For a series trademarked by a prime minister being forced to shag a pig and general horror, it’s telling that Black Mirror’s most critically acclaimed episode is the love story San Junipero.
Even though we fell in love with the show for its darkness, sometimes we just want to feel warm and fuzzy inside.
And it looks like Charlie Brooker has tried to recreate that magic with series four episode Hang The DJ.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
This dive into dating apps looks at whether you would stick with a relationship if you knew when it would end, and whether the apps that claim to be able to find the one for you are the authority on soulmates.
Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell) are first time users of the ‘System’, a dating app which puts users through numerous relationships, each with an ‘expiry date’, until they set them up with their ultimate compatible partner on their pairing day, which it does with 99.8% certainty.
Amy and Frank’s relationship has an expiry date of 12 hours, so after an awkward but sweet date, they part ways and are assigned new romances – Amy is given nine months with Lenny, while Frank gets a year with Nicola, who’s pretty much a nightmare.
Completely trusting the system, which says these relationships build up a better profile which will choose their soulmate, they stick with their terrible relationships – that is, until Frank and Amy run into each other at a garden party and realise they actually liked each other.
After Amy and Lenny’s romance expires, Amy is assigned multiple short flings, which she finds meaningless. But when Frank’s awful relationship ends, he and Amy are given another chance – but they promise each other not to check their expiry date.
Throughout their romance, they discuss the dating app, and pretty much give away the show’s ending. Franks asks: ‘Let’s assume the system isn’t random. It slurps up all your reactions, it builds up a complex profile. Every crazy thought you’ve ever had. All your dreams and your weaknesses.If it’s everything in your head, does it have thoughts?
‘What if that’s us, and we’re stuck in a simulation.’
Unfortunately, amidst the bliss, Frank soon gets weirded out by the fact his perfect relationship will end one day, and sneaks off to check the expiry date. The timer says five years – but, due to Frank breaking the promise, the time begins to rapidly reduce, leaving the couple with just 20 hours.
When Amy find out, she storms off, both of them left heartbroken. Amy is soon notified that her pairing day with a soulmate she has never met before is imminent, and she can meet someone else to say goodbye to. Still in love with Frank, she chooses her ex, then destroys her tablet and plots her escape.
She and Frank meet and Amy explains that she can’t remember anything of her life before the app – and neither can Frank. They choose to escape, and although guards emerge, everyone in the room freezes and the couple leave the two, beginning to climb a wall a la The Truman Show to leave. The world disappears, revealing it was actually a computer simulation. The app states that the simulation has been run 1000 times, logging 998 ‘rebellions’ from Frank and Amy.
In the real world, Amy, who is at a party, looks at her phone to see Frank’s picture with a 99.8% match on a dating app. The simulations are actually an app’s algorithm to find IRL people their true loves. The matched party-goers lock eyes across the room, and the episode ends.
Some people may find Hang The DJ a bit too saccharine, but beyond the ‘true love’ matching, there’s some great insights into real life dating apps, and the trust we put in them to match us with our soulmates and weed out the incompatible.
Amy asks Frank: ‘What if actually all [the System is] doing is wearing us down? Putting us in one relationship after another, in random sequences. Each time you get a little bit more pliable, a little bit more broken, until eventually it coughs up the final offering and says that’s the one.
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‘And by that point, you are so defeated and so exhausted that you just accept it, you settle. Then you have to spend the rest of your life convincing yourself you didn’t.’
Depressingly, that’s how a lot of real life relationships work. So underneath this sweet love story, there’s a pretty dark underbelly that’s a bit too real.
But amidst the darkness of series four, Hang The DJ is the warmest instalment and the only episode – maybe apart from USS Callister – that will leave you with a smile. It’s not as successful as last series’ San Junipero, but we won’t complain – we always need a bit more love in the world.
Black Mirror series four is available to stream on Netflix.
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