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Recap / Black Mirror: Hang the DJ

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Series Four
USS CallisterArkAngelCrocodileHang the DJMetalheadBlack Museum

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"Must have been mental before the System [...] People had to do the whole relationship themselves, work out who they want to be with."
Amy
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Within a community known as "The System", matched couples are told how long their relationships will last. Two participants in "The System", Frank and Amy, are matched together for a very short date. However, once it's over, the two are left with lingering feelings and begin to question just how perfect "The System" is.

Starring Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole.

Trailer here.


Tropes related to Hang the DJ:

  • Almost Kiss: Subverted. After their chaste first date, Amy and Frank are clearly about to kiss for the first time... but then the timer runs out on their time together and they both walk away.
  • Arc Number:
    • "The System" boasts that it's able to find "the perfect match" with 99.8% probability. It turns out this number comes from when couples within a simulation The System is running say Screw Destiny and stop obeying their instructions. After running 1000 simulations, Frank and Amy break away 998 times out of 1000. This generates the percentage, and we see the real Frank and Amy about to meet at the end.
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    • Every time Amy skips a rock on the lake it skips exactly four times, never more or less. This extends to even when she skips the Coach box on the surface of the pool.
  • Arc Words: As the device keeps saying: "Everything happens for a reason."
  • Because Destiny Says So: Everyone within The System seems to believe it will ultimately deliver them unto their One True Love.
  • Benevolent A.I.: "The System", and the society seemingly built around it have all the hallmarks of a weird A.I dictatorship, until the very end where it's revealed it's running a massive simulation to see which couples defy and escape it. The more a certain couple does it from different simulated backgrounds, the higher their compatibility.
  • Bi the Way: One of Amy's meaningless trysts is with another woman.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Frank and Amy succeed in escaping... but it turns out they're only one pair of simulated Franks and Amys (out of a thousand) inside a dating app that's calculating the real Frank and Amy's romantic compatibility. It's implied the real Frank and Amy get together, but what happens to all of the simulated Franks and Amys after the calculation is complete and they all just vanish?
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  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: "The System" is eventually supposed to match people to their One True Love, and failure to comply with its directions results in banishment. Frank and Amy attend a wedding at one point.
  • Breather Episode: Similar to San Junipero, this is a more idealistic episode in between two cynical ones.
  • British Humour: Frank and Amy's relationship thrives on it, and one main reason Nicola doesn't like Frank is because of it.
  • Casting Gag: Georgina Campbell has previously played a bisexual character trying to find love rebelling against a controlling secure medium asserting it knows who she wants and needs. In that show, though, she doesn't succeed, which may have contributed to doubts that she would in this episode.
  • Dating Service Disaster: This episode in general is all about looking at online dating services and dating in the digital age in general. This is actually invoked by The System in a way that tests Frank and Amy's compatibility and willingness to be together by pairing them off in bad relationships and shallow flings before they decide their feelings for each other are more important than following the rules.
  • Diegetic Switch: The song "Panic!" at the end is first playing in the pub that Frank and Amy meet at, then continues to play over the end credits.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Amy's second match is up front with his intentions when they arrive at the cottage.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The System forces the participants to go through a range of relationships of seemingly arbitrary and sometimes even unhealthy length — and where even the tiniest mistake can end the relationship prematurely — for years, all for the sake of finding one's ideally compatible match, and it is implied that many people never meet their perfect match and in the end just get exhausted and settle for the person they're with. This is, of course, one long metaphor for what actual relationships are like, to some.
  • Fan Disservice: In spite of the universally young and good-looking inhabitants of The System, almost all of the sex scenes are about as arousing as week-old porridge. Nicola in particular shoots straight for the IKEA Erotica award.
    Nicola: Bit faster? (beat) More motion. Not like that, more motion. You're all in out, in out, like you're trying to shut a drawer back into a filing cabinet.
    Frank: Sorry.
    Nicola: It's just boring. Want a bit more... side to side.
    Frank: Like this?
    Nicola: No, not really.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Frank and Amy discuss "The System", and share with each other their theories. Amy thinks The System puts people in dozens of random relationships just to wear them down and accept whoever is decided to be "the one", and Frank ponders if The System is using all the data it's absorbing to actually "think" about and iterate the relationships in meaningful ways that aren't clear at the time. Amy jokingly says the next thing he's going to say is we're stuck in a simulation. Turns out they ARE in a simulation, and the system may indeed be placing people in dozens of random relationships (though the purpose isn't to wear people down) along the way (there are 1000 simulations for each couple). In any case, it's a rather clumsy way to signal that, yes, this is just a simulation.
    • While Amy is skipping stones, Frank has a glance at his Coach device which looks suspiciously suitable for skipping. Later Amy uses her device for exactly that purpose.
    • Along the skipping stones line, Amy points out that she's only ever able to skip a stone exactly four times. It's a blatantly obvious hint that it's a simulation and that the algorithm only ever allows stones to be skipped four times.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Coach, the System's intelligent personal assistant, is an obvious send-up of Apple's Siri and similar programs.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Frank jokes that they all might just be living within a computer simulation, but Amy laughs it off. Later she begins to seriously consider the possibility when she notices that every time she skips a rock on the lake it skips exactly four times. When she finally realizes that there is something going on she skips the Coach box itself on the surface of the pool, and it again skips four times.
  • In Mysterious Ways: "The System" operates in ways nobody using it can see, and has only vague descriptions of what it's trying to do and "everything happens for a reason" to say when people question it. But at the end, the data IS indeed useful for those out in the real world using the app.
