'Black Mirror': ‘Crocodile’ is All Shock and Gore With No Substance

Season 4, Episode 3

“Black Mirror” normally finds its power in confrontation. Its best episodes push the question of “What if?” What if we could rate people in real-time, with a society-wide version of Uber ratings? What if we could bring back our loved ones from the dead, despite better judgement? What if we had the technology to take our worst fears or desires, and turn them into reality?

“Crocodile” tries to use this formula as it follows a successful scientist, Mia Nolan (Andrea Riseborough), as she tries to cover up one murder by murdering more people: What if surveillance made it easy to find killers? What if the killer seems like a good person with a family? But its lackluster plot matches its lackluster questions, disappointing very quickly. As with other episodes, “Crocodile” tries to capitalize on our culture’s growing technological paranoia, but falls flat. The surveillance system of this world depends on a memory-extracting system, which can definitely have moral repercussions (a concept explored in Season One’s “The Entire History of You”). In this episode, however, it’s highly supervised and fairly harmless—unless you’ve just killed a person.

In that case, the emotional work of the episode relies on Riseborough, who does the best she can with the limited range she’s given. Mia is either wracked with terror or wracked with guilt. She never evolves over the course of the episode, and we rarely see her outside of a criminal context. It’s apparent that her life with her family is important to her—the most emotionally potent scene is when Mia cries silently as she watches her son perform in the school play, heavy with guilt. But because “Crocodile” never truly expands on Mia’s character aside from the homicide, the homicide is all she is.

“Crocodile” is all gore and shock with no substance. Aside from some dreamy shots of Icelandic scenery, it’s dull watching Mia descend into this linear, murderous path, as she refuses to spiral, to change, or to ascend from the base instinct of survival.

—Staff writer Grace Z. Li can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.



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