Black Mirror: Black Museum
December 29, 2017 8:18 AM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

On a dusty stretch of highway, a traveler stumbles across a museum that boasts rare criminal artifacts -- and a disturbing main attraction.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This whole season seems to revolve around a common theme of women stepping up to the plate to get shit done. They don’t always achieve the best result, but they are taking action instead of being victims, and I am 100% down for this theme to continue in storytelling.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:58 PM on December 29, 2017 [19 favorites]


It would seem like the ability to create perfect digital copies of people’s consciousness (cookies) is the central what if of a lot of these episodes and how no one really considers them to be people despite the fact that they ...behave and respond in all ways as if they where and that’s the whole point of making them.
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


The duplication storylines were a little heavy this season but this was overall a good episode.
posted by k8t at 8:30 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I watched this and then watched the White Christmas special cause my SO hadn't seen it and it's real obvious the show is focused on the consciousness duplicates as slaves, the increasing EU laws about it and Arkangel never making it out of trials means people in-universe are having talks about the personhood of "code" and even Nish playing dumb about "old people uploaded to the cloud" (At Saint Jumpier hospital, ha. I don't like all these episodes being linked together but the show is going there so)

But the through line is obvious, once you say something isn't human, even if it is a literal copy of you with all your memories and reacts as if it was you, it's easy to treat it like a thing. Which is like, the entire economic history of the world and of slavery. Markets degrade to free labor over time, the cookies are just an extension of robots and they're the underlying technology of the whole series really.
posted by The Whelk at 9:09 PM on December 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


ok I'm only 8 minutes in but I freakin HATE when people in film/shows use paddles without pads. Especially in ER.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:59 PM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


So the teddy bear is left inside the museum to burn or did I miss her tossing it in the back seat of her car when she left?
posted by some loser at 8:18 PM on December 31, 2017


She took it with her and set it down really carefully facing forward in the front seat. The bear also said "I love you" rather than "I need a hug" when they were outside so it can be assumed that Carrie approved.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 9:23 PM on December 31, 2017 [13 favorites]


This series has great production values and direction etc but I kinda think it's starting to get a bit samey... it's an old joke now but it is really becoming Phones But Too Much (well mainly VR but too much).

The early eps had many faults but I miss the truely bonkers stuff like PM pig fucking and puppets getting elected
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:36 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]


To me the best sci fi always shines a light on the society that produces it and that really came through in this season for me. In large part it was focused on feelings - the feelings of isolation and disapproval that lead Daly to become such a monster, the consequences of a mother's use of external technology to sooth her fears and anxieties for her child, the search for "true love" for Frank and Amy, the futile attempt to give comfort to a child in the face of the literal end of humanity, the question of whether the horrors experienced by "cookies" in episodes 1 and 6 are "real". I think The Whelk well identified the show's unifying critique. The worlds presented are extensions of our current system which pushes labor onto entities without agency and that the "gains" are market-driven and thus not for the benefit of the wider population and the consequences are not thought out beyond the immediate profit impact. Add to that that the perspectives of women were at the forefront and I really loved this season.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 5:30 AM on January 1 [11 favorites]


I kinda think it's starting to get a bit samey...

Agreed. Consciousness outside of the physical body is an important and interesting topic, but half of the episodes this season were centered on it, as well as many episodes in the previous seasons. There is so much more territory to be explored. I'm not as horrified by out-of-body consciousness because there's not that much demand for it in our current world, whereas the show about earning merits/points in a previous season scared me to death. I can foresee that being widespread in 5 years.
posted by AFABulous at 8:53 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


I liked the episode. Seemed a whole nesting doll of plots and for the season itself. Probably a couple of scripts that didn't have the legs on their own, but worked perfectly as one.

As for the season overall, it didn't have an episode like San Junipero, but was more even overall with less duds. I just think it needs to take a break next year, because I agree it's getting a bit samey on the premises - too much emphasis on mindjacking, like Charlie wanted to hammer in the consequences of the tech in San Junipero (where, yes, the story is very sweet, but that tech has the potential for a lot of awful misuse, from what could be the inventor creating digital aliases to mess them to people selling their "souls" without being aware of the consequences). The scripts are still good, the acting and directing keep up with it, but... yeah, samey.

Plus, because Charlie was juggling so many things at once, we didn't have a 2017 Wipe. It was no NYE without watching Charlie going through the year.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:52 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Did anyone else notice the DNA Gizmo from the USS Callister episode in the museum? And the broken, bloody Arkangel tablet as well?

Were there any more artifacts from other episodes on display?
posted by drfu at 1:10 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


(At Saint Jumpier hospital, ha. I don't like all these episodes being linked together but the show is going there so) [Saint Juniper?]

San Junipero was special though. As good as this season was, I didn't see any that would inspire a tattoo like this.

