Black Museum (Black Mirror)
|Black Mirror episode|
|Directed by||Colm McCarthy|
|Written by||Charlie Brooker|
Original Score by|
Cristobal Tapia de Veer
|Original air date||29 December 2017|
|Running time||69 minutes|
"Black Museum" is the sixth and final episode of the fourth series of anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by Charlie Brooker, with one part adapted from Penn Jillette's short story "The Pain Addict", and directed by Colm McCarthy. The episode first aired on Netflix, along with the rest of series four, on 29 December 2017.
The episode is presented as a series of three stories told by Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), proprietor of the remote "Black Museum" to his solitary visitor Nish (Letitia Wright), all involving various exhibits related to cutting edge technological connections and transfers with the human brain that Rolo had developed in his scientific career.
Whilst waiting for her car to charge in a remote charging station, Nish (Letitia Wright) comes across the neighbouring Black Museum, which houses "authentic criminological artefacts". She meets the proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), and explains she is out this way as her father lives nearby and her mother suggested she stop by to surprise him. Haynes offers to give her a tour, in which he recounts the stories of the artefacts he has collected, shown in flashback during the episode.
In his past, Haynes was a neurological research recruiter and persuaded Dr. Peter Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) to get an experimental neurological implant that would allow him to feel the physical sensations of others. Dawson used this to feel the pain of his patients, which allowed him to become an expert at diagnosing and treating them. Meanwhile, Dawson also used the interface to enhance sex with his girlfriend. A senator who had been poisoned was brought into the hospital one night and as he died, Dawson remained connected to him, experiencing his death via the implant. After passing out, Dawson awoke with the side effect that he now experienced pain as pleasure. He begins to use his patients' suffering for personal sexual arousal. He was removed from the hospital and, addicted to pain, began mutilating himself. Realising that he could not inflict fear (and thus, further pleasure) on himself, Dawson tasered, tortured, and killed a homeless man with a drill. He was arrested, but fell into a coma.
In the present, Nish offers Haynes water since the museum's air conditioning is broken and they are both sweating profusely, and Haynes tells another story about a stuffed monkey. Haynes convinced a man named Jack (Aldis Hodge) to transfer the consciousness of his comatose wife Carrie (Alexandra Roach) into his own brain. Carrie initially enjoyed sharing the sensations that Jack felt in the real world, particularly hugs with their toddler son Parker. However, shared consciousness began to take a toll on the couple, as Jack lacked privacy and Carrie had no agency in the real world. Haynes allowed Jack to put Carrie on "pause", infuriating her whenever he allowed her consciousness again. Jack met Emily (Yasha Jackson), and the two began dating, to Carrie's impotent fury. Emily pressured Jack to have Haynes transfer the consciousness of Carrie into a stuffed monkey, which was then given to Parker. The toy could only speak two phrases, "Monkey loves you" and "Monkey needs a hug". Carrie was furious, but Emily threatened her with deletion if she did not behave. Eventually, Parker grew tired of the toy and abandoned it, with Carrie trapped inside. In the present, Haynes tells Nish that the transfer of Carrie into the stuffed monkey was declared illegal and led to his firing. Haynes then reveals that Carrie is still inside the stuffed monkey in the exhibit, since it is also illegal to delete her.
Haynes and Nish move on to the main attraction of the museum: a dismal hologram projection of Clayton Leigh (Babs Olusanmokun), a convicted murderer, the details of whose crime were briefly shown in the previous segments on TVs. While Leigh was on death row, Haynes coaxed him to sign over the rights to his post-death consciousness in exchange for money to help support his family, despite the objections of his wife, who feared for his safety. After his execution, Clayton found himself reborn as a hologram inside Haynes' museum. Haynes set Leigh up in an execution display, in which visitors could pull a lever to make Clayton experience the agony of the electric chair and feel like they were electrocuting him all over again. They could then leave with a key chain souvenir containing a preserved, and fully independent, copy of Clayton eternally in agony. Each electrocution is set to last 10 seconds, as 15 seconds or more would disrupt the hologram and erase it.
In the present, Haynes begins to asphyxiate. Nish reveals herself to be Clayton's daughter: she sabotaged the museum's AC so that Haynes would become thirsty and accept her poisoned water. She asserts that her father was actually innocent, but the state never overturned the conviction. Protesters argued against the torments Haynes was subjecting Leigh's hologram to, which hurt the popularity of the museum, but not enough to shut it down. The exhibit attracted wealthy sadists and racists to torture Clayton to the limit of his virtual consciousness, turning him into an empty shell. This caused Nish's mother to take "a bottle of pills and a bottle of vodka". Haynes passes out, and Nish transfers his consciousness into Clayton's hologram. She pushes the electric chair simulation to its maximum, allowing Haynes to experience the full force of the torture and finally putting Clayton's consciousness to rest. Taking along with her the stuffed monkey and a "souvenir" of Haynes in eternal agony (thereby preserving a copy of his consciousness), and before returning to the car, Nish removes the device disabling the AC, which causes a short. Nish converses with her mother, who is revealed to share her consciousness with Nish, as Carrie did with Jack. Nish drives away, her mother shedding joyful tears as the museum is engulfed in flames.
