Netflix’s latest season of Black Mirror has arrived, featuring six new standalone science fiction tales that fantasize a macabre glimpse into the future of modern technology. The series’ fourth episode, Metalhead, is one of its more frightening entries, depicting a post-apocalyptic world in which a depleted human population is hunted by robotic machines. Metalhead deviates from the typical dialogue-heavy scenes and narrative twists and turns we’re used to experiencing in Black Mirror. Instead, its story is told through action and expression, one that at times feels more like a slasher flick than a Black Mirror episode. What is familiar, though, is the way in which it builds a world with an unknown backstory that the audience is left to piece together, and its grim ending invites interpretation as to its meaning. So here, we’re reviewing the plot and themes of this terrifying episode, as well as explaining the meaning of its grim final scene.
Why is it Black and White?
Black Mirror ‘Metalhead’: Story and Ending Explained
The first question you’re likely to ask yourself when watching Metalhead is: why the monochromatic black and white effect? The Quentin Tarantino-esque design choice by director David Slade is intended to highlight several themes within the narrative. First, the grittiness of this uncivilized, hostile, and technologically barren environment (batteries are later implied as a premium commodity) look all the more stark and macabre painted in bland shades of grey. Given that the episode takes place in rural England – a lush, green, and damp setting – the darker tone of the black and white filter does well to highlight that this isn’t a typical romp in the countryside.
In a recent interview, Slade spoke of the decision to use a black and white filter:
“I just said to them (the cast and crew), ‘Look, this world should look as if it was made out of metal. You know, the whole thing, it’s called ‘Metalhead.’ There’s a very stark nature to it all… it just seemed to make sense thematically, as well as tonally and atmospherically.”
Slade has also spoken of another reason why the episode was shot in black and white: Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR). LIDAR is the imaging process that autonomous drones and self-driving vehicles use to navigate. LIDAR cameras shoot multiple colorless 2D images and then blend them together to create a topographical map of the terrain. Slade, therefore, wanted to use black and white so that the audience could get a sense of how the robots perceived the world.