Back in Season 3, Black Mirror delivered one of the greatest love stories I think I’ve ever seen on TV in the form of San Junipero and with Hang the DJ it seems that lightning has struck twice. Going into an episode of this show usually follows the same pattern, things start ordinary, some tech-based plot device is thrown in then things take a turn for the worse. What is so goddamn refreshing about Hang the DJ is its boldness to take these themes and have fun with them. This both the funniest episode of the show to date and the one which most plays with its viewer’s expectations.
The basic premise of the show involves a Utopian world in which its citizens must pair up and go on dates which in turn gather information with the end goal of finding everyone their perfect match, seems fine, right? Well yes and no. You see, each meet-cute has a predetermined duration, anywhere from hours to years. This “expiration date” is leaned by both parties at the start of the date which in turn influences the nature of it, naturally.
The clever thing about Hang the DJ though is that while this simulated matchmaking is a little strange, it is so similar to what we as humans put ourselves through anyway. With apps like Tinder becoming the norm as far as dating is concerned, society’s notions and expectations around dating have changed. At this point, it is generally accepted that sex is just a part of a Tinder date; you go to dinner, chat and then fuck. Charlie Brooker and his team lean into this with some genuinely hilarious and insightful results.
The heart of the episode is its two main characters Frank and Amy. From the second these two meet, the chemistry and dynamic between the two characters is an absolute joy to watch. The two seem to light up and stand out against the backdrop of the hundreds of other plain-clothed couples meandering around them. Things are not smooth sailing and with this being Black Mirror and all there are several twists and turns. This is of course commonplace by now but when you have two characters as good as these the tension is at times unbearable. Seeing Frank sentenced to a year of joyless lovemaking and small talk is made easier to watch because of the reliability of it all. The short term relationships only serve to disenchant and confuse the characters and the long term ones quickly devolve into loveless marriages of books at bedtime and kisses on the cheek.
Things are not as they seem as Amy starts to prod and poke her environment. After realising she has no real memories of anything other than the place she is in, she starts to question the reality of it all. These textbook Black Mirror tropes are quickly laughed off by Frank, and normality is resumed. The dystopian themes which the show so often leans heavily into mostly fall into the background as the two protagonists develop. The show has always been at its strongest when telling grounded human stories in a future-dystopian setting so it is great to see the show runners dip back into that well.
There’s a real rubber-band effect whenever our two lovebirds are apart, causing the viewer to seriously route for them. There are many themes at play here but the arbitrary nature of our selection process in terms of life-partners hits all too close to home. All of this random matching is not for nothing however as eventually everyone ends up with the one. We are constantly reminded of this by each character’s digital coach, “everything happens for a reason”.
Hang the DJ paints the picture of a strange world in which lovers are assigned for fixed durations of time. But however strange the decor and future-tech present here, it is impossible not to see the striking similarities to our own day to day lives. This episode certainly doesn’t have a huge political agenda to push, or a warning about the future, in its place you’ll find a love story, one which had me smiling ear to ear as the credits rolled (I’m not crying, I swear).
Verdict – 9 Out of 10