Whilst series one and two of Black Mirror were shown on Channel 4 in the UK, in September 2015 Netflix commissioned the series for 12 episodes, and in March 2016 it outbid Channel 4 for the rights to distributing the third series, with a bid of $40 million. The 12-episode order was divided into two series of six episodes each.
The first story, involving Dr. Dawson, was based on a short story, "The Pain Addict", written by magician Penn Jillette early in his career. Jillette had written the story based on the personal experience of being ill in a Spanish welfare hospital in 1981, where it was difficult to get a diagnosis due to the language barrier. Jillette came up with "The Pain Addict" from this experience, where there would be technology that allowed a doctor to understand what pain a person was suffering, but, as described by Jillette "this guy gets addicted to it and starts beating people to feel their pain. He also goes through S&M and all he wants to do is jack into Jesus on the cross. He wants to feel that pain." Jillette had planned to use the story in one of his first books along with his show partner Teller, but the publisher rejected it for being too dark. Jillette had been trying to shop for a venue for this story, and brought up the idea when he had an opportunity to talk with Charlie Brooker. Around two years later, Brooker contacted Jillette to explain that "Black Museum" would be an anthology episode, and wanted to use "The Pain Addict" as part of it. Jillette allowed him to use the story, though Brooker did the necessary modifications for his show. Jillette then worked with Brooker to help suggest the idea of a framing story, which would involve a washed-up Las Vegas carny running the Black Museum outside of Vegas. Jillette wanted to audition for the role of the carny, but the production was too far along to change the casting. The episode took a month to film; locations include Nevada and Spain.
The episode is structured similarly to "White Christmas", a previous episode of Black Mirror, as both feature three separately told stories that progress towards an overarching plot line by the end.
In May 2017, a Reddit post unofficially announced the names and directors of the six episodes in series 4 of Black Mirror. The first trailer for the series was released by Netflix on 25 August 2017, and contained the six episode titles.
Beginning on 24 November 2017, Netflix published a series of posters and trailers for the fourth series of the show, referred to as the "13 Days of Black Mirror". On December 6, Netflix published a trailer featuring an amalgamation of scenes from the fourth series, which announced that the series would be released on 29 December.
"Black Museum" includes Easter egg references back to each previous Black Mirror episode, according to director Colm McCarthy; many were placed by set designer Joel Collins. For example, Jack is seen reading a "Fifteen Million Merits" comic, and the museum's entrance includes a screen showing a picture of Victoria Skillane and later a mannequin with a black balaclava and the white two-pronged symbol from "White Bear". Many museum artefacts are taken from previous episodes, for instance: an autonomous drone insect (ADI) from "Hated in the Nation"; the lollipop Daly uses to clone Walton's son in "USS Callister"; the tablet used by Marie in "Arkangel"; the bloodied bathtub where Shazia's husband was murdered in "Crocodile". The two rats shown to Dawson by Haynes are named Kenny and Hector, referencing the characters from "Shut Up and Dance". The episode also makes multiple allusions to "San Junipero", featuring the company TCKR, naming a hospital Saint Juniper's and showing Yorkie and Kelly's dresses in the museum.
Cristobal Tapia de Veer composed the music for the episode, which was released through Lakeshore Records on January 19, 2018. A music sampler was released earlier, December 27, 2017, on both his YouTube and SoundCloud.
de Veer commented on the score, stating “The beginning, discovering the Black Museum, that was going to set the tone for the rest of the show. The music morphed in many ways throughout the three stories, then goes back to where it started with the Black Museum, although with a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of doom.”
The episode received generally mixed reviews from critics. A Guardian review stated the ending "seemed to retread old ground", but "given that there's nothing like Black Mirror on TV, it's a minor quibble." A review from The A.V. Club called the episode "a dud" that "seems to confirm all of the series' most dismissive criticism". Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic considered the three narratives to be uninteresting. An Entertainment Weekly review called it "the only outright stinker of the season". A Boston Globe review dismissed it as "riddled with needless callbacks to episodes past". A Telegraph review stated "the performances are serviceable although seldom spectacular". The Economist stated the narratives "illuminate nothing interesting, settling instead on the claim that everyone enjoys inflicting cruelty, given the chance"; similarly, a Variety review complained that the episode "hinges on people repeatedly choosing to be stupid and/or evil".
Other critics were more positive. Tasha Robinson of The Verge stated "“Black Museum” keeps a potentially scattered story on track without digressing into generic complaints about modern culture." Jason Parham of Wired commended the episode as "the most important of the season", writing "It’s a victory, and an ending that defies the natural biology of the series." Noel Ransome in Vice judged that the episode provides him and other black viewers a rare sense of "satisfaction". An Independent review stated the three narratives were "engrossing".
Critics were divided on whether they joined in with celebrating Nish's revenge. Parham approved her actions as "a way to fight for what you believe is right", while Gilbert rejected the "eye-for-eye justice" of Nish's deliberate torturing of Haynes.
Awards and accolades
|2018||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie||Letitia Wright||Nominated|||
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