We had same sex marriage just legalised here and I was talking to a friend about it and SJ came up and she'd never seen it. So we watched it and cried like babies and now it's her favourite thing in the world. She can't stand the rest of Black Mirror AT ALL though.

I sort of agree San Junipero stands apart from the rest of the series.
posted by adept256 at 5:50 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Were there any more artifacts from other episodes on display?

There's a bathtub with a blood stain. It could be the one where where the architect lady killed the dude with hammer.

Also, I might have to go back and check to see if the teddy bears a the end of Metalhead are the consciousness-hosting kind from this episode.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:52 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


Oh yeah! That would explain why the teddy bears were worth dying for! That bothered me so much, it made them look like fools.
posted by adept256 at 5:57 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


That would be shocking, but the viewer would have no way of knowing unless they'd watched the episodes out of order. It's a horrifying thought after you see Black Museum but I think it'd be a weird thing for a director to do. Then again, this is Black Mirror.
posted by AFABulous at 6:06 AM on January 2


From the Wikipedia article on the episode:
"Black Museum" includes Easter egg references back to each previous Black Mirror episode, according to director Colm McCarthy; many were placed by set designer Joel Collins. The episode makes many allusions to other episodes of Black Mirror, such as the "Fifteen Million Merits" comic Jack reads and the museum's entrance having a screen showing a picture of Victoria Skillane from "White Bear". Many museum artefacts are taken from previous episodes, for instance: an ADI from "Hated in the Nation"; the lollipop Daly uses to clone Walton's son in "USS Callister"; the tablet used by Marie in "Arkangel"; the bloodied bathtub where Shazia's husband was murdered in "Crocodile". Additionally, the episode makes multiple allusions to "San Junipero", featuring the company TCKR, naming a hospital Saint Juniper's and showing Yorkie and Kelly's dresses in the museum.
(There's also the name of the episode itself, perhaps; Black [Mirror] Museum.)
posted by elsietheeel at 9:25 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Am I the only person who can't with San Junipero? The woman's daughter died before the tech became available, so she had to spend eternity without her.

That utterly wrecked me and everyone seems to gloss over it.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:16 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Loved this episode; I think it’s tied with “U.S.S. Callister” for best of the season. I loved the score, the same propulsive beat and mournful wail being modified throughout to go from grim to silly to terrifying, like Tom Waits’s score for Night on Earth. I loved how it was a puzzle box of the different technologies informing each other and evolving. And I loved how meta it was, with the Black Museum being Black Mirror itself and Rolo Haynes, the unethical carny huckster, standing in for Charlie Brooker. Makes me wonder if Brooker feels guilt about the torment he inflicts upon his fictional creations and wrote this as an expiation.

I enjoyed how the first two stories were pretty light-hearted and humorous before they took their turns into horror, setting up the third story to be a gut punch with its grimness all the way through.

I watched the first five minutes again to see how things were different knowing the truth about Nish, and it was pretty great seeing her actions and reactions in a new light. Best bit was when she first sees the Black Museum and says “mmm-hm,” which on first watch seems like snark but on the second watch is clearly answering something her mother says.

The part that made me sad, though (other than why not leave Carrie on pause permanently?), is that there are still thousands of those fun-size duplicates of Lee out there. I hope they have a limited battery life.

Oh, also I was sad that there wasn’t a robot dog from Metalhead on display. They’re so cute.
posted by ejs at 2:49 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Incidentally, don't know if it's been mentioned: the title is an allusion to a real place, the Black Museum at Scotland Yard, not open to the public, which contains criminal memorabilia.
posted by Grangousier at 3:00 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


I just posted this in the "Crocodile" thread, where there's some discussion of a Black Mirror shared universe, but thought I should put it here too for anyone finishing the season:
‘Black Mirror’ Easter Eggs: How All the Episodes Connect in Charlie Brooker’s Dark Universe
posted by ejs at 3:44 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Also, I might have to go back and check to see if the teddy bears a the end of Metalhead are the consciousness-hosting kind from this episode

Those were bears and this was a monkey. But it does seem like a missed opportunity.

The early eps had many faults but I miss the truely bonkers stuff like PM pig fucking and puppets getting elected

I didn't really like those episodes and much prefer the me am play gods episodes, but I agree with you. The best part of Black Mirror is having no clue what kind of show you are going to be watching.
posted by Gary at 8:27 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


The dialogue in this episode was atrocious. "Dick-pukes a little baby paste up her wazoo?" And the acting was also bad. Bad, bad, bad. I stopped 2/3 of the way in.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:10 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


One thing I like about this episode is that it recognizes that the show itself is all about lurid grotesqueries. We can all agree that it's bad to subject people to incredible pain and torture but there's stuff about sim life that's not explored and Nish talking about how part of the story is left out, was good.

