Black Mirror was a highly anticipated Netflix Original Series that recently came out with a fourth season. Each episode is an individual story that follows the downfall of increasing technology mixed with human nature. The series is amazing and extremely well-done, but while binge-watching the new episodes, I noticed a missed opportunity in “Arkangel”.
“Arkangel” is about a single mother, Marie, who installs the Arkangel software into her then-infant daughter Sara, in order to know her movements and her experiences at any time from a tablet. During the download, a scientist explains that the Arkangel software had the ability to “filter out” any bad visuals, as to protect her daughter. Stimuli like blood, violence, rabid dogs and porn are blocked. Sara cannot see them or react to them.
This is shown when Marie leaves Sara and her grandfather alone at the house to go to work. Sara’s grandfather collapses, unable to breathe, and Sara had no idea what was going on. She had no perceived need to help her grandfather. The Grandfather is shown later to have died shortly after.
Sara is later shown, still as a small child, harming herself with sharp pencils because she can’t see the blood that comes out. It is truly a chilling scene, and the idea got me thinking. Arkangel primarily focuses on the downsides of “helicopter parenting”, which results in teenager Sara abandoning Marie after they physically fight, but I would have loved to see the effects of Arkangel on Sara’s development in areas of empathy.
Sara’s inability as a child to see disturbing stimuli would have definitely impaired her sense of empathy, she wouldn’t be able to deduce that anything was wrong when bad things occurred to people around her. She was even shown to have endured bullying, being called “chip head” in one of the scenes. However, this had no effect on teenager Sara. She was shown to be similar to all her friends in personality and mentality.
This was slightly confusing and disappointing to me. Sara went a lot of her life feeling no empathy for others, not even feeling most negative emotions. These experiences are what give humans the ability to sympathize with others. Sara, as an older child then a teenager, would have no feeling towards the conditions of others.
Now, I’m no psychologist and I don’t want to imply anything unprecedented. I was simply disappointed with this episode, seeing as Black Mirror has a good reputation regarding showing the evilest and most bone-chilling sides of humanity. This episode had so much potential, some that I was excited to see the outcomes of from the very beginning, but chose to go in a more palpable, frankly superficial direction.
However much I wished was shown, this was still a brilliantly done episode and truly adds volumes to the Black Mirror universe. I, as a devout fan, am thrilled to see what’s next for this series.