This episode of Black Mirror is a little fable about how we humans are but one moment away from losing our precarious grip on morality, and committing act of sheer, unfathomable cruelty. You ready?
“Crocodile” begins with a moment from the past, the consequences of which will unfurl in dramatic ways in the rest of the episode. After a night of partying, a couple sets off on an isolated mountainside road. All of a sudden, the man (Andrew Gower), who is driving, hits and kills a bike rider. Though his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) wants to call the police, her boyfriend resists. He’d been drinking, and knows calling the police could result in his going to jail. After some hysteria, he convinces her to help roll the body into a sleeping bag, and toss him into the massive lake below the cliff. They dump the bike, too.
15 years later, the girlfriend — Mia Nolan — has chopped off her red hair, and dyed it blonde. She lives in a beautiful, glass-walled house in a barren winter landscape with her bear of a husband, and 9-year-old son. She’s getting ready to speak at an architecture conference. She says goodbye to her family, and then travels to give her lecture.
Then, we meet the second main character (Kiran Sonia Sawar), an insurance agent. She’s driving to speak to a woman about her neck injury, and “log information” about the accidents on a device called the Recaller. More on that later.
After, we cut to a cityscape somewhere. A young man collects a pizza from a self-driving pizza delivery truck. Convenient, no?
Mia Nolan is staying in a posh hotel that overlooks the pizza truck — this will be important. She‘s chilling out in her posh hotel when the door rings. It’s her ex-boyfriend Rob, the guy from the beginning of the episode. She offers Rob a drink, but he says he’s been sober for nine months. The hotel is down the road from a brewery now, and Mia comments on the difficulty of staying sober with the smell of hops in the air. But Rob isn’t in the mood for joking around. He needs to speak to her about something.
Much to Mia’s chagrin, it’s about the thing they did 15 years ago on that desolate stretch of road. Rob pulls out a newspaper. The wife of the man they killed had recently given an interview to a newspaper. His body still hadn’t been found, so she’s been waiting for him, all these years.
Rob is going to write the wife an anonymous letter, which Mia vehemently opposes. She’s furious because, as you’ll recall, she had wanted to call the police all those years ago. Now, she has a family. News of the accident could unravel her whole life, but Rob doesn’t care — he’s set on doing this. As he gets up to leave, Mia is seized by some feral focus. She pushes him onto the wall. He loses his balance and falls to the floor, where he hits his head. She straddles him. They struggle; eventually, she manages to kill him.
Instead of crying or freaking out, Mia calmly stands by the window, and happens to see the pizza truck speed by and hit a young man. Across the way, a dentist in his office can see Mia.
Cut to the insurance agent. She’s home, with her husband. He’s just given her a birthday present, and it’s a...guinea pig! Though at first the agent isn’t thrilled, she concedes that it’ll be a good present for Ali, who we can only assume is their child.
Mis quickly comes up with a plan for body disposal. She calls room service, and puts Rob’s body in the bottom. Then, she orders a porn film (Erika Lust!) so that it seems she’s been in the room all along. She drives Rob’s corpse to one of her building project’s construction sites, and pushes him into what seems like a steam grate.
When she returns home the next day, she’s clearly addled. Her husband reminds her about their son’s performance at 7:30, and they both leave for the rest of the day. She downs a glass of wine like you’d drink Gatorade after a game of college frisbee.
Meanwhile, the insurance agent is trying to piece together a case for the man who got hit by the pizza truck. Deciphering whether the van was really going too fast is not as straightforward as usual, because the street camera had been vandalized and covered in paint, and the van itself didn’t have a camera. So, the agent will have to solve the case using this episode’s singular piece of technology: The Recaller, a device that dredges up and recalls memories.
Essentially, the Recaller is a small square that, when pinned to a person’s temple, can dredge up “engrams” — or, memories — that can corroborate accounts of events. In the past, only law enforcement used these; now, everyone does. Though memories are emotional and subjective, if the agent can gather enough, she can have a definitive account.
The agent pins him in the temple, and then sets up her little portable computer device. She gives him some hops to smell to kickstart his memory (remember, the street was near a brewery!), and he begins to narrate. As he does, the agent sees the scene unspool before her in a small portable TV. The man recalls seeing a young woman in a yellow jacket, and then getting hit by a van. The agent is able to identify the woman’s face with a name, and goes to visit her at her industrial job next day.
