Note: This story discusses spoilers from the Black Mirror episode “Arkangel.”
The new Black Mirror episode “Arkangel” landed a big-name talent in Jodie Foster, who also brought her own specific ideas to the table. Below, our five-part chat with Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker continues about the latest episodes of his acclaimed Netflix anthology series. In “Arkangel,” a mother (Marie, played by Rosemarie Dewitt) with an over-protective instinct adopts an all-seeing surveillance technology to monitor her daughter (Sara, played as an adult by Brenna Harding), which naturally backfires wildly.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Should we take this as a critique of helicopter parenting?
CHARLIE BROOKER: Helicopter parenting is something I have a great deal of sympathy for because I’m probably quite a helicopter parent myself. My kids are three and five years old and I worry about them constantly. Rather than a critique, it’s sympathetic. I’ve walked out of the room when they’re watching something on YouTube and the algorithm plays video after video, and I walk in and my five-year-old is watching a trailer for The Thing and I was a bit concerned by that. I have sympathy for the parental need to protect so certainly that’s where it comes from — hopefully Marie’s motivations are understandable throughout even though she does become more and more interfering, you can see why.
You said previously that Jodie Foster changed some things from your original script. What was changed?
She had lots of thoughts about Marie’s relationship with her father. She beefed up the role with the father; that role wasn’t really in there. It was very slight before. She thought we should say something about Marie’s relationship with men, generally, so the brittle relationship she has with her father — he’s kind of a tough character — she added that in there. She also had a lot of observations about how the technology would work. Also, Marie’s motivations to do something about Sara’s relationship with [her boyfriend], and that there would be a great sense of protection and a sort of sense of anger in a way because she’s sacrificed a lot of things to bring up her daughter. There’s a flare of anger in there that isn’t just to do with protection, there’s something else going on there. She had thoughts across the board but those were ones that occur to me right now.
I was surprised at the level of violence in her attack on her mom. Was there some discussion of how many whacks mom deserved?
Well, yeah, weirdly. Because it’s seeing the sensor from her point of view, there had to be a certain number of whacks so you the viewer understood what was going on as well. You also needed enough to knock her unconscious. And just on a pragmatic level, it needed to be more than a couple because she’s not really aware of what she’s doing fully until the system shuts itself off again. I think we did dial it back, actually. There was quite a few extra whacks in there. There was more that you saw in a longshot that weirdly felt more brutal.
More Black Mirror season 4 postmortem interviews:
— Black Mirror creator explains that ‘Metalhead’ robot nightmare
— Charlie Brooker reveals a secret inspiration for ‘USS Callister’
— Black Mirror creator answers our burning ‘Crocodile’ questions
— Black Mirror showrunner reveals the ‘Hang the DJ’ ending you didn’t see
— Black Mirror: We rank all 19 episodes
Black Mirror season 4 is streaming now on Netflix.