I also like when the carny guy is talking about how it's illegal to put consciousnesses in objects like the bear — they need five expressions, not two. Then later how it's illegal to delete it. The patchwork of well meaning but insufficient laws was funny in a womp womp kind of way.
posted by fleacircus at 10:41 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


sorry, I just realized I said earlier bear instead of monkey and it's "monkey needs a hug" and "monkey loves you."

Carrie pressing the button so furiously reminded me of when I was in labor and my epidural wasn't working. I had a button that I could hit to dispense more painkiller every 9 minutes or something but it wasn't working so I just kept hitting it even though I was locked out because it was the only thing I could do, just over and over hundreds of times. It was the futility more than the pain even that was so terrible.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 8:27 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]




That "dick puke" line was especially odd/unexpected since I tend to watch with the subtitles on. Did we miss a step where Nish erases Carrie from the monkey and uploads her dead mom?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 AM on January 9


I had the impression her mother was in her head. Carrie is still in the monkey.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:23 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


Yeah, Nish's mom has been inside Nish's head the entire time. I believe there's a line where the mother helped come up with the plan to turn the tables on the museum owner.
posted by AFABulous at 1:26 PM on January 9


I didn't know why this didn't occur to me before, but I couldn't figure out why this particular killer would be so heinous that people would want to torture him for years. But of course! He's a Black man who was convicted of killing a young, conventionally-attractive white woman. I doubt anyone would have much cared if his victim was anyone else.
posted by AFABulous at 1:31 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


I just kept hitting it even though I was locked out because it was the only thing I could do, just over and over hundreds of times. It was the futility more than the pain even that was so terrible.

That's really a theme over and over through this season. When the Infinity developer in e1 gets caught in the deactivated simulation he repeatedly screams to end the game after he's already lost controls. Same in this episode when the museum owner was caught in Nish's father's ruined brain. Technological hell.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:32 PM on January 9


but I couldn't figure out why this particular killer would be so heinous that people would want to torture him

I came from the exact direction as you, but my read was from the banality of evil and the shitheels that got a kick out of torturing him were just getting off on the casual cruelty rather than any specific animosity.

Memory/consciousness transfer really ought to have been stopped dead on day one on ethical considerations. This is ripe discussion fodder for undergrad ethics classes; how to prove that some other entity possess consciousness and what rights and responsibilities do they have in society. How do you prove to someone else that you are experiencing consciousness, and have them respect that?

The implant in the doctor and the transfer of the coma person into their spouse... the IRB proposal for that would have gotten you shut down the moment it landed in anyone's inbox, then heavily investigated.
posted by porpoise at 2:27 PM on January 9


My take was that he was just part of a freak show via the rest of the museum, nobody was coming to electrocute him personally.
posted by rhizome at 11:54 PM on January 11


This is the episode that convinced me to never watch the show ever again. I've become less and less able to tolerate how preposterous the neuroscience is in this show, and the line "We only use 40% of our brains" finally broke me. Any science fiction that uses that line is so unconcerned with taking into account how our brains actually work that it's not worth taking seriously.

I don't think the people who make this show understand that downloading consciousness in this way is either impossible in principle or, even if possible, is technologically so far out of our reach that it makes Star Trek look like the middle ages. I get that the show is using this technology as a metaphor for how willing we are to treat other people like objects, but if this is just a metaphor, I would really prefer that they just make it the result of magic rather than having people put on, of all things, glowing EEG caps. (Did they have to make them glow? Good god.) This is actively harmful to the public's understanding of what neuroscience can and can't do. Cutting edge neuroscience is currently at the level of not even being able to steer Pac-Man around a maze using brain waves. You simply do not need to worry about how people will treat digital clones, because it will not happen in your lifetime, or your children's lifetimes, or their lifetimes, etc. etc. etc. for thousands of years.

Also, it's telling that, of all the dark futures the show is asking us to contemplate, most of them hang on this ludicrously implausible technology, and none of them deal with widespread ecological collapse, which we are likely to experience in our lifetimes.
posted by IjonTichy at 3:08 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Dionne Warwick's cover of "Always Something There to Remind Me" is eerily apt for an episode about the public remembrance and display of racist hatred. I immediately thought of the struggles to remove racist monuments, and the episode gives you at least two more meanings for the song by the end.

It's also probably the best version for this.

"I can never be free / you'll always be a part of me"

woah oah oah.

Last season, the pick of "Heaven is a place on Earth" , over the shots of the server farm was similarly chilling
posted by eustatic at 6:01 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


From the trailer I thought the Main Attraction was going to let people experience what criminals had done vicariously through consciousness transfer - be in the minds of Victoria and her boyfriend when they kidnap and kill their victim, or whatever - or live out violent revenge fantasies. When Rolo started explaining how the magic EEG hairnet worked I was sure it would end with a mashup of that concept and the advanced VR from USS Callister. So the actual turn the episode took was an interesting surprise, at least as bleak but in a different way. White Bear meets White Christmas.

