Warning: this story contains spoilers for the Black Mirror season 4 episode, "Black Museum." You can read a recap of the episode here.
Black Mirror confirms the fan theory that all of the storylines exist within one universe with a myriad of references in "Black Museum," proving that there is always something there to remind us of episodes past.
The final episode of season four, "Black Museum," serves as a literal museum, primarily memorializing past episodes involving technologically motivated crimes, though those aren't the only storylines alluded to in this episodic meta-reference.
There are easter eggs easily spotted, such as the broken tablet from "Arkangel" or the lollipop from "USS Callister." In a more overarching reference, the episode is formatted in the same way as season two's "White Christmas," which tells a series of three smaller stories before bringing it all together in the end.
One of the biggest hidden messages might be out of sight, but it is not out of mind if you listen closely to a song that is played in the season closer. "Always Something There To Remind Me" performed by Dionne Warwick plays as Nish, the episode's protagonist, drives through the desert, singing along. The song succinctly expresses the theme of the episode: Everything serves as a reminder.
Warwick's rendition of the song was written by songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David. First recorded as a demo by Warwick in 1963, it was Lou Johnson's recording of it charted the following year. Though Johnson's version was released first, it was Sandie Shaw's rendition of it made the biggest impression. It went to number one on the charts in the U.K. forever associating the "original" version of the song with Shaw (which showrunner Charlie Booker would be most familiar with).
Warwick begins to sing before the plot reveals itself cluing the viewer in on the interconnected universe they are about to witness. Why would Brooker choose the Dionne Warwick version specifically? That rendition, beautifully sung by an iconic, Black, and female performer could be a nod to Nish herself. Sandie Shaw, to whom most attribute the original version of the song, was English. The protagonist of the episode, Nish, originally pretends to be from the United Kingdom and the untrained ear might assume they hear that version of the song at first. Is it a hint for the viewer that we're about to be misdirected?
Most people would be more familiar with the later rendition of the song by Naked Eyes released in 1982, so for Brooker to choose the version by the artist who first sang the demo is a choice that unsettles us. It sounds familiar, but you can't quite place it due to the different arrangement. There is something unsettling about thinking you know something but not quite being able to put your finger on it. Hearing the early version of the hit no doubt triggers the brain to think that it has heard the song before. It is familiar but different which encompasses the entire underlying principle of the show itself. The song mirrors our interaction with the show. The universe of Black Mirror is uncannily like our own, but just different enough to unsettle us.
Similar to "San Junipero," Brooker cleverly inserts a pun through his choice of song. Last season in "San Junipero," it was Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" underscoring the realization at the end of the episode that, in fact, the heaven they were experiencing was a simulation while their bodily forms remained on earth. While there are a lot of references to the fan-favorite episode, this is perhaps the most subtle.
These are just a few of the nods made the show's previous stories. Director of "Black Museum," Colm McCarthy, says that if you watch closely, there is a reference to every single episode of Black Mirror. "There are Easter eggs, not just for this season but all the previous seasons as well. If you really start to go through it, you’ll find references for every single episode, right back to the first ever one," McCarthy revealed in an interview with Variety. "A lot were slipped in by designer Joel Collins, so we had a lot of fun playing 'spot the reference.' I’m a massive fan of 'Black Mirror' so for me, doing something that was an ode to the show itself was a lot of fun and easy to get my head around."
The show's creator, Charlie Brooker, confirmed the popular fan theory that the dark and twisted stories we see on the show exist within one universe. "We always used to say it’s a shared universe but then I started to say it’s a psychologically shared universe and now some of the episodes are definitely connected because there’s specific references within that story to things we’ve seen in other episodes," said Brooker to Express.
While much of what is referenced may make us feel uneasy, it is mostly reminding us of violent crimes committed using technology, the layering of references in this episode, the song in particular, is pretty brilliant.
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