First of all, the title. Why? What does it have to do with anything? Spoiler alert: NOTHING.
Oh, spoilers ahead, obviously. And here’s one BIG one: this episode is called “Hang The DJ” because it’s an ominous-sounding line from a song that is played in the final seconds of this episode.
If “Hang The DJ” is meant to be Season 4’s “San Junipero,” then it only stands to reinforce “San Junipero”‘s brilliance because apparently, Charlie Brooker only had ONE “San Junipero” in him, and that was “San Junipero.”
I will say THIS: the actors playing the romantic leads have palpable chemistry. I was “hard” for like, the entire episode. I may have urged them, OUT LOUD, to kiss at the end of their “first date” because it was so painful to watch them have that much electricity and not act on it. Since I already warned you about spoilers, I’ll just tell you that when they finally got together, HAVE MERCY, I needed to pause the “action” because it was TOO MUCH for me! So, kudos to those actors for turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, because if you allow the episode to rest entirely on their success at making you want them to have a “Happily Ever After,” then it was perfect. BRA-VO. I hope those actors fucked in real life, they were so cute together.
But literally everything else… sucked.
Let’s start with my pettiest gripe: the Siri-esque “Coach” device. A large percentage (HA!) of the world-building came to us in this tinny, lilting, almost inscrutable little voice. I’ll be upfront: I watch everything with captions because my hearing is bad and I have trouble with accents. That said, I had to rewind (10 seconds back baby!) a lot of the scenes where Coach launched into lengthy explanations about what was happening. And Coach had a LOT of explaining to do. I understand why these characters were both “new to the system” when they met, but damn, that meant that we relied heavily on Coach to explain what was going on, both to them in the moment and to us, the audience. And not only does it feel forced as a plot device when an omnipotent robot has to explain literally everything you’re trying to do with your story, buuuuuuuuuut (I’m a bitch) that voice was annoying as hell! I could barely follow what was happening.
Which was… what, exactly? There was a lot going on. Is this about the futility of dating apps? Free will? Technology interfering too much in our lives? I don’t 99.8% grasp what the message of this episode was. Technology is bad, but technology is good? Honestly, it felt like this whole episode was a glib, jokey answer OkCupid might put on their FAQ page to answer the query, “How do we come up with our match algorithms?” “Well, we put a tiny version of YOU and a tiny version of YOUR POTENTIAL MATCH through a series of infinite simulations and, if you both decide to rebel against the system to be together, IT’S A MATCH!” Like, please. Spare me.
And I didn’t want to hate this episode! Even though I’d already heard that it was a disappointment, through Twitter and in person. I LOVE online dating! I think it’s fascinating! I was kind of interested to see Black Mirror tackle the subject, see what their POV would be, see how they could add a really dystopian twist on it! And they….didn’t do any of that? It feels like this whole episode’s mission statement is like: “Online Dating: Yep, That Exists!” They play their whole hand — that it’s a simulation — midway through the episode, when the characters theorize that they’re actually part of a simulation. OOPS! Was that supposed to be a twist? Hmm, maybe don’t SPOIL YOUR OWN ENDING NEXT TIME.
What they started to explore, and then backed away from, was the interesting plot point towards the peak of the episode, when Frank breaks his promise to Amy and discovers how long their “relationship” will last. The “recalibrating” scene was heartbreaking and intriguing and possibly a metaphor? We see, up to that point, that Frank is starting to become unhappy in the relationship because he is obsessively worrying how long it will last. I thought, MAYBE, this is the key point to the episode: that what they’re trying to say is that you’ll never be happy in a relationship if you’re always concerned about it ending, or, fear of ending a relationship will cause you to self-sabotage? I thought they had a really good opportunity there to explore love, relationships, trust, human nature… but then they dove right back into “safer” territory by making it all about WOOOO TECHNOLOGY IS BAD! Or some shit. Or maybe they were saying, “Technology is GOOD!”? Honestly, it was really hard to tell.
But then, HAPPY ENDING! YAY! Maybe it’s true what they say in “San Junipero” – that Heaven is a place on Earth. Just hang in there until you find your 100% match.