Crocodile (Black Mirror)
|Black Mirror episode|
|Episode no.||Series 4|
|Directed by||John Hillcoat|
|Written by||Charlie Brooker|
|Featured music||Original Score by|
|Original release date||29 December 2017|
|Running time||59 minutes|
"Crocodile" is the third episode of the fourth series of anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by Charlie Brooker and directed by John Hillcoat. The episode first aired on Netflix, along with the rest of series four, on 29 December 2017.
Filmed in Iceland, the episode centres on Mia (Andrea Riseborough) who is distressed about having helped her friend Rob (Andrew Gower) cover up a hit-and-run death. Fifteen years later, Rob wants to confess their crime, leading Mia to kill him and dispose of his body. Shortly after, Mia witnesses a non-fatal collision between a pedestrian and self-driving vehicle. Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) meanwhile is hired to investigate the crash, and uses a Recaller device that allows her to see the recent memories of those she interviews.
While driving drunk, Rob (Andrew Gower) hits and kills a cyclist on a mountain road. He convinces his passenger Mia Nolan (Andrea Riseborough) to help him cover up the death by throwing the man's body and bicycle into a lake.
Fifteen years later, Mia is happily married with a son and a successful career as an architect. When she goes on a business trip, a newly sober Rob meets her at her hotel. He wants to write an anonymous letter telling the truth to the cyclist's wife, but Mia is afraid the letter will be traced. An argument ensues and she kills Rob. She is further shaken upon seeing a self-driving pizza delivery truck hit a pedestrian in the street, but manages to dispose of Rob's body in a building site without being seen.
The man who was hit by the truck contacts his insurance company and is visited by Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar), an insurance investigator. She uses a device known as a Recaller to scan his and other witnesses' memories to verify the claims. Shazia follows a chain of witnesses near the collision scene, eventually leading her to Mia as the only potential direct witness. Mia admits to witnessing the crash, and tries to prepare her mind to focus away from Rob's murder, but she cannot stop memories of the homicide surfacing. Recognizing what she has seen, Shazia tries to leave, but Mia breaks into her car and incapacitates her, taking her to the shed where she is bound and gagged.
Shazia promises that she will delete the Recaller data and keep silent, but Mia does not believe her. Mia scans Shazia's memories with the Recaller to learn that her husband Anan knew Shazia was going to visit Mia that day. Mia kills Shazia and drives to her home to kill Anan. Upon realising that Shazia's baby son is also in the house and has probably seen her face, Mia reluctantly kills him too.
Police investigating the murders reveal that Shazia's son was blind and would have been unable to identify the killer; they instead use the Recaller on the family guinea pig to dredge its memories for evidence. Meanwhile, Mia cries as she watches her son's school production of Bugsy Malone. The police are seen waiting at the back of the auditorium. As the camera continues lingering on Mia, in tears, the screen cuts to black.
Some critics have suggested that the title is a reference to the metaphor "crocodile tears", a phrase that could be referring to Mia's insincere expressions of sorrow while committing a series of violent crimes. Jason Koebler of Vice notes that Mia does not read the End-User License Agreement (EULA) for the Recaller. Koebler suggests that Mia reading the EULA would have allowed her to avoid using the Recaller, and thus prevent her later murders from being necessary.
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 distribute the series in the UK, with a bid of $40 million. The 12 episode order was divided into two series of six episodes each. The six episodes in series four were released on Netflix simultaneously on 29 December 2017. "Crocodile" is listed as the third episode, though as each episode is standalone the episodes can be watched in any order. The episode has a running time of 59 minutes.
Writing and casting
The episode was inspired by the series one episode, "The Entire History of You", which featured a personal implant that one could use privately to review their memories. For "Crocodile", they considered what the situation would be like if these memories were not private, developing a "cat-and-mouse type drama" that would highlight the importance of memories, and to what lengths one with a secret would go to hide those memories.
The episode was initially conceived as having a male protagonist, with Andrea Riseborough reading the script to audition for the insurance investigator—called Shazia in the final episode, and played by Kiran Sonia Sawar. However, Riseborough liked the journey of the protagonist and asked if the part could be rewritten as a woman. Both Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones described the change as interesting, with Jones noting "How often do you see a mother reduced to this level of desperation?" Though they questioned whether a woman would have the physical strength to dispose of a body, Riseborough argued that her character could find that strength in desperation. Brooker commented that "the panicking male murderer is practically a trope", so the gender change was "refreshing".
The episode ends with Mia killing Shazia's son, who turns out to be blind, and her murder of him is witnessed by a guinea pig. This was intended as dark humour in the tone of 1996 black comedy thriller Fargo, though the episode had been more serious up until that point. Mia then watches her son in a production of the 1976 musical film Bugsy Malone, which starred Jodie Foster—the director of the preceding episode "Arkangel".
Brooker explained that the title came from an analogy he made in an earlier draft of the script. In its original form, the script had involved a woman that had seen her mother die tragically at the age of two, causing her to become anxious and fearful of the rest of the world. He had compared this to a virtual reality trip down a jungle river with random events. Someone might go down this trip without seeing a crocodile and thus see it as a calm trip, but someone else might be attacked by a crocodile early on, and for the rest of the trip, become anxious and fearful that they are experiencing a "crocodile attack simulator", the same situation as this character. While the script significantly changed over the course of production, the title was not changed.
The episode was directed by John Hillcoat, who described the episode as a "pitch-black comedy of errors". Hillcoat said that "Crocodile" is about "how human beings actually work and how we would respond to something the tech revolution may well bring into our lives".
The memory reader technology was conceived by Brooker with the arcade machine for Space Invaders in mind. Production designer Joel Collins compares it to a slide viewer, contrasting with the thin screens of contemporary devices. After the memory reader was designed, other technology in the episode such as the pizza truck were re-designed with similar box styles.
The episode was shot in Iceland and includes scenes filmed in the Harpa concert hall. Brooker had originally called out for filming in Scotland in his script, but Netflix suggested Iceland as a "more stunning backdrop", according to Brooker. Hillcoat commented that the "cruel inescapable logic" of Mia's actions were suited for Icelandic "strange, vast and primeval landscapes". During filming, Iceland had its largest snowfall in forty years. The scenes involving the pizza van were the worst affected, with shooting taking place over two nights. Snow needed to be continually brushed and special effects teams used heaters and hoses on important areas in frame. A line was added to the dialogue about snow, the intention being that the difference in snow was a consequence of observers' differing memories.
Riseborough's performance as Mia was less panicked than Brooker had pictured when writing the episode. Riseborough injured half of her ribcage during her first rehearsal. Hillcoat opined that Mia has ambition as a "deep inner flaw", whereas Jones thought her actions was a "logical inevitability" of her initially protecting her friend Rob. Brooker said that Mia "really turns" when she hides Rob's body, rather than confessing to causing his death. Sawar found the scene in which her character Shazia was killed by Mia difficult to film, and was unable to watch the scene in the finished episode.
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 6 December, Netflix published a trailer featuring an amalgamation of scenes from the fourth series, which announced that the series would be released on 29 December.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 53% of critics gave the episode positive reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10, based upon a sample of 17 reviews. The cinematography of the Icelandic landscape was widely praised, along with Riseborough's and Sawar's performances. Two critics criticised the violence and described it as unnecessarily bleak.
At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018, Toyota announced its customisable self-driving delivery vehicle, the e-Palette, with one of their first partners being Pizza Hut to create a self-driving pizza delivery truck. Commentators pointed out the coincidence of this announcement shortly after the first broadcast of "Crocodile", and the official Twitter account for Black Mirror commented on the announcement, "We know how this goes."
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