“Black Mirror” (season 4) episode 5, “Metalhead,” is the shortest episode of the season, which aired in 2017. Written by Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade, this episode has a special place among “Black Mirror” fans because it is notable for its stark, black-and-white cinematography and minimalist narrative to draw out the world as a really grim, nihilistic place to live in.

The point that this episode wishes to highlight is really simple as well—as human beings, we are completely dependent on technology, and that can sometimes lead to eerie implications, robbing us of all the little joys in life. If you have watched all the “Black Mirror” episodes, you know how the 6th season doubles down on this particular theme in greater depth. Let’s dive into this tense, hour-long episode and understand it in detail, along with its themes and metaphors, below.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 “Metalhead” Recap:

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is hunted by robotic dogs, the episode opens with a casual conversation between Bella (played by Maxine Peake), Anthony (played by Clint Dyer), and Clake (played by Jake Davies). They are in a car, passing by a pig farm and reminiscing about how pigs roamed about there before the dogs hunted them down. These dogs, since we are in a dystopian world in the course of the story, are autonomous robotic creatures equipped with tools, such as scanners to track down human beings and guns in place of limbs to hunt them down.

The trio is out on a mission to retrieve a mysterious box from a warehouse that they believe will be dog-free. They stop at the warehouse, and finding the box isn’t quite difficult. But soon after they break into the warehouse, they inadvertently trigger the security system, releasing one of the robotic dogs, which is resting right behind this box. It attacks them, and Clarke and Anthony meet extremely heinous and tragic ends while Bella escapes. The rest of the episode focuses on Bella’s journey through the wilderness in order to escape this robotic predator.

The rest of the episode focuses on Bella’s desperate struggle for survival. She tries to communicate with other people via her walkie-talkie, but the signal isn’t clear enough. She informs the people about the fate of her companions and ruminates on how her sister had asked her not to embark on this mission, but she just wanted to help her with Jack because she knows that Jack is in pain. Meanwhile, the robotic dog is seen using its futuristic technology to track down Bella. In her final words over the talkie, she asks them to communicate to Graham that she loves him.

Next, Bella uses various strategies to evade the dog, including hiding out on top of a tree from the robotic dog (unable to climb the tree with its injured arm), which guards the ground beneath it. Soon, she thinks she has successfully evaded the thing and, while on the run, chances upon a house. Despite her resourcefulness, the dog relentlessly pursues her, demonstrating its advanced tracking capabilities and adaptive AI. Bella manages to successfully break into the house and fix her previous injury but is also left deeply shocked at the skeletons in the bedroom, which hint at their unfortunate ends, possibly in their sleep.

The dog hacks the security system and makes its way into the house, where the scenes leading up to its tense climax take place. The scenes are unbearably tense as we see Bella fighting to save her life from the dog’s attack, but at every step along the way, we are forced to recognize that this is not a mere animal; it is a genetically upgraded being that is programmed to take down the humans.

What do the teddy bears mean in Metalhead?

In the final scene of the “Metalhead” episode, we return to the warehouse where the episode began, and the much-coveted box is revealed to have been full of teddy bears. The teddy bears immediately become a metaphor for a source of joy and comfort to human beings that seem to have become a rare commodity in the post-apocalyptic, dystopian society that this episode features. In fact, such is the state of the world that these rare objects of comfort are guarded by the destructive robotic dogs because the latter recognizes that human beings will inevitably crave and look for the same, and when they do – being at their vulnerable most – they will fall prey to the dogs’ attacks.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 Metalhead Recap & Ending Explained - hof 1
A still from “Black Mirror” (Season 4) Episode 5 “Metalhead”

The softness of toys also serves as a direct foil to metallic beings, bringing up a conversation about the stark difference between human-made products and their eventual contribution towards humanity. One serves as a source of joy and comfort to kids and adults at par, while the other has wreaked havoc on humankind. This focuses on the overall theme of the episode, which is about the power of technology and how it can make or break human existence on the planet.

What are the dogs in Metalhead?

The dogs are the primary antagonists in the “Black Mirror” episode “Metalhead.” The world that the episode thrusts us into is a grim, dystopian reality where dogs – one of the most loved animals among human beings – have been genetically modified into destructive robotic creatures that can track down human beings and shoot firearms from their limbs. In this world, the order of things is flipped, so these robotic dogs are the perfect encapsulation of that. Besides, to think that some of the most warm, loving animals on the planet have been turned into mechanized weapons of destruction and disorder is a way to hint at the nihilism that is now widespread in this post-apocalyptic society.

What is the message of Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 “Metalhead”?

While “Metalhead” may appear to be a story about one woman’s struggle for survival, it is actually about the lengths to which she will go for someone she loves. Bella, Anthony, and Clarke were on the lookout for a box guarded by one of the robotic dogs, a box that contained teddy bears. Ultimately, the whole mission was aimed at getting a source of comfort and joy for someone on the brink of death. The trio’s quest was driven by their desire to offer him solace as he faced this inevitable end.

This mission, then, encapsulates the idea that the drive to help loved ones surpasses the fear of death. Hence, even in a largely dystopian society, humanity is geared towards finding and holding on to something that can nourish them physically and mentally. While the ferocious robotic dogs symbolize a harsh reality devoid of morality, empathy, and compassion, Bella’s sole aim to bring some peace to this young boy in a world filled with Orwellian horrors since his birth is one of the more tragic conclusions to have featured in a “Black Mirror” episode.

Thereafter, Bella’s failure to secure a teddy bear for the dying boy results in both of them dying alone, without comfort, hinting that no matter how much we look for solace, it has long disappeared from the modern world, thanks to technology. In a sad way, maybe Bella’s only solace would be in knowing that she did everything she could to help someone she loved.

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 “Metalhead” Ending Explained:

Bella is relentless in her attempt to get rid of this robotic dog. She even tries to drop paint on it so that it can use its visual sensors to track her, but it uses its motion and sound sensors to chase after her. She ultimately ends up hiding out in the parked car outside the house she sought shelter in to keep the dog from finding her. In a moment of final showdown, she manages to shoot the dog, injuring and destroying it. However, these dogs are programmed to release a burst of small shrapnel-like tracking devices upon destruction.

Bella should have been aware of this feature, as a similar bomb had previously killed one of her friends, and these drones are notorious in their present world. However, amidst the chaos and in light of her recent victory, she possibly didn’t consider it a threat anymore. Consequently, she is struck by these shrapnels. She goes back inside the house for first aid but immediately recognizes that the end is near for her. She then attempts to reach her friends and family via the walkie-talkie, apologizing for not being able to get Jack the replacement and sadly bidding goodbye to her loved ones, especially Graham.

Unfortunately, most of the pieces seem to have lodged across her body, from her jugular vein to her face. Attempting to remove the same poses a significant risk of fatality, so Bella faces a dire choice: attempt the risky removal and possibly die, or do nothing and face death eventually. There’s no definite answer about her fate here, but as the camera moves away from her, she is seen holding a knife to her throat, hinting at the possible eventuality of her death. In the final scene, after we see a quick glimpse of the number of these robotic dogs across a vast landscape, we trace our way back to the warehouse where her mission had begun. We see a bunch of teddy bears sprawled out from the box on the floor, commenting on the tragic state of humanity in a world overpowered by their own technological innovations.

Read More: Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 6 “Black Museum” Recap & Ending Explained: How does Nish Invade the Black Museum?

Trailer:

Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 Link: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
Black Mirror (Season 4) Episode 5 Cast: Maxine Peake, Jake Davies, Clint Dyer
Where to watch Black Mirror (Season 4)

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