Spoilers for the “USS Callister” episode of Black Mirror.
The fourth season premiere of Black Mirror, “USS Callister,” is certainly one of the most talked about episodes of the show, with its very of-the-moment themes of shitty men, the cycle of bullying, and broken fandom - all presented within an incredible simulacrum of OG Star Trek.
On top of all that, one of its most noteworthy features is that it’s a Black Mirror with (gasp) a happy ending! The episode’s protagonist, a digital clone of a coder named Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti), defeats Daly (Jesse Plemons), the deranged boss who’s been torturing VR recreations of his co-workers in an immersive online game that recreates the setting of Space Fleet, his favorite ‘60s TV show. Surviving a suicidal bid for freedom, Nanette and her cohorts find themselves freed from Daly’s retro game, reborn as snazzy new versions of themselves, and able to roam the galaxy (albeit a simulated one) and headed toward unknown adventures. It’s a rare denouement indeed for the series, complete with a (narratively justified) fourth wall break.
But was it a totally happy ending? Actor Jimmi Simpson (who plays Walton, Daly’s business partner in the real world and #1 punching bag in the game world) recently gave an interview to EW, in which he proffers his own theory about why his character, who pulls a very Spock-in-Wrath of Khan type sacrifice during the last moments of Daly’s game, isn’t seen in the triumphant final moments of the episode. (You’ll recall that unless Daly decrees it, characters can’t die in the game world.)
“Everything was gutted, and we got this new ship and cool outfits, and the cast was like ‘come on, you should be here. What? He’s just in the air? We don’t like that.’ First of all, it’s so Charlie (Brooker, Black Mirror’s creator). But it’s essential, I think. These people [on the Callister] have been tortured for what feels like hundreds of years. My take is — and you’ll have to ask Charlie, I’m not writing his script — but, yeah. Screaming cells for all eternity.
“It’s not about getting redemption...I mean, that’s the way it’ll play, but as the man who’s making this human being, he’s not trying to redeem himself; he’s trying to make it right for the people, because he fucked it up. It’s not about ‘now give me a thumbs up;" I’ll never see their thumbs up, but hopefully they’ll be free.”
“Oh my fuck,” as the man says. Eesh. Once freed of Daly’s Space Fleet mod, the other characters come back from being blue-skinned aliens, arachnoid creatures, etc. Can’t Walton have regenerated? Harsh, Jimmi.
The rest of Simpson’s interview is quite thoughtful, and well worth a read. We still hope his theory is wrong.