×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Black Mirror’: Jodie Foster and Rosemarie DeWitt on the ‘Dark’ Mother/Daughter Dynamic of ‘Arkangel’

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the “Arkangel” episode of the fourth season of “Black Mirror,” which first premiered on Netflix Dec. 29.

The most unsettling thing about “Black Mirror” is often how the characters, living in a not-so-distant world from our own, are completely dependent upon invasive technology that more often than not ends up ruining their lives. No episode may exemplify this more than the fourth season’s “Arkangel.” It features a young mother (Rosemarie DeWitt) implanting a chip in her daughter’s head to not only be able to track her physical movements via GPS and any health changes via a biometrics system — but also control what she experiences by scrambling images that might be offensive or harmful, and tap into her daughter’s POV to see what she sees at any given moment.

“It felt the most immediate to me of all of them so far,” DeWitt tells Variety about the episode. “I feel like you could do a version of it now. I don’t have teenagers, but I feel like you could probably track them and do all sorts of things.”

The episode – or movie, as DeWitt and director Jodie Foster call it (and indeed, last season’s installment “San Junipero” won the Emmy for TV movie) — starts with DeWitt’s character giving birth, and immediately becoming frantic over her child’s health, since she doesn’t immediately cry. Those fears deepen as her daughter gets older, especially when she wanders away for a few minutes on a playground. That incident inspires putting the chip in the child, setting the mother down a dark road of control.

“It was easy for me to justify the reasons behind it and the love behind it, and that’s where she goes off-line a little bit, and also how her reactiveness gets the best of her,” DeWitt says. “With the single parent model, you experience betrayal differently. You experience lying from your kids differently. And something gets ignited in her because this is her only person in the world, so fair or unfair, she reacts from that place.”

As the episode continues, she does momentarily turn off the filters to allow her daughter to live her life more fully. But when typical teenage rebellion rears its head, it sends her spiraling back to her old habits.

“There’s an interesting change where there’s a moment where she realizes her daughter’s lying to her, and she lies back, and there’s the first moment of unsaidness between the two of them that’s this fissure,” Foster explains. “So she changes. She goes dark and becomes somebody who’s now fighting a battle to win control.”

“Arkangel” does not explore violent or otherwise age-inappropriate elements assaulting the child on a daily basis as a way to explain why the filters needed to be turned on in the first place. “I didn’t think it was necessary, and I thought it could actually distract from what the meaning was,” Foster says of staying away from graphic imagery.

Instead, what was important to Foster was focusing on the mother-daughter dynamic to show how “in a weird way, they’re also the same person.” This allowed the episode to feel intimate — “like a Bergman movie,” she says — as a character study.

And as the young girl grew up and her mother removed her filters, a shift was made to showcase her experimentation. “The important thing for her was to know she was free to make choices and have experiences,” Foster points out.

The one exception when it came to graphic content was the violence the daughter inflicted on her mother in a moment of uncontrolled rage after learning just how far her mother went to control her.

Both DeWitt and Foster point to this as the most “devastating” element of the episode, not for the act itself but because of how the two ruined their once-symbiotic relationship.

“It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy. She started saying, ‘Please don’t leave me. Is she okay? Where is she?’ And she engendered the exact result that she most feared,” Foster says of DeWitt’s character. “By insisting she control her daughter so she wouldn’t leave her, and handicapping her daughter so she wouldn’t leave her, and taking over control of her body so she wouldn’t leave her, she exacted what she feared the most. And now she will be alone.”

Season 4 of “Black Mirror” is streaming now on Netflix.

More TV

  • Donald Trump

    HBO Fires Back at Trump's 'Game of Thrones'-Inspired 'No Collusion' Tweet

    HBO is firing back at President Donald Trump after he sent another “Game of Thrones”-inspired tweet in response to the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation. “Though we can understand the enthusiasm for ‘Game of Thrones’ now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer [...]

  • Joel Edgerton Headshot

    Joel Edgerton Joins Barry Jenkins' 'Underground Railroad' Amazon Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Joel Edgerton has signed on for a role in the Barry Jenkins’ Amazon series “The Underground Railroad,” Variety has learned exclusively. Edgerton will play the part of Ridgeway, a slavecatcher. He joins previously announced cast members Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, and Aaron Pierre. The role will mark Edgerton’s first regular TV role in some time. [...]

  • LAST MAN STANDING: 150'th Episode: L-R:

    'Last Man Standing' Renewed at Fox

    “Last Man Standing” has been renewed at Fox, Variety has learned. This is the second season of the family multicamera comedy that will air on Fox, but the eighth season overall. (Its first six years were on ABC before the Alphabet canceled the series. Fox picked it up a year later.) “‘Last Man Standing’ roared [...]

  • Lauren Corrao

    Freeform Taps Lauren Corrao to Replace Karey Burke as Original Programming Head

    Lauren Corrao has been named executive vice president of original programming and development for Freeform. Corrao takes over the role from Karey Burke, who was named the head of ABC Entertainment in November following the departure of Channing Dungey. Corrao will report directly to Freeform president Tom Ascheim. In her new position, Corrao will oversee [...]

  • Allison Mack Sex Cult

    HBO in Production on NXIVM Sex Cult Documentary Series

    HBO Documentary Films is currently in production on a documentary series exploring the NXIVM sex cult case, which implicated former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack among others. The series, which is to be directed by “The Square” and “Control Room” helmers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, will follow a range of people who joined the NXIVM [...]

  • Barry Killing Eve Pose

    'Barry,' 'Killing Eve,' 'Pose' Among 2019 Peabody Winners (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Americans,” “Barry,” “The End of the F***ing World,” “The Good Place,” “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” “Killing Eve,” “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” “Pose” and “Random Acts of Flyness” have been named the entertainment winners at this year’s Peabody Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. Additionally, “Sesame Street” has been named the winner of the Institutional Award [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content