Rolo was so tiresome and the first story was so gruesome that I skipped ahead a few times and almost gave up, but the end was worth it, especially Nish retrieving the monkey so Carrie can watch Rolo get his just deserts.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:18 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


So no one has mentioned that the Doctor segment was based on a story by Penn Jilette. Take from that as you will. I gotta say that I guessed incorrectly. I thought he was going to put on the cap himself and give himself a pain/pleasure feedback loop.

I get the feeling that the reaction to San Junipero took Brooker by surprise and that maybe he felt like he had buried the dark "Black Mirror" aspect of the technologies' implications too deep in a (semi) conventional love story. I feel like this is the reason he's gone back to the digital double well so often and really stressed the darker implications of the technology. I mean, even the lighter episode this season involved creating and destroying two thousand (at least) digital doubles for a matchmaking simulation.

I love the fact that, time and again, the people that choose to deal with the digital copies as property rather than people are shown to be monstrous - Daly earlier, but especially the guy in this episode. If it's just code what does it matter what we do with it? I love that in the earlier episode thread some were saying that the Frank and Amy doubles were "incomplete" because they couldn't remember where they were before their "dates" started and therefore it was more okay. Surely the simulation required accurate doubles to get accurate simulations? And again this episode, was the death row hologram a complete copy after he had almost been fried by the over-enthusiastic customer? How complete/accurate does a digital double have to be before we confer on it the rights of consciousness we grant physical people? Or even just the right not to be unduly tortured? When is a good reason to torture a digital double? To extract a confession, to make it a compliant slave, to satisfy our basest instincts - those of revenge and sadism? If it's just code then anything goes right? Stick it on a keychain.

Has Charlie made his thoughts on the matter perfectly clear to you? The Black Museum is a museum of criminal history. I love the mention of the law as an ass, unable to deal with the implications of new technology and drawing an arbitrary line that pleases no-one (consciousnesses must be able to express itself in five ways minimum and people are unable to delete the consciousness if it's unlucky enough to find itself in that legal limbo (even if it wanted to be deleted? Sly reference to euthanasia/right to die?))

So much to pick apart and so much fun. I mean, there's still quite a lot of shorthand storytelling. Anyone could have told that guy that sticking your partner's consciousness in your brain would have a bad ending one way or another. The things we do for love huh?

/Rant over
posted by Start with Dessert at 3:04 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


For the people that were annoyed that Brookers's gone too often to the digital double well:

When Nish burned down the Black Museum in the end, I took it to mean that Brooker was drawing a line under the series so far. It seemed to me that he was acknowledging the close relatedness of the episodes so far by including relics of them in the museum and then, almost as an apology, burn it all to the ground.

I'm now really interested where he goes from here.
posted by Start with Dessert at 2:54 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]


This is the episode that convinced me to never watch the show ever again. I've become less and less able to tolerate how preposterous the neuroscience is in this show, and the line "We only use 40% of our brains" finally broke me. Any science fiction that uses that line is so unconcerned with taking into account how our brains actually work that it's not worth taking seriously.

That line was said by an unreliable narrator who'd repeatedly lied to people to manipulate them into bad deals. I took it as more sleezy swindling via hokey memetic phrase.
posted by Emily's Fist at 12:24 PM on January 21 [6 favorites]


The part that made me sad, though ... is that there are still thousands of those fun-size duplicates of Lee out there.

Digital Henrietta Lacks. Another way that the choice of a black man to be the "main attraction" was definitely not an accident.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:57 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


Was that fash with the bad hairdo supposed to be Richard Sp*ncer or do they all look like that? Questionable taste there.

That was a truly brutal episode, even with the humour. I'm glad she burned it down. It's interesting that the show as a whole answers the classic Trek "teleporter or murder photocopier" question with "it doesn't matter". Narratively we usually see it as a transfer, but we also see clone abuse, and I don't think the show ever shows that it sees an ethical difference between "this is a copy of a still-living person" and "this is a transfer from a now-dead body".

It also doesn't see any difference between DNA and consciousness, or understanding of the neurological complexity of consciousness, and on the whole I'm glad I won't live to inhabit a cookie and I'll let it have the artistic license.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:48 PM on February 16


OK I was underwhelmed by this episode on first watch. I think part of that was binging the entire season. Unlike other seasons, this one was more focused on a specific issue so by the time I got to Black Museum, I was a bit exhausted. But after reading all these comments and insights, I need to go back and watch it again. I hope Start with DEssert is right and the next season explores some other issues.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:22 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Kyle Kellgreen, Black Mirror is about labor struggle

See I’m not the only one who thought it.
posted by The Whelk at 7:35 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


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