Martin Carr reviews Black Mirror’s Arkangel…
Protecting your child or hindering their development both emotionally and psychologically are the stuff of adult counselling sessions. People pay good money to lay there, unburden themselves and seek solace from a professional practitioner of the mind. Any number of things can lead them to this type of solution, so the question being posed by ‘Arkangel’ is simple. How far would you go as a parent to protect your children, shelter them from bad influences and by default navigate them out of danger?
That of course is only one possible way of looking at this. However Jodie Foster and Charlie Brooker may choose to dress things up, ‘Arkangel’ is no more about parental protection than Downfall was about bunker maintenance made easy circa 1944. This rites of passage slash growing pains time-lapse study in parenting, throws up more than the obvious posers. Like pay per view webcam watchers the vicarious nature of this technological leap, is not only intrinsically linked to a very real industry but pulls no punches when it comes to the emotional fallout.
As uncomfortable as certain elements of ‘Arkangel’ might be, director Jodie Foster handles everything with a measured and sensitive detachment, in line with audience expectations without over stepping boundaries. Each actress who plays Sara life gives a committed performances adding an extra sense of realism to the more fantastical elements proposed by Brooker. Once more we come back round towards the ethical boundaries being explored through the application of an irreversible medical procedure. Questions of who exactly benefits, how much of a right parents have in dictating behaviour, not to mention the moral conundrum which occurs when they come of age.
Of all the episodes thus far ‘Arkangel’ is possibly the most serious. There are no tongue in cheek moments, no black comedy and never one hint of humour. Foster approaches the premise with consideration but no lightness of touch. These invasive moments of privacy purposely pillaged by an overly protective mother are spared no quarter. In this episode although the performances are powerful it is the pitch which remains the star. Brooker merely tracks events as they disintegrate, monitors relationships are they collapse then stands back having thrown that final burning pipe bomb. In the aftermath and following due consideration this might not be the stand out of an outstanding season, but ‘Arkangel’ certainly raises interesting questions.