Nomi, the yellow jacket woman, gives her own account. Though she didn’t see the accident happen, she remembered seeing a flash from the dentist's office nearby. Ever the persistent insurer, the agent goes to the dentist the following day. He’s not thrilled to speak to her; something had happened he was embarrassed about. The agent reassures him: All of his engrams will remain private — so long as he hadn’t been harming himself or others, that is. As it turns out, the dentist had caught a glimpse of a handsome naked man in the hotel, and tried to take a picture, but the flash went off. He, too, didn’t see the accident. But he did see a woman watching from the hotel window. Her face in his memory is extremely blurry.
The agent goes to the hotel and tries to find the name of the woman in his engram. The desk can’t give out the name, but he does say that she watched an “interesting” film while she was in the hotel.
The insurance agent is home, and explaining to her husband why this case so difficult to solve. No one actually saw the event, except maybe this blurry-faced woman. Luckily, the computer software matches Mia to the blur. The agent explains to her husband that she has to go see Mia tonight, so she can get twice the bonus. She prepares to make the long 50 km drive to the middle of nowhere to Mia’s house.
At first, Mia is not willing to speak. Then, the agent reminds her that if she refuses, she has to get the police involved. Mia is obviously jumpy; to reassure her, the agent explains that Mia doesn’t have to say anything about what happened in the room, figuring she might be embarrassed about the porn. Mia gets up to make her an espresso to stall (and the camera zooms on the knives. Not good!)
After trying to gather a story in the bathroom, Mia sits down for the memory recollection process. At first, her exact memories about the van accident appear on the Recaller’s screen. Just what the agent needs. Then, however, she starts seeing flashes of Rob’s dead face and the man they had killed accidentally. The agent is, rightly, freaked out — especially considering how tense Mia is acting.
The agent gathers her stuff quickly and runs outta there. Mia chases her verging on hysteria, saying that sometimes, her mind imagines things. The agent knows she’s in danger. For some reason, her car won’t start. Next thing we know, crazy Mia is using a huge rock to break open the car window.
The agent awakes in a dingy shed with fabric in her mouth. She’s terrified and sobbing. Mia is very perturbed, and not sure what to do with the agent — though she’s clearly considering committing her second murder in 24 hours. Mia removes the rope, so long as the agent promises not to scream. Though the agent assures Mia she will destroy the evidence and forget everything that happened, Mia doesn’t believe her. She knows she’s trapped. Mia asks whether the agent had told anyone where she was headed. The agent lies and says no. Mia, who’s a bad murderer but fairly smart, then uses the the recaller on the agent, and sees her talking to her husband. With that, Mia takes a large log, and holds the agent’s head against the wall near where she’s sitting. Only Mia emerges from the shack.
Four words: This! Woman’s! Lost! It!
Mia then goes to the agent's car, and finds the address for “home” in the GPS. She receives a call from her husband about the show, and promises she’ll make it in time. Not before making a stop to the agent’s home, though, a small and cute colonial. Not anything Mia would have lived in.
When Mia arrives, the husband is watching TV. Mia is wearing all black and has a bandana over her face. She’s gone full murderer. Mia stealthily goes up the stairs to follow him. She finds him in the bathtub, and walks closer to him, carrying a hammer. He only notices her when her phone vibrates (probably good ol’ hubby calling about the concert). Bang bang, Mia’s silver hammer went down upon his head. After she kills him, Mia sits on the toilet, and it all dawns on her. What. The. Heck!
She goes downstairs, and we brace ourselves. Because that’s when we remember Ali, the baby. Of course Mia’s going to hear the baby. And she does. A little girl, standing in the crib. Mia stands in the girl’s doorway. We don’t want to know what she does next. In a rare moment of mercy from Black Mirror, the camera looks away.
Next, we see Mia meeting her husband outside a performance hall. She goes inside. Her son is dressed up and singing a song about reinventing himself with a bunch of other kids.
Meanwhile, the cops have very quickly managed to arrive on premises for the murders that occurred in the poor agent’s house. They can’t explain why someone would kill a baby — a blind baby, at that. The detective couldn’t possibly put together the motivations for this crime. Luckily, the guinea pig had been watching from Ali’s room. The specialists hook the guinea pig up to the Recaller. I guess guinea pigs have memories?
The episode’s last shot is of Mia, at the show. She looks like her whole spirit has been gouged out. All of this, happening in one day. Of course she’s going to get caught, but that’s not even the point. The point is: Do we all have this inside us? The drive to keep your life the way it is, always? Crocodile is more bleak than the stark Icelandic landscape in which it’s set, if that is even possible.
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