Black Museum Explained: Unraveling Black Mirror’s Last Episode

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By the time you finish Black Mirror Season 4, you’re going to have a lot to think about. And although Black Museum may not seem that confusing at first, there are a lot of implications to be considered. The episode opened up an entire new line of thinking for Black Mirror and it shed a lot of light on the deeper meaning behind previous episodes in the season. Yes, many of those episodes are in the same universe and that has major implications for the fate of some of our favorite characters. Read on for an explanation about Black Museum and what it means for the rest of the series. This post, of course, will have major spoilers for Black Museum, along with other episodes from Season 4 (especially USS Callister) and previous seasons. 


Black Museum Takes Place in the Future, Where the Tech From Many Episodes We’ve Seen Is Now Banned

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Black Museum showcases “authentic criminological artifacts.” The big implication of this is that much of the technology we’ve seen in previous episodes is now considered illegal. Technology took us down a dark path, but now we’re trying to correct that. You can get a better idea of just what is now banned by reviewing Heavy’s article about all the Easter Eggs in Black Museum. Here’s a look at some of the tech that’s now banned:

  • The bees from Hated in the Nation. 
  • White Bear’s Justice park
  • Kidnapping cookies or any kind of cloning without consent
  • Uploading a consciousness into an inanimate object
  • Arkangel tech
  • The game in Playtest

As an interesting side note, a real Black Museum exists at New Scotland Yard. It’s a collection of criminal memorabilia that’s been around since 1874. It was created to help police study crime and criminals, but is now an official museum although it’s not open to the public, unlike the Black Museum in our story.


TCKR Isn’t Afraid to Violate Human Rights in Order to Develop Tech

NetflixTCKR from Black Mirror

TCKR is apparently willing to violate all sorts of human rights in order to create tech. Yes, this is the company that created the afterlife called San Junipero (which, coincidentally, was named after Saint Juniper’s Hospital, where TCKR’s lab is located.) But judging from Rolo Hayne’s stories, TCKR has a very dark side. They offer free health care “in exchange” for human experimentation, taking advantage of the poor. Their use of untested technology resulted in a murder and a doctor going insane (yes, we’re talking about the doctor from the first story.)

Even creating the consciousness transfer involved violating human rights. They took some of the knowledge they gained from Dawson’s tragedy and used it to create Kerry’s tragedy. She ended up left in a stuffed monkey, forgotten and alone, her own personal hell. (And yes, that was later outlawed too.)

Rolo Haynes even had the ability to transfer someone’s consciousness at the moment of their death, allowing the cookie to experience that death over and over and over. TCKR is involved in some dark stuff. So why does the company still exist? Rolo hinted about that at the beginning of the episode. He mentioned working for some people who are higher up, but he was pretty vague about their identity. I’m guessing they’re part of the government and that’s why TCKR survives despite abusing people so much.


Could Clayton Lee’s Digital Copy Be His Real Self?

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Here’s a question I’m wondering… Clayton Lee was accused of murdering a young woman (and yes, those were Clayton’s new stories that you saw in previous episodes this season.) He claims, however, that he’s innocent and DNA will exonerate him. But Rolo isn’t interested in that. He just wants to get a digital copy of Clayton at the time he’s being executed, for his museum. Rolo even recognizes that cookies now have human rights because they’re believed to be sentient, but he ignores all that and tortures poor Clayton every day of his existence. But here’s a darker though… Could this damaged copy be the real Clayton? We know that TCKR transfers a full consciousness, not just a digital copy, when a transfer is made as someone dies (see Kerry’s story and San Junipero.) So in Clayton’s case, we might not only be seeing a copy (which would be dark enough) but poor Clayton himself, suffering and slowly being permanently mentally damaged by the torture.

In the end, Clayton’s daughter got her revenge. We learned that she hacked into the AC, making it really hot so Rolo would feel compelled to drink from her water bottle — a bottle that she had poisoned. She then is able to lock him up in Clayton’s cell, electrocute him, and capture that moment as a digital cookie. Kerry-as-Monkey watches the whole thing, along with her mom (Clayton’s wife), whose consciousness is now in her head. They get their revenge, and they might be heading to a happier life.


This Story (And USS Callister) Could Have Serious Implications for Kelly & Yorkie

TCKR has made some amazing strides in technology, but it’s also flaunted ethics and not really cared about experimenting on humans in the process. In other words, there’s no good reason to trust TCKR and believe what they say.

