A young girl gets a tour of a museum filled with 'authentic criminal artifacts'
What happens when an anthology series does an anthology episode? The result is “Black Museum,” the season 4 finale, which features three seemingly separate stories being told, only to culminate in a powerful twist. The installment is also noteworthy for creator Charlie Brooker hinting that for the first time, there’s a reference to every previous episode. Did you spot them all? Because I’m going to be honest and admit that I didn’t — I kept just hoping for a big white bear to walk across the screen.
“Black Museum” begins with a young British girl named Nish (Letitia Wright) taking a scenic route through the mountains. She makes a stop at an abandoned gas station; with an estimated three hours to charge her car, she decides to take a look at a nearby building called “Rolo Haynes’ Black Museum.” The door is locked, so she takes a look around the side. A man eventually opens up, introducing himself as Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge), the museum’s owner. He invites her in, checking her bag and making her walk through a metal detector. They make small talk, as she says she’s “sort of” on vacation to surprise her dad for his birthday.
It’s now time to start the tour. As they walk into a room that houses “authentic criminal artifacts,” Haynes notices that the air conditioning isn’t working. “If it did something bad, chances are it’s in here,” he shares. He doesn’t want to rush ahead to the main attraction, so he starts things off with a story about Dr. Peter Dawson.
Before Haynes opened this crime museum, he worked in medical technology at hospital in New York City. His job was to recruit people for experimental treatments. One day, Haynes notices Dawson get frustrated over losing a patient, so he approaches him with a proposition. They’ve been developing a way to transfer knowledge from one brain to another. Experiments on mice and a maze failed, but it helped them accidentally discover that physical sensations can be shared, leading to the creation of a neural implant prototype that will help doctors diagnosis patients by feeling what they feel.
Dawson is all in on the idea and goes through with the irreversible procedure. The item on display in the museum is the device that gets placed on the patient’s head to send the sensation to Dawson. It’s immediately successful and Dawson’s riding high off of it, even using the system for sex, which allows him to simultaneously have both male and female orgasms. “But,” interrupts Nish. “Dawson’s having a great time, there’s got to be a but.” This girl knows what she’s talking about, because being hooked up to a poisoned senator results in Dawson blacking out. “Dawson had experienced death and come out the other side,” says Haynes, revealing that this forever changed the doctor. “The more pain he felt, the more pleasure he got.”
After trying to hurt his girlfriend in order to experience the discomfort and having to be pulled off of a patient, Dawson is no longer allowed at work. Stuck by himself at home, the pain addict begins hurting himself (I have to admit that I could barely watch as he pulled his own teeth out). “But it was never enough,” reveals Haynes. “When he was working on himself, there was a crucial element missing — fear.” Dawson ends up going hunting for prey, settling on a homeless man. The cops interrupt, but not before the doctor begins using a drill on his victim.
Dawson has been in a vegetated state ever since. “They say he still has that look on his face,” says Haynes. “Still riding that high.” We see Dawson lying in a hospital bed with a big smile and a big erection. “You’re f—ing with me, right?” asks Nish, forcing Haynes to admit he made up the latter part.
The air conditioning not working has started to have an effect on Haynes. Thankfully, Nish is nice enough to offer him some of her water. He’s hydrated up, so let’s move on to the next criminal object, which happens to be an adorable stuffed monkey. “Actually, one of the saddest things in the whole place,” declares Haynes. “You ever had one of those relationships where you just can’t get someone out of your head?” We’re introduced to Carrie and Jack (Aldis Hodge, a.k.a. Voodoo Tatum). It’s the classic tale of boy meets girl, boy impregnates girl, girl gives birth, girl gets hit by a van. Carrie ends up in a coma for years, but Jack continues to visit her religiously and she’s able to communicate through an intercom system. Once again, Haynes roams the hallways of the hospital looking for prospective test subjects. “She can live again,” he pitches to Jack. “She can hug your son via you.” Well, who could say no to that? (Recap continues on page 2)
Carrie and Jack agree to have her consciousness transferred into his brain. Unfortunately, this means her physical body is gone for good. The procedure is a success. Carrie is now in Jack’s head, able to see what he sees, feel what he feels. But the good times won’t last. The couple constantly argue, so they go back to Haynes for advice. He offers to give “more control” to Jack. These new controls will allow him to place Carrie on pause. It doesn’t take long for him to use the new function when she complains about him checking out other women. He’s also not thrilled with the lack of privacy for his own pleasure time. “It’s like trying to jerk off in front of a cop whose also your mom,” he yells. That doesn’t sound ideal. When he does finally unpause her, it only seems like moments for her, but it’s been months.
