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Recap / Black Mirror: Crocodile

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"Fifteen years, fifteen years, the fucking shame, the fucking guilt! I've got somewhere. I've got a life. You don't know, don't understand."

A woman investigating a traffic accident interviews various people using a device that allows her to access their memories.

Starring Andrea Riseborough as Mia Nolan and Kiran Sonia Sawar as Shazia Akhand.

Trailer here.

Tropes related to Crocodile:

  • All for Nothing: Mia kills her ex-boyfriend, then a claims adjuster, the adjuster's husband, and their infant son. She's still caught when police use the memory tech the adjuster was using on their pet, which was a guinea pig. Also, she didn't need to kill the infant son; he was born blind, so his memories would have been useless to police anyway.
  • Animal Motif: Crocodiles for Mia, though no actual crocodiles appear in the episode.
    • All of the murders she commits are for the purpose of protecting her life and family’s reputation, and crocodiles are notorious for being violently protective mothers.
    • They're cold-blooded, and Mia, despite feeling guilty over it, is willing to sacrifice the lives of others to maintain her own.
    • They drag their prey underwater, and Mia is already in trouble but drags down a few innocent people with her. Three of her victims are disposed of in water.
    • They have a good memory, and Mia’s strong memory of the murder is the source of her problems.
    • There are also a few shots of Mia in a car with her eyes visible through the mirror with the rest of her cast in shadow, which brings to mind how crocodiles peek only their eyes out of the water to navigate prey. The poster above is a good example.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Not that he deserved to die, but Rob killed a man while drunk-driving and pressured Mia into helping him get rid of the body and covering up the crime to protect him; when he decides to soothe his own conscience 15 years later after seeing that the deceased man's widow is still waiting for him to come home, he is insistent on exposing the truth anonymously, despite being fully aware that Mia would also face the consequences as an accomplice should the information be traced back to him.
    • Mia becomes this by the end, considering she killed three adults and a blind infant. Though calling her a "victim" is being VERY generous.
  • The Atoner: Rob (Mia's boyfriend from 15 years ago) and Mia accidentally ran over a cyclist, and Rob dragged Mia along to help get rid of the body. Fifteen years later, Rob (who is now in AA) hears the cyclist's widow is still keeping hope that he's out there. He wants to write an anonymous letter to the widow, whereas Mia wants no part of any confession and ends up killing him.
  • Bad Liar: Shazia's whole demeanor after seeing Mia's memories gives away that she saw what Mia didn't want her to see. Along with this is Mia, trying (poorly) to persuade Shazia that "sometimes people see fucked up stuff in their heads that isn't real" before resorting to murder.
  • The Bard on Board: To Macbeth. It is all about a woman who during a drunken stupor got into a car with an equally drunk driver. They ended up killing a man and he convinced her to help him hide the body. Cut to 15 years later where she has a Highly Successful Professional and Personal Life, and he shows up 9 months sober seeking redemption. Cue the rising body-count (and yes, it turns out to be all for nothing).
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to Shazia when Mia breaks into her car and captures her. She ungags her so she can speak to her but gags her again before killing her.
  • California Doubling: A particularly egregious example. The episode was shot in Iceland, but is set in the UK. However, in addition to the setting bearing not even a slight resemblance to any locale in the UK, the cars drive on the left side of the road and have the steering wheel on the left side of the car.
  • Call-Back: The speech Mia makes about it having been 15 years and how Rob can't understand sounds, uncomfortably, quite familiar to Kelly's speech in "San Junipero" about her marriage.
    Kelly: Forty-nine years. I was with him for forty-nine years. You can't begin to imagine. You can't know.
  • Chekhov's Gift: Shazia's husband gets their son a guinea pig. After Shazia, her husband and their son are murdered by Mia, police harvest the memories of the guinea pig with a special memory recall chip and go to arrest her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Shazia's car has trouble starting up. This ends up getting her killed by Mia since she can't get away in time.
  • Compromising Call: Mia is about to ambush Anan in the bathtub when her cell phone goes off. Not that it does him any good.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Rob prints out a page from the website of UKN (the news network featured in most episodes of the series) which contains the story about the wife of the man they accidentally killed 15 years prior.
    • On the UKN website printout, an advert for National Allied Bank is seen. The bank was previously featured in the episodes "Playtest" and "Shut Up and Dance".
    • The pizza delivery service, Fences Pizza, is the same one seen in the first episode of Series 4, "USS Calister".
    • When Mia browses adult films, included is Best of Wraith Babes, which were prominently shown in "Fifteen Million Merits". The reality show "Hot Shots" from the same episode is mentioned by the hotel clerk. He mentions increased security measures after the tabloids found out about a host being caught with a rent boy.
    • The Irma Thomas song, "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is", was first sung by Abi Khan in "Fifteen Million Merits", while also appearing in "White Christmas" and "Men Against Fire".
  • Contrived Coincidence: The accident with the Fences Pizza truck happened near the same time and place Mia murdered Rob, which eventually ended up leading Shazia (who was just investigating the accident) to Mia.
  • Covert Pervert: Shazia interviews a dentist who might have seen the accident. It turns out that he didn't, because he was busy trying to photograph a naked man in the hotel across the way.
