded genius at his job, where he created an online gaming world that his publicity-minded boss Walton (Jimmi Simpson) takes all the credit for. He’s shy and retiring, he’s played by the adorable Jesse Plemons (Landry from Friday Night Lights!), and he spends his nights fantasizing that he’s the great Captain Daly of his favorite show, Space Fleet, using the high-end tech he invented, a forehead-mounted brain-projection chip.