The decision is made to basically turn Carrie into a divorced dad and just give her weekend privileges. But even that is short lived once another woman comes into Jack’s life. With Emily quickly growing tired of this unorthodox situation, she and Jack go to see Haynes, who brings up the option of deletion. “That would be killing her,” argues Jack. The mad scientist does have another option: a stuffed monkey. Originally put into beta testing for terminally ill parents, Haynes suggests they move Carrie’s consciousness into the toy.
Carrie’s completely unaware of the change until she wakes up when she’s unwrapped by her son. Similar to her coma intercom, she’s provided with two response buttons. One says, “Monkey loves you,” and the other goes, “Monkey needs a hug.” As Carrie freaks out and keeps repeating the latter phrase, Emily threatens to get rid of her. Over time, the young boy also gets tired of the monkey. Haynes reveals that the monkey itself is the crime since the transfer process was made illegal, leading to him being fired from the hospital. Oh, and even sadder, Carrie’s still in there. “Monkey needs a hug,” says the toy to Nish.
The heat continues to take its toll on Rolo, but he won’t let that stop him from unveiling the museum’s main attraction: a hologram of Clayton Lee (Babs Olusanmokun), the man convicted of killing a weather girl. Updates on the case had appeared in the background of both previous stories. “He looks so real,” opines Nish, who seems affected by seeing this broken version of a human. “Well, it is him…or a fully conscious upload of him,” reveals Haynes.
He then gives the background of how Lee landed here. After his firing from the hospital, Haynes was trying to find a way to make money off the transfer of consciousnesses. And when his plan to use celebrities didn’t work out, he came up with the idea of recruiting high-profile killers. Upon meeting with Lee, Haynes offered to give the man’s family a cut of the profits in exchange for the rights to his post-death consciousness. It’s clear that Lee’s case isn’t unfamiliar to Nish,
Lee would eventually get the electric chair, only to be “born again” at the museum as a hologram. Haynes’ plans didn’t just call for Lee to be put there for show, but through the the Dawson project, he was able to recreate the pain felt by the electric chair. So when customers flocked to the museum, they’d each get to the pull the lever and have Lee electrocuted, as well as get a souvenir snapshot copy of Lee’s mind constantly experiencing the pain.
Haynes has told all of these stories with sheer delight, but he’s really into this one. His manicial laugh soon turns into choking, with Nish not doing anything to help him. “You’re missing parts of the story, Mr. Haynes,” she says, dropping her British accent. “Why is that?” Nish fills in some of the parts that he conveniently left out, such as Lee’s wife organizing protests, which didn’t free him, but killed the museum’s business. When his wife finally came to see him, he was a shell of himself, the result of Haynes’ extending the length of the shocks. “God knows if he even recognized her,” shares Nish. “God knows if he even recognizes me.” She puts her hand on the glass and he temporarily does the same. “Dad,” she says. “Happy birthday.” Nish reveals that she hacked the air conditioning and poisoned the water. She also puts the Dawson helmet on Haynes’ head, promising, “Don’t worry, we’re going to see you on the other side.” He dies.
But he soon wakes up in Lee’s virtual head, just like Carrie was in Jack’s. Nish has taken the limit off of the chair in hopes of setting her dad free and forever torturing Haynes. She pulls the lever, getting herself a little souvenir too, with this one featuring Haynes. Nish heads back to her car with the stuffed monkey in tow. Looking at the rear-view mirror, which now holds her souvenir, she asks “How did I do, mom?” This leads to the final twist reveal of Nish’s mom, who we learn overdosed after seeing her husband and has had her consciousness transferred into her daughter’s head. Nish drives off as the museum becomes engulfed in flames.
What did you think? Which was your favorite individual story? How many of the episode references did you catch?