The third instalment of the latest series of Black Mirror is Crocodile, a somewhat shaky episode with interesting ideas and concepts (as always) but questionable character motivations and reasoning.
The central character of the episode is Mia (Andrea Riseborough), a successful, family-orientated architect whose past comes back to haunt her in the form of a hit and run fifteen years hence. She’d helped her drink-driving friend Rob (Andrew Gower) cover up the crime by hiding a body, and Rob wants to come clean to relieve his guilty conscience.
Somehow, Mia kills Rob. When Rob reveals he wants to come clean and tries to leave her hotel room, Mia appears to hug/strangle him to death in one of the most bizarre deaths we’ve seen so far in Black Mirror. Mia disposes of her old friend’s corpse and goes home to her family. She’s clearly shaken and distraught and there’s nothing wrong with Riseborough’s acting, but the plot is very unconvincing. Shortly soon after the murder, she witnesses a man get knocked down by a self-driving pizza delivery truck before renting a pay-per-view porno from the hotel, presumably to cover her tracks to make it seem like she was in all night masturbating, not murdering.
Our other main character in this episode is Shazi (Kiran Sonia Sawar), a bubbly insurance investigator who uses a mind-reading, memory recalling device to corroborate claimants stories and witness accounts. Shazi utilises the extra-sensory sensations to help her clients recall their memories effectively, such as playing a song they may have heard at the time, or rekindling the smell of a familiar scent. It is a legal requirement to submit to these intrusive memory scans and, after interviewing various other witnesses with varying degrees of comfort using the device, Mia winds up being the only witness who might be able to help Shazi’s case.
And Mia kills Shazi, obviously. When Shazi attempts to access Mia’s memories, she tries putting Mia at ease by saying she’s not interested in “what she gets up to in her own time” (masturbating/murdering), but that she simply needs to see her account of the pizza truck incident. Of course, Shazi sees Mia’s memory of her killing Rob. Mia panics, then kidnaps Shazi and bashes her head in with a piece of wood. It’s hard to believe that Mia would be driven to murder not once, but twice, when she is a successful architect with a family. Yes, the revelations about her involvement in a cover up of a hit and run would look bad, but surely the conviction of a double murder is much worse?
Not only does she bash Shazi’s head in, but she checks her cars sat-nav to see if anyone else might know of Shazi’s drive out to her remote location, which is very Nordic noir-esque. Of course, Mia drives all the way to Shazi’s house and murders her husband AND her infant child. Obviously. It feels like this episode is trying to be dark for the sake of being dark, desperately grasping the shock factor because there’s little else for it to go for.
There’s little satisfaction to take from this episode. Interesting ideas, well-acted and even quite beautifully shot, but that only seems to scratch the surface. Mia’s motivations are unconvincing and the infanticide is just unnecessary and serves no purpose but to shock. The two best things about this episode happen to be the realisation that self-driving pizza delivery trucks could actually become a reality and the fact that a guinea pig (Shazi’s pet) will be Mia’s undoing in court. The police, of course, are able to recall the guinea pigs memories. Typical Black Mirror humour.