The latest installment of Netflix's sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror casts its typically skeptical eye on how technology and human nature mix and clash. The six episodes of season four—each a dark but compellingly told stand-alone story—explore the darker side of nerd fandom, the trials and tribulations of high-tech helicopter parenting, the possibility of homicidal robot dogs, and the promise of 99.9 percent accurate Tinder matches.
Black Mirror's simple, self-contained treatments of slightly futuristic but eminently believable technologies flesh out the deeply relatable human desires and insecurities of both the show's characters and its viewers. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in this season's second episode, "Arkangel," in which a terrified single mother implants a chip in her daughter's head that lets the mom not just see the world from the girl's perspective but also censor it.
This scheme goes terribly wrong, of course, but not because the chip radically alters the mother-daughter dynamic. Rather, the technology exacerbates a pre-existing struggle between the parent's protectiveness and the child's quest for privacy and freedom.
One thing that might annoy techno-optimists is the show's continuing tendency to worry unduly about technology's potential to ensnare us in a nightmarish digital reality. Season four sees human souls uploaded into a sadistic museum exhibit, humiliated in a cheesy Star Trek knock-off universe, and imprisoned in a cuddly stuffed animal.
Overall, though, Black Mirror succeeds in drilling to the core of a real anxiety in the modern age. To many people, "choices" can feel like obligations, and technology threatens to suck us into an existence we desperately want to escape.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Black Mirror".