Note: This story discusses major spoilers from the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ.”
Black Mirror took on Tinder, and the result was, surprisingly, perhaps the least cynical and most romantic episode in the show’s history (yes, even rivaling “San Junipero”). In the episode directed by The Sopranos veteran Tim Van Patten, Amy (Georgina Cambell) and Frank (Joe Cole) are matched by a rather uniquely strict dating app which mandates that couples stay together for a certain period of time — ranging from a few hours to mandating marriage. In the end, the duo risks their lives to rebel against the oppressive system in an attempt to stay together, and we learn they’re actually one in 1,000 simulated versions of a coupling run by a dating app. While in the real world, their human versions of themselves are just about to meet for the first time (to the tune of The Smiths’ “Panic,” with its fight-the-system chorus of “hang the DJ!”).
Here, Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker takes a few burning questions about “Hang the DJ.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I absolutely loved this episode. My co-worker was obsessed with wondering: How did you decide on “5 years” as being the right amount of time for a possible relationship to tease our lovestruck hero with before the app started re-calculating?
CHARLIE BROOKER: We did have a conversation about that, actually. We figured it was long enough so you’d think that it’s not devastating news, but it’s not forever. He does react like he’s disappointed but not reassured. Five years is long enough so you might think, “Maybe we’re going to drift apart.” Because we realized it couldn’t be infinity, so he knows she’s not going to be his ultimate match. Five years seemed like you’d go, “Okay that’s a reasonable amount of time for a serious relationship, a serious bond.”
Like “San Junipero,” “Hang the DJ” is emotionally a very happy ending yet intellectually perhaps less so since the superiority of technology triumphs again. What should we take from that final moment?
I think it’s a very happy moment and I think Tim did a brilliant job of directing it, and Georgina and Joe did a fantastic part playing that final scene. They know they are destined to have a very serious relationship and they’re each others’ chosen ones and I think they go through a gamut of emotions. You see them finding it exciting and taking on the weight of it, and then you see Georgina quite playfully just steps toward him at the very end. I hope the takeaway is that it’s playful and hopeful. So though there’s an algorithm that brought them together, and now they’re about to take the first step on that journey together.
If they didn’t rebel at the end, what would our simulated couple have experienced instead?
That is a very good question! Now we do see at the end, [the app] runs it 1,000 times and two didn’t rebel. So I would think they would be matched with a random other person and their world would end. We did have a lot of torturous conversations about what’s really going on. We decided it’s a cloud-based system that’s simulating 1,000 different run-throughs of yourself and a potential partner to see how many times you’d rebel against it. And it deliberately is setting a tight framework. And if they do rebel, that means they’re destined to be together. So if you don’t rebel, the system has served its purpose and your reality ends.
More Black Mirror season 4 postmortem interviews:
— Charlie Brooker reveals a secret inspiration for ‘USS Callister’
— Black Mirror creator explains that ‘Metalhead’ robot nightmare
— Black Mirror creator reveals what Jodie Foster changed in Arkangel
— Black Mirror creator answers our burning ‘Crocodile’ questions
— Black Mirror: We rank all 19 episodes
Black Mirror season 4 is streaming now on Netflix.