in watching the Black Mirror series, you are expecting bells and whistles. The twist and turns. The shocking conclusion. “Metalhead” is a departure from the conventional. You are immediately dropped into a bleak, black-and-white world. How did it get to this point? “Metalhead” makes it a point to be in the present moment mixed in with equal parts anxiety.
The episode starts of with three people, Bella (Maxine Peake), Tony (Clint Dyer), and Clarke (Jake Davies) who are on a mission. You don’t know much about the mission other than it was a promise to Bella’s sister. Shortly thereafter, you meet the threat. A robotic dog with an emotionless intent to kill. Enhancements galore. Two people are killed almost immediately and Bella is left to venture for survival.
Most of the episode is built on the foundation of cat and mouse. Woman vs. machine. It’s built on the ultimate fear that in the not too distant future, machines will turn against us and kill us all. Much of this episode is akin to 1984’s The Terminator or the second half of 1987’s Predator. In media, there’s been this prophecy that machine would ultimately turn against us.
The antagonist has a leg up because of the technological advances. The human hope to still have ingenuity and the element of surprise. Humans are not locked down to fixed outcomes or an algorithmic way of thinking. For now, that’s our leg up and what kept Bella alive.
Usually, not knowing much of anything is a weakness. While at the core, it doesn’t seem like there is too much to “Metalhead,” it’s minimalism is where it finds it center. When you have an episode that is centered around a couple characters, there have to be things that heighten the tension. The soundtrack adds the missing pieces. The uneasiness of the orchestral pieces are that of a zombie movie. The black and white back drop adds a layer to the trepidation of Bella finding a way to fulfill her promise. In the end, it took conventional ways to outsmart the threat, but bleakness still prevailed.
“Metalhead” did not hit all the beats that one would find in a conventional Black Mirror episode. Instead, it was a short, fear inducing, horror clad outlook on what the future could be if you don’t curtail the advances of technology. There are wins and losses. Bella won a battle, but lost the war.
Rating: 7 out of 10