Black Mirror's Arkangel : The Unexpected Character We Need To Talk About
***This post contains tons of SPOILER ALERTS. This is your only chance to avoid learning the ending of Black Mirror's Arkangel Episode***
I'm three episodes into Black Mirror Season 4, but the second episode, Arkangel, stuck with me. I woke this morning with the characters still fresh in my brain, the desolate mother Marie screaming in the middle of the street with blood on her face, her daughter Sara hitchhiking out of town, and the story question still stirring : How far would you go to protect your child?
Basic premise: Arkangel is an experimental program that implants a tiny chip into a child's mind allowing a parent to track her. Parents see what their children see, monitor their health, and can even apply a parental lock which filters harmful or distressing situations so the child only sees "blurs". Marie, a single mom, implants Arkangel into her daughter Sara's mind after a "stranger danger" scare. Eventually, Marie disables it in order to allow Sara to have a more normal life. But when Sara becomes a teenager and stays out past curfew, Marie breaks out the Arkangel and discovers her daughter has been lying. Sara has a secret boyfriend, Trick.
Trick, the neighborhood bad boy, actually is a pretty decent guy despite selling drugs on the side. It's those drugs that Sara samples. Marie watches from the Arkangel control pad, finds Trick, and goes a bit crazy, threating him with jail (Sara is a minor) until he agrees not to see Sara again. Fast forward to Arkangel notifying Marie that Sara's pregnant, Marie crushing a morning after pill into Sara's smoothie, Sara getting sick at school, the school nurse telling Sara about the miscarriage, Sara discovering her mom is still using Arkangel, Sara pounding Marie's face in with the Arkangel controller and Sara hitchhiking out of town.
The scene that stuck with me the most wasn't the ending. It was when Sarah confronts her boyfriend Trick about his sudden disinterest. He never tells her that Marie was behind the breakup, and it doesn't seem like Sara ever puts that piece together, which only makes their breakup more heartbreaking. Because while we know Sara has grown into a strong young woman and she'll be fine in the scary world, Trick's fate is a question mark.
From the beginning, he fits into the bad boy mold complete with a school yard fight. We get a sense things aren't great at home. Even as a teen, Trick sells drug only as a means to move out. He discourages Sara from trying hard drugs, which she does anyways. Basically, he's not a bad teen, and I could argue that if Marie took the time to get to know Trick, she would have had some compassion for him. Instead, he has to break up with Sara, presumably the one bit of hope and goodness in his life.
And where does that leave him? Where does that leave anyone who finally found a slice of light only to have it distinguished?
Does his heartbreak turn to anger once he discovers Sara left town? Does he start taking his own drugs? Will he end up arrested for his illegal side business? If Sara had stayed, would they have had a second chance? Would he have given up all his shady behavior because of her? I don't know, but I'd like to think he keeps moving forward, keeps trying to find something good to hang onto in what can be presumed to be a difficult life. Either way, he's the unexpected "sticky" character in Arkangel, the one I kept thinking about. And I'm rooting for him.