  • Crime After Crime: Mia's initial crime is being forced by her boyfriend into covering up a drunk driving accident. 15 years later, that boyfriend wants to confess, and she murders him to keep the crime quiet. The ensuing efforts to cover up that murder cause her to murder an insurance adjuster, then the adjuster's husband, then their infant son.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: While Mia ends up being caught, it turns out the baby she killed was born blind and thus couldn't identify her anyway. Furthermore, all the rest of her murders accomplished nothing because she left one witness without realizing it: a pet guinea pig that happened to be in the baby's room, which wouldn't have seen her if she hadn't killed the baby.
  • Destroy the Evidence: The cyclist's bike is thrown into the water along with his body. Fifteen years later, Mia burns Rob's printout of an article about that cyclist, and cleans the car she used to carry Rob's body from her hotel to the building site.
  • Disposing of a Body: Mia and Rob do this to their hit-and-run victim... and Mia eventually does it to Rob.
  • Downer Ending: Three innocent people — one of them a baby — and someone who wanted to atone for past mistakes are killed by Mia in order to protect her career. The only good thing that happens is Mia getting caught by the end, and even that results in her being arrested at her son's school play, leaving her family torn apart in the most publicly humiliating way possible.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: Mia tries to focus on memories of the porn she had watched on the night in question in order to block out memories of the murder. It does not work, largely because she wasn't watching porn at the time.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Downplayed — Shazia begins to pray before Mia kills her, by this point likely realizing that Mia wouldn't change her mind even if she continued to plead.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Done twice by Shazia's husband, Anan.
    • The first time is when he goes take a bath. Mia is standing about two meters behind him, but he turns and leaves the living room without noticing the hooded stranger in his home.
    • The second time is when he's in the bathtub. He never notices Mia standing over his right shoulder, close enough to touch him. He's only aware of her presence when her phone vibrates with a call, but it's too late.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early in the episode, Shazia has trouble starting her car while going out for her investigation. Later, when she's trying to escape Mia after realizing she's a killer, her car won't start again. This gives Mia time to break into it and pull Shazia out, which results in her death.
    • Shazia is dubious at first when Anan gets a guinea pig as a present for her and their son Ali, saying "It's just that we've got a lot going on, what with Ali and..." before changing her mind. At the end of the episode we learn what was going on with Ali; he's blind and Shazia wasn't sure about having a pet in addition to that.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The newspaper clipping that Rob presents to Mia has the following paragraph:
    "Of course the real question is why anyone would pause what they're watching just to read a sentence in a printed-out newspaper article", says a voice in your head - before advising you to go and share this finding on Reddit.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The unintended consequence of the recall technology is that anyone, including infants, can now be legal witnesses to a crime. This forces Mia to kill the claims adjuster's infant son to protect herself. The tech can also be used by criminals wanting to know if someone has seen or knows too much, just as Mia used it on Shazia.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away as Mia murders Shazia. Averted when she bludgeons the latter's husband with a hammer and when Mia strangles Rob, then played straight again when she kills Shazia's child.
  • Gut Punch: The episode starts embracing its darker tone once Mia kills Shazia, but the tone is cemented when Mia goes after her family and kills her infant son. Made even worse when it’s revealed he was born blind, making his death completely unnecessary.
  • Idiot Ball
    • A small one, but Mia puts on a movie to give herself an alibi while she disposes of Rob's body. But she picks a pornographic film, which causes the desk clerk to mention it to Shazia later.
    • Shazia's husband Anan leaves the front door of their house unlocked, allowing Mia to enter easily. He then compounds that by by failing to see her twice and leaving the bathroom door ajar when he goes to take a bath, allowing her to ambush him.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Mia drinks a lot of white wine to cope with what she has done.
  • Insistent Terminology: One man refers to Shazia's machine as a "memory dredge", but she says the preferred term is "corroborator."
  • It Gets Easier: Zigzagged. All of Mia's murders take a great physical and emotional toll on her, but each one is carried out more ruthlessly and with more premeditation than the one before. Inverted at the very end; her final murder is more damning, and takes more out of her, than any of the others.
  • It's All About Me: Mia is so dead set on keeping her current status and life that she commits several murders. The first is Rob, her old boyfriend who simply wanted to send an anonymous letter to the widow of a cyclist he ran over years ago, while Mia was in the car. Her response (before resorting to murder) boils down to "This is going to be terrible for me."
  • Justified Title: There are no crocodiles in the episode. However, the title still fits:
    • Crocodiles have a good memory. Mia's strong memory can't help but flash incidents (even the hit-and-run from 15 years ago) to the memory reading device she wants to keep secret.
    • Crocodiles are thick-skinned and cold-blooded. Mia's willingness to kill despite the clear toll it's having on her takes a huge level of villainous resolve.
    • There's the phrase "crocodile tears", for tears that are fake/insincere. Mia's tears at the end are not fake; she's experiencing real anguish. But she was experiencing anguish before and it never stopped her from committing the next murder. So, in a sense, the tears are fake in that they have no bearing on what she does next.
