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  • Writer's pictureKaty Craig


Black Mirror Season 4, Episode 5

At an abandoned warehouse, scavengers searching for supplies encounter a ruthless foe and flee for their lives through a bleak wasteland. Image taken from Netflix thumbnail. Caution: Spoilers.

The episode takes place in a dystopian future where robots, specifically highly advanced and deadly machines called "dogs," (the Boston Dynamics version looks eerily similar) have taken over the world. The episode is filmed in black and white and makes the story bleaker and the dogs scarier.

The episode follows a woman named Bella who along with her friends was out searching for a present for a dying child's birthday. The fact that they're clinging to important human values and tradition like a child's birthday is poignant in this stark, colorless world. While searching for the gift, Bella encounters one of these dogs which promptly kills her comrades and commences an intense and deadly chase.

The dog is extremely intelligent, and can generally solve problems as they arise in the environment. This machine is truly scary. By following the tracker embedded in Bella's leg, and later triangulating her transmission signals, the dog creatively finds ways to stay right on Bella's heels.

The dog is a four-legged robot that is able to chase and kill humans with extreme precision. It has a solar powered rechargeable battery, sensors, general intelligence, radar, communications, and weapons systems. It tracks and kills relentlessly and mercilessly. When it is forced to amputate its own weapon arm, it improvises one later with a kitchen knife. This old dog does new tricks.

In one scene, Bella is forced up a tree where the dog is unable to reach her or get a clear shot. When Bella falls asleep that night, she nearly falls out of the tree onto the dog waiting below. As the dog powers back down, Bella tosses a candy down onto it. When the candy hits the dog, it powers back up, then powers back down. Bella continues to toss candies down to cycle the dog back on. Eventually, by the time dawn breaks, the dog no longer responds to the candies. Bella has worn down its battery! She clamors down the tree and runs for her life.

Bella is part of a group of survivors who are trying to find a way to safely survive and fight back against the dogs to reclaim their world. Unfortunately, she makes a few critical mistakes along the way like failing to cover up the dog before leaving so it couldn't be recharged by the sun.

Throughout the episode, the audience is shown flashbacks of how the world came to be ruled by the dogs, as well as the lengths that Bella and her group are willing to go to in order to cling to human values and survive. Risking their lives to get a present for a dying child's birthday is a fool's errand in this world. But it remains an important human value and tradition of doing for others to try to help them or ease their pain.

"Metalhead" is a tense and suspenseful episode that explores themes of technology, survival, and the dangers of artificial intelligence. If any machine ever develops general intelligence, consider it a wrap. Game over.

~ k80cb

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