*This article contains spoilers across all Black Mirror seasons and episodes*
Do all the episodes in Black Mirror take place in the same universe? Each installment of the wildly popular (and often controversial) Netflix series is its own self-contained cautionary tale of future tech. But fans of the series have noticed several recurring references that seem to imply most if not all Black Mirror stories are taking place in the same world.
Show creator and head writer Charlie Brooker has even changed his stance on the subject. Originally he said each episode took place in its own reality, and season one of Black Mirror featured no links between any of the first three episodes. But that slowly changed with season 2 dropping a few subtle winks at the possibility of a shared universe during “The Waldo Moment.” The innocuous headline “Geraint Fitch cleared of wrongdoing following paparazzi scuffle” from “The National Anthem” reappears during a news broadcast, seemingly tying the start of the two episodes together timeline-wise. And then Abi from “Fifteen Million Merits” shows up on a billboard in the dying moments of the episode after Waldo has seemingly taken over large parts of the government.
From there it only goes deeper. The repeated reuse of Abi’s song “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” in multiple episodes was done to “nest the whole thing together in some kind of artistic universe, to sound wanky for a moment,” according to Brooker. The floodgates opened in season three with dozens of references to past seasons and other episodes in that run. “It’s probably all in the same psychological universe,” Brooker admitted in a Reddit IamA at the time of release.
But season four’s finale “Black Museum” puts the debate to rest: it tells the tale of a curator who has collected pieces of dark human history, amongst them many items from past Black Mirror episodes. Of course, we imagine the Black Mirror writing team reserves the right to follow or discard as much of the history and tech built up by past episodes as they desire, but in season four they’ve actively littered the background with even more breadcrumbs that tie the stories together into one disturbing reality.
Here are all the references picked up from season four of Black Mirror so far by eagle-eyed viewers across the internet.
At the start of the episode, Callister Inc. secretary (and unwitting U.S.S. Callister crew member) Elena can be seen using the same dating app featured in “Hang The DJ” and the season 3 episode “Playtest.” There’s an interesting moral question raised by this: there’s basically no difference between the simulated crew members of the U.S.S. Callister and the simulated folks looking for love in “Hang The DJ.” At least the dating app wasn’t purposefully torturing its simulated beings, although you could argue the way it searched for love could be seen as its own form of torture.
The disturbing takeaway: simulated realities are so common that someone with ‘Captain’ Daly’s resources was able to afford all the gear he needed to replicate people in his fantasy world and do whatever he wanted with them. The level of empathy the world holds for these simulated people seems low to non-existent, to the point where people using the dating app in “Hang The DJ” willingly allow copies of themselves to be created and run through a gauntlet of dating scenarios. But maybe we’re being bleeding heart fools here, tricked by a TV show into sympathizing with mere data.
And if you didn’t already know Captain Daly was a creep, he also seems to have named two of the planets in his Space Fleet world after the murderers from “White Bear.” Skillane IV and Rannoch B refer to Victoria Skillane and Iain Rannoch, who tortured and killed young Jemima Sykes in the season 2 episode. There’s also a small nod back to season 3’s “Men Against Fire” episode. The brand of milk Daly drinks throughout the episode is Raiman milk. “Men Against Fire” features a soldier named Raiman who says her family owns a farm.