    • Not from the article, but: the Recaller (the device that can scan peoples' memories) kind of looks like crocodile jaws the way it opens up.
    • 'Crocodile' is also a slang term, particularly in Britain, for a line of people - in this case the chain of people Mia has to kill to keep her secret.
    • A crocodile's method of hunting could also explain the title - they bite down on their prey and drag them underwater to drown. Metaphorically Mia has been dragged into a terrible situation, and everything she does to fight against it only makes the situation worse. Also note that three of Mia's victims are disposed of in water.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The whole catastrophic chain of events begins because Mia is terrified of her wonderful life being ruined by Rob's anonymous confession, and the episode ends with her imminent and humiliating arrest for murdering a whole family, in front of not only her own family but dozens of other people.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Or, at least, leave no human witnesses.
  • Make the Dog Testify: Justified thanks to the device that can be used to view anyone's memories, including a guinea pig.
  • Mind Probe: The Corroborators serve this purpose, as they allow the operator to observe a subject's memories of a past event. The only thing that takes this out of Fridge Horror territory is that subjects give consent to being probed first... but consent isn't required, as Mia demonstrates on Shazia.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Shazia's investigation of a pedestrian being injured by an autonomous pizza delivery van leads her to discover Mia's murders, as Mia was a witness to the accident.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mia never says anything like this or stops murdering until the end, but it's clear that committing the murders weighs very heavily on her. She's an utter wreck by the time the cops come to arrest her.
  • My Car Hates Me: Shazia's car takes a few cranks to start earlier in the ep, and won't start at all when the murderous Mia is breaking her window to get her. This ends with Shazia dead.
  • Never One Murder: Mia kills her old boyfriend Rob when he wants to confess about the hit and run 15 years back. Since she, of course, has memories of this, she ends up killing the insurance adjuster who used the memory recall technology on her. Then she kills the adjuster's husband and infant son, because the husband knew his wife was going to meet her and the son appeared to see her in the house.
  • New Technology Is Evil: This trope is actually inverted, with the Corroborators used to determine the severity of crimes, but this episode still demonstrates a sinister flaw in such a device, in a subtle deconstruction of new tech being used to find criminal details easier. With her secret uncovered by the machine, Mia has to go on a killing spree and there's a long line of people she had to kill to cover her tracks because their memories - both through common reoccurrence and the Corroborators - can be used to track her down.
  • Obfuscating Disability: We are introduced to Shazia as she comes to the house of a woman who (as Shazia sees through the window) is faking injuries to commit Insurance Fraud.
  • Oh, Crap!: While Shazia doesn't outright say it, her entire body language, vocal tone, and attempt to get away fast after seeing Mia's memories make it obvious to Mia that Shazia has seen enough to implicate her for murder.
    • Mia has a silent one of her own, when she sees that the police are among the audience, waiting to take her in.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: When Shazia is trying to convince Mia to let her use the Corroborator, Shazia states that she won't reveal any embarrassing private memories she sees. Shazia says this because she thinks Mia was watching a pornographic movie in the hotel room, but Mia thinks Shazia is promising not to say anything about her murder of Rob.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Well, attempted redemption. Mia's ex-boyfriend Rob wants to write an anonymous letter to the widow of the cyclist he ran over 15 years ago with Mia in the car. He and Mia get to arguing, and Mia ends up killing him.
  • Say Your Prayers: As Mia is about to bash her head in, Shazia starts reciting in Arabic the Islamic prayer "We belong to God and to Him we shall return".
  • Scenery Porn: The Icelandic setting gets a lot of love in the cinematography, with plenty of sweeping shots showing the isolation of the area.
  • Shout-Out: The pizza van accident occurs on Stanhope Road. Comedian Doug Stanhope has made numerous appearances on Charlie Brooker's past TV shows.
  • Spanner in the Works: Mia killed Shazia, Shazia's husband, and their child. However, the police use a guinea pig that was in the room when she murdered the infant to identify her.
  • Stealth Expert: Mia apparently had training as a ninja, as she's able to enter the Akhands' home, go upstairs, and enter the bathroom while Anan is bathing without making a single sound. Only the buzz of her cell phone betrays her.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Anan Akhand (Shazia's husband) leaves the front door unlocked while he's home alone at night. This allows Mia to easily enter the house and sneak behind him.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The upbeat song from Bugsy Malone (performed by a chorus that includes Mia's son), which says "It's not too late to change" (for Mia, it is too late), and "You know you're gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do" (especially for the things she did).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Mia looks like a perfectly ordinary woman... Yet she is prepared to kill three people and a baby to protect her social position and career.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
  • Villain Protagonist: Mia, our protagonist, has committed four murders by the end. Three of the victims were completely innocent, and one was someone who wanted to atone for the hit-and-run he committed with Mia (though Mia was merely in the car with him when that happened).
  • Would Hurt a Child: Near the end, Mia kills the infant son of Shazia to protect herself, though it turns out the kid was blind and the murder was completely unnecessary.