'Black Mirror': 'Hang the DJ' Takes On Modern Romance

Season 4, Episode 4

Though the show has garnered a reputation for its handling of dark, controversial subject matter, Season Four of “Black Mirror” dips a toe into somewhat uncharted territory: happy, or at least hopeful, endings. The show operates best when it doesn’t rely on gore or violence, as proven by last season’s Emmy-winning “San Junipero,” a nostalgic romance about simulated reality. Few episodes exemplify hope better than “Hang the DJ,” a dystopian take on dating apps like Tinder, directed by Tim Van Patten.

In the episode, a society-wide dating system pairs up couples temporarily, then feeds each individual’s reaction into an algorithm that sorts them into yet another couple. After Amy (Georgina Campbell) and Frank (Joe Cole) are paired together for their first trial, both characters suffer a series of loveless relationships, each one more tediously robotic than the last. There’s sex, lust, and desire, but the real intimacy is in the stolen moments: hands held over the sheets, a meaningful glance across the room, a quiet conversation at twilight. “Must have been mental before the system,” Amy reflects in one such scene. “People had to do the whole relationship thing themselves.” In a world where complex algorithms referee hookups and dates, “Hang the DJ” tackles not just romance, but autonomy and free will. It’s a celebration of love, but more importantly, the extent we will go to get it. Coupled with Brooker’s impactful dialogue, Van Patten’s careful direction tackles love without schmaltz, setting up for a gut-wrenching plot twist in the episode’s final minutes—a typical “Black Mirror” device, wielded with maximum impact. The course of true love never did run smooth, but it sure packed a punch.

—Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @carolinetsai3.



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