Late last month, Netflix unveiled an expectedly cryptic teaser for the next batch of episodes for Black Mirror. Since this is a show famous for its mind-bending twist endings, revealing its cards too soon would be wildly contradictory. But now, the streaming hub has returned with the first photos from Black Mirror Season 4, and though it's nearly impossible to presume what dystopian nightmares Charlie Brooker and co. have cooked up this time around, that doesn't stop the fun in guessing.
In the first promo image, for an episode titled "USS Callister," Jesse Plemons sits front and center in what looks like the captain's chair of a spaceship. He's flanked be co-stars including Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson, Billy Magnussen, and Michaela Coel (from Netflix sister show Chewing Gum). Also pictured is a blue-faced actor, who's difficult to identify from this distance, but appears to be dressed as an alien.
Their costumes are an obvious riff on Star Trek, right down to the '60s Go-Go boots, but knowing Black Mirror, it will be set in the future, not the past. The brief Black Mirror Season 4 teaser made it seem as if there was an alien life force wreaking havoc on the crew aboard — it showed Milioti engulfed in a bright, torturous light — but the photo suggests harmony between humankind and their otherworldly brethren. At one point in the clip, Plemons' character turns to give Milioti a suspiciously delighted smirk, so perhaps he'll be the villain of this particular story.
What we do know so far? "USS Callister" is directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock). It's also the only episode of the new season that Brooker co-wrote, pairing again with William Bridges, whom he previously collaborated with on Season 3's "Shut Up and Dance," an episode that follows a group of people blackmailed by hackers into carrying out strange and often dangerous actions. What we don't know about this episode? Pretty much everything else.
The second image comes from "Arkangel," directed by Jodie Foster — yes, that Jodie Foster — and starring Mad Men's Rosemarie DeWitt, Bloodline's Owen Teague, and A Place to Call Home's Brenna Harding. In the photo, a concerned mother stands by as a doctor seemingly inserts something into her daughter's head. (It's worth noting that Foster marks Black Mirror's first female director, a particularly apt choice for capturing the mother-daughter relationship that seems to drive the episode.)
In an interview with The Telegraph, Brooker called the episode more of an "indie drama," and The Wrap theorized that it could have something to do with surveillance. Given that "archangel" is a theological term for a high-ranking angel, there's certainly a Big Brother feel, while the technology harkens back to Black Mirror's Season 1 episode "The Entire History of You," in which everyone has memory-driven implants that allow them to replay every moment of their lives. It's doubtful "Arkangel" will repeat that exact storyline, but Brooker has floated around the idea of sequels in the past, and with Black Mirror, every door is open.
The series' shift from BBC to Netflix last season helped to broaden the show's fan base, amp up buzz, and even earn three Primetime Emmy nominations, and though it already had its fair share of accolades and acclaim, the stakes have perhaps never been higher for Black Mirror to deliver.
Netflix has yet to announce a release date for Season 4, so it will likely be a little longer until viewers will be able to watch these episodes unfold. In the meantime, though, expect plenty more mystifying hints and twice the speculation.