  • Jerkass: Nicola, Frank's second match, doesn't even bother trying to hide her lack of enthusiasm when they're brought together, and her attitude doesn't improve much in the year they spend together.
  • Lighter and Softer: Beyond the tension that comes simply from knowing what show you're watching and waiting for the other shoe to drop, this really is just a story about a benevolent computer program that only wants to make people's lives easier.
  • Ludicrous Precision: The 99.8% compatibility rating turns out to be a completely justified trope.
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: A very clever example of it. A dating app that uses people's will to rebel against an unjust system as a statistic to determine their romantic compatibility. In the end of the day, people are still using a computer system to help them find each other. However, the execution of this idea is still pretty heartwarming.
  • Maybe Ever After: With a 99.8% chance of a Happily Ever After. Until then, the real Amy and Frank merely smile at each other from across a party, with Amy preparing to make the first move.
  • Meta Fiction: The story itself seems to be about the negatives of a technological dictatorship, enforced in the episode by how the real dating app and the society that created it views obedience and a computer-generated "The One" to be a horrible idea, the kind of narrative usually only intended to be inferred from the show. The episode subverts the dystopia when the series usually plays it straight In-Universe. However, the dating app is effectively doing the same thing as The System, and clearly nobody is bothered that they're exploiting digital versions of themselves, so it's not that much different.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Played with: Amy's second match Lenny is attractive, charming, and gets on well enough with her, but she becomes increasingly irritated with some of his minor quirks until she can't stand being around him.
  • Ms. Fanservice: She doesn't get fully nude, but there are plenty of sex scenes with Amy due to the system always putting her with one night stands.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Played with - right after hooking up, Frank and Amy are both forced onto long relationships. Frank is matched with a woman who takes an instant and severe dislike to him that only gets worse over time. Amy is matched with a man who she's clearly and immediately attracted to, but quickly tires of.
  • No Sense Of Humour: Nicola, Frank's second match, is an uptight woman who doesn't like humor.
    Nicola: Right. So you're the sort of person who makes jokes.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The title "Hang the DJ" refers to the song "Panic" by The Smiths that plays at the end of the episode, and has no apparent bearing to the plot. However, there is a kind of symbolic meaning, in that the expression "Hang the DJ" implies rebellion against "The System" that is orchestrating their love lives.
  • The One That Got Away: Frank and Amy are this to each other for the time they're apart. Then they get matched once more, then break up again, pining after each other once more until they decide to Screw Destiny.
  • One True Love: Allegedly, the System will match you with your One True Love after enough data is gathered from your responses to your successive relationships. It's even got a 99.8% success rate.
  • Ontological Mystery: Frank and Amy start off in some sort of community project blocked off by walls, and in their conversations they reveal that they have no memories outside of living there. Nobody else in the community gets development or insights into their lives, either. The Reveal finds that there are no memories to discover, as none of them exist for any purpose outside simulating a relationship between the two leads.
  • Real Time: The trailer makes use of this, to show off the countdown gimmick that the episode is based on.
  • Really Gets Around: An interesting case: the vast majority of relationships suggested to Amy by "The System" are those that end in 36 hours or less (enough for a one night stand). She doesn't like this, but goes along with it.
  • The Reveal: Frank, Amy, and the rest of the characters are just simulations inside of a dating app to test compatibility with the real Frank and Amy.
  • Romantic False Lead: Invoked. Lenny, Nicola, and all of Frank and Amy's other matches are set up to be this by the app's programming. While they're stuck in relationships with them, Frank and Amy are supposed to realize that they want to be with each other and decide to Screw Destiny.
  • Secret Test of Character: Well, secret test of compatibility. The point of the System is not to actually match people up within it. The point is to see if two people like each other enough that they'll notice all the flaws in the System, decide it's wrong to keep them apart, and leave together.
  • Screw Destiny: Frank and Amy decide to ignore Coach and escape the community to live together. Turns out they are one of the thousand simulations, and the act of rebelling against the system and escaping is used as proof of their ultimate compatibility.
  • Spiritual Successor: To San Junipero. Like that episode, it's an optimistic Breather Episode about virtual reality-assisted romance.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Invoked by the dating app's programming. Throughout multiple simulations, it attempts to convince pairs of user simulations that they are meant to be together and provoke them into running away because of conditions that will tear them apart otherwise. If they do so, it's considered a sign of compatibility.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Played with. The episode takes place in a picturesque, pleasant community governed by "the System". Nobody seems to have jobs, all their needs are provided for, everyone seems to be young and healthy, and all their time seems to be devoted to their relationships. The suggestion that it isn't all that it appears is only exacerbated by Frank and Amy's growing unhappiness with the timed relationships and their realization that they don't remember anything outside of it. Then it's revealed that none of it is even real, and noticing that something's wrong with it is part of the test.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: By Black Mirror standards, at least. Amy and Frank risk banishment and attempt to escape the oppressive System to parts unknown...and then it turns out that "the System" actually works, and the real Amy and Frank are more likely than not compatible!
  • Title Drop: At the end, in the real world, the lyrics of the song ("Panic" by The Smiths) in the pub repeat "Hang the DJ" over and over.
  • The Wall Around the World: The community within The System is surrounded by incredibly tall walls. No one ever talks about what's outside of them, but everyone seems to know you're not supposed to leave. It turns out that there isn't anything outside the wall, because the entire thing is a simulation.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The app utilizing "The System" for relationship matches is running 1000 simulations for compatibility between potential couples. In the virtual world The System uses, the lives and relationships of the people within those simulations go on for years. In the real world, the app takes maybe a minute.
  • Your Favourite: No, you won't be given a choice for your meals as The System has already chosen them for you. You will like it, but don't expect Nicola to be happy with the curry.

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