Consider this… How do we know for certain that old people are really being transferred into the cloud themselves, instead of digital cookie copies? I mean, consider what we see when someone is hooked up to the San Junipero VR and when someone is hooked up to the Infinity VR. It looks like the same tech. Here’s the Infinity tech from Callister Inc.:

And here’s how they look when they’re hooked up to San Junipero:

They look the same. And here’s the device that was used to create the cookie copy in White Christmas:

One has to wonder, at what point is the line drawn? Is something else happening when a consciousness is transferred a la San Junipero that we didn’t actually get to see in that episode — something that sets it apart? (And while we’re talking about it, why was Daly’s tech so much more advanced, being able to create cookies from DNA?)

This leaves me with the unsettling question: is TCKR truly transferring someone’s consciousness to an afterlife and “uploading old people to the cloud”? Or is it just another immersive world, like we’ve seen in USS Callister and Playtest? With the way TCKR seems to play fast and loose with ethics when money is at stake, there may not be a compelling reason at this time to believe that San Junipero’s Kelly and Yorkie weren’t ultimately just digital cookie copies. What do you think? I’d love to find out that I’m wrong about this.


Many Episodes Take Place in the Same Universe

NetflixMen Against Fire

We’ve now learned that many episodes from Black Mirror take place in the same universe. This was proven by all the tech from previous episodes that we saw (and listed in a previous section of this story.) Charlie Brooker used to insist this wasn’t the case, but he changed his mind over the years. In an interview before Season 4 released, Charlie Brooker confirmed with Digital Spy that yes, Season 4 was going to provide compelling evidence that all the episodes are connected. This wasn’t the original intention, but the idea evolved as the series continued. Brooker said: “It used to be that we would refer to other things partly because it was convenient… As time goes on we’ve put more and more of these nods to other stories in, and certainly this season for the first time … the first very explicitly, one of our episodes, Black Museum, has got very specific references to previous stories we’ve done, and it is sort of filling in a bit of backstory there. You don’t need to have seen those to watch the show… But it does actually sort of now seem to imply that is actually all a shared universe, which was the opposite of the answer I used to give to this question.”

This also leaves us wondering what order the episodes occurred in. Once you start looking at all the Easter eggs, you can start piecing it together. For example, every time we hear Abi’s song (“Anyone who knows what love is will understand,”) it’s in an episode that must take place after Fifteen Million Merits. Piecing together a timeline puts The Waldo Moment, The National Anthem, Shut Up and Dance, and Be Right Back earlier in the timeline. USS Callister, San Junipero, and Men Against Fire have to be later in the timeline. Read all about the timeline in Heavy’s story here.


Final Questions About the Episode

Some viewers have a few additional questions, which we’ll attempt to address.

  • If the mom killed herself, how was she in the daughter’s head? Likely, the mom’s suicide attempt wasn’t completely successful and she ended up in a coma before she died. This would have made the transfer of her consciousness a simple process.
  • Isn’t the concept of justice at the end exactly what other episodes, like White Bear, seem to be themed against? Yes. In fact, White Bear’s justice is now outlawed. That gives this episode an even more interesting twist at the end.
  • Is Clayton free now? Kind of. His “eternal agony” souvenirs still exist. Maybe she’ll track those down next.
  • Can the Mom and Kerry ever be transferred to San Junipero? I don’t know. I hope so.

This episode has left us with a lot to think about. What did you think of Black Museum?

1 Comment

1 Comment

James Dunley

The subtlety here that I think black museum is trying to make is that to tckr and rolo, at the start, the consciousnesses were never human, the question of *human* rights never applied. There were no “digital consciousness rights”.
Carrie was already physically brain dead, Clayton was on death row and his physical human instance was executed, in justice park it was a and the widely socially accepted form of punishment and Arkangel was done with full parental consent. Every thing tckr and rolo did enjoyed the accepted form of consent at the time. Carrie was consented by her loved ones, Clayton on his own, and Arkangel by the parent. In arkangel the parent was even informed of the downside when it was later understood but *chose* to continue.

This reminds me of Westworld, ultimately humans always have a dark side, and the savage animal inside us is just reigned in my the accepted law of the land. In Westworld, were those laws dont apply, those androids have no rights – they are after all just machines.

We should look at this and think of today of how much we empower and accept things like parental consent (even at the expense of the rights of a child), corporal punishment (over the certainty of justice), and keeping people alive on life support systems (without any understanding whether this is a torture). We simply don’t know enough to say these should be outlawed, and without hard evidence humans emotions will override. Until that evidence arrives, the choice will be emotional.

Facebook for kids without any understanding of the effect of dopamine on a child’s mind is an excellent example. Is it progress or dangerous? We don’t know.

Black Museum simply shows the other side of the Black mirror universe where the costs have become “obvious” and then these were outlawed. Some, like Clayton’s case shows that even understanding it does not mean justice is always served.

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