Once again, Black Mirror hits it out of the park with the new Crocodile episode from Season 4. Crocodile is the second episode in the lineup, but some viewers skipped ahead to watch the episode first because of the previews. Interestingly, the trailer for Crocodile actually doesn’t give us a good glimpse of what the show is about. It took a twist that no one was expecting. This may very well end up being one of the darkest episodes in the entire series of Black Mirror. This post will have spoilers for Crocodile from Season 4.
Episode Recap & Ending Explained
Although this show may be the darkest in the series, it’s also one of the most beautiful. The landscape shots and direction is just mesmerizing. The episode was filmed in Iceland, and the show takes every opportunity it can to show us just how beautiful the scenery is. The beauty, however, is juxtaposed with a harsh, large factory that is spewing pollution into the air. It seems that even with all the adances in tech, humanity still has many issues left to solve.
The story begins with a couple partying and then driving back home. Mia is the passenger and soon-to-be the main character in the story. Her boyfriend, Robert, hits a biker and kills him. He’s been drinking, so he knows if the police show up, he’ll probably go to jail for a long time. (Is it possible he might also be punished via the techniques seen in White Bear? It’s not mentioned, but perhaps he would…) He convinces Mia to throw the body into the ocean and hide the accidental killing, so he has a chance to live free. She agrees, although very reluctantly. He seems to have pushed her to do something far against her ethical code.
We fast forward to many years later, and see that Mia is now a famous architect giving speeches and living a fabulous life with a loving husband and adorable son. But during one of her trips, she meets up with Robert again. He’s no longer drinking and now he feels very guilty about what he’s done. He wants to come clean and send an anonymous letter to the wife of the biker they killed. He promises not to mention Mia Nolan. But as we learn later, with the current technology, there’s no way that Robert could ever keep Mia’s identity a secret if it were discovered that he was the person who killed the bicyclist.
Rather than talking things through with Mia, he just tells her he’s made up his mind and is leaving. In a fit of anger, despair, and terror, she kills him to keep him from talking. After the murder, she looks outside and sees a man hit by a Fences Pizza truck. This seemingly innocuous moment will play a huge role in the rest of the episode. She tosses Robert’s body away at a Nolan factory (presumably either her factory or her family’s. She must have chosen this because she knew the factory schedule.)
But she’s not free. The case is assigned to Shazza of Realm Insurance. Shazza has a husband and child of her own, and a new pet guinea pig. She researches insurance claims with the help of technology they refer to as a “Corroborator.” It reads people’s memories about an incident and lets Shazza watch those memories. The memories may not be accurate, however, so she has to talk to multiple people to try to get as accurate of an account as possible. If the incident involves a crime, people are legally required to talk to her. But she also is required not to reveal anything she sees in the memories that aren’t related to the incident — unless those memories are about another crime or someone who’s in danger.
She slowly puts the pieces together, with the help fo sounds and smells from that night. Interestingly, the song she uses to trigger witnesses’ memories is the same song featured in Fifteen Million Merits. Everyone loves this song, but no one knows the song’s tragic backstory.
Shazza eventually ends up at Mia’s door. Mia is drunk and submits to the reading. When she realizes Shazza saw her memories of the murder, she panics, kidnaps Shazza, and kills her. She then kills the only incident, Shazza’s husband, and ultimately kills Shazza’s baby too, since the baby’s memories can be read. But she misses the guinea pig, who also saw her at the home, and ultimately she’s discovered and arrested.
The Danger of Technology
An interesting point you can walk away from in this episode is that none of these murders might have happened if it hadn’t been for technology. Perhaps Robert would have disposed of the body anyway. But if chronologically this takes place anywhere close to White Bear, we can imagine that the fear of that punishment might have driven him to hide the crime.
Even without that, we can definitely surmise that Mia’s reaction to Robert’s decision was partially fueled by knowing that she’d be discovered even if Robert tried to hide her identity, thanks to the memory reading tech. We’re told that police use this tech to help them solve crimes, and insurance companies are just now starting to use it too.
The episode shows that memories are unreliable and it takes multiple accounts to get at the truth. That’s very true, even today, and a problem that’s well known about eyewitness testimony.
Interestingly, The Entire History of You has tech that is much better than the memory reader and actually records people’s lives with perfect accuracy. Can we guess this tech came out later? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that the memory-reading tech is simply needed for people who choose not to use the life-recording technology of You.
Becoming What You Hate
But there’s another angle to this story… Mia became what she hated. She became the monster. When she was younger, she hated that Robert wanted to coverup the crime. She went along with it, but only reluctantly. Now, all these years later, she is the one who is covering up her own crimes in the very same way. And after a while, it just becomes nonsensical. There’s no reason she should have thought that she could kill Shazza and not be caught, since Shazza was working on the case with a big insurance company. And there’s no reason to believe she could have killed Shazza’s husband and gotten away with it. We know how this memory tech can follow even the tiniest clue, moving from person to person until the truth is discovered. Surely they could have just looked for people who were driving in the vicinity of Shazza’s home at that time, until they eventually found Mia.
Mia started out trying to do something to help a friend, even though it was something objectively and morally wrong. And she ended up paying for that decision by becoming an even worse version of Robert and getting caught. But perhaps she was always worse than Robert. While she appeared to be an innocent friend caught up in a crime in the beginning, we eventually learned that she was the most terrifying villain of all.
A Visceral, Emotional Episode
This episode was visceral, playing on the viewer’s emotions very heavily. It doesn’t show death in an idealistic way, but it shows the darkness of murder, the grittiness of it all. It shows what the violent reality of these murders is really like. You could feel Shazza’s emotions as she begged for her life. You could feel how much she wanted to live, and how that was denied her.
At the end, you can also feel exactly what Mia is feeling. You see the world through her eyes. As the police come into her son’s musical performance, she sees them and she knows her life is over. The music starts to screech, and you can feel the knowledge that she has. She’s watching her son’s musical like a good mother, but now everyone is soon going to know that she’s a child murderer. Her legacy that she so carefully built is now in ashes, and it’s all because she did a guy a favor when she was young.
The episode was painful and dark. The good guys lost. Technology drove the plot, but it wasn’t in-your-face. It integrated seamlessly with the storyline. And the beauty of each shot, in a landscape that looked serene and peaceful, played a sharp contrast to the darkness, pain, and despair that was playing in the characters’ lives.