Crocodile is the other contender for my favourite episode of Season 4 (the first being Arkangel, which I reviewed previously).
Having attended an all-night rave; Rob (Andrew Gower) hits, and presumably kills, a cyclist while driving. He and Mia (Andrea Riseborough), who was in the passenger seat, cover up the accident by throwing the body in a lake.
Fifteen years later, Mia has built a career for herself and has a family. She is staying at a hotel while attending a conference and is visited by Rob, who has never got over the accident. He tells Mia that he wants to confess, having seen an article from the dead cyclist’s wife, who still believes he is coming home.
Not wanting to see her life destroyed, Mia murders Rob and hides his body. Meanwhile, an insurance claim is being investigated by corroborating memories from witnesses to an incident where a musician was run down by a pizza truck. The memories can be visually recorded and so the investigator, Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar), tracks down the people present in everyone’s memories.
Mia happened to be looking through her hotel room window at the time of the incident, having just killed Rob and suddenly finds herself at huge risk of being found out and must decide how far she will go to cover it all up.
This episode was a tense thriller and with every scene, you could see how the characters would clash, but needed to know how the conflict would be resolved.
Andrea Riseborough was fantastic playing a character we initially sympathise with, but as time goes on, we realise how psychopathic she is when protecting her own life and reputation.
The scenery is amazing as well, although shooting in Iceland does give you an advantage. The huge, sweeping barren landscapes worked perfectly with the cold and unforgiving storyline.
The pacing is relentless – every scene feels like its driving towards the conclusion and the uneasy sense of not being able to rest, even for a second, is omnipresent.
The first thing that I noticed, which I felt was interesting, was that everyone drives on the right, despite everyone being British. Despite obviously being shot in Iceland, it gave the feeling of perhaps being set somewhere in Scotland in a time where it’s gained its independence and decided to change the driving system just to be different from the English.
The main thrust of the episode, however, is how far someone will go to protect themselves and act outside of moral decency. The technology in this episode is meant to bring justice. The insurance company uses it to prove claims, having acquisitioned the tech from its former use in the police service who used it to catch criminals.
However, the existence of this technology forces Mia into killing 4 people, including a toddler, to protect herself – the stakes having been raised. The point of the episode isn’t to warn people about the dangers of technology, but remark upon what horrors technology will elicit from people who already have the capacity to do great harm.
Also consider that Mia kills people that had the best of intentions. Rob was trying to make amends in some way for his past actions, but Mia killed him out of fear. Shazia was completely unaware of the situation and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ironically, the technology Shazia was using to try and solve her insurance claim was used against her as she couldn’t help but reveal that she’d told her husband that she’d gone to visit Mia.
The husband was even less aware than Shazia. She’d glimpsed Mia’s memories of murder through the recall technology; the husband knew nothing at all except for where his wife had gone – and because of the technology could have recalled a number of details about Mia and her location.
And then, the most horrifying example is when Mia notices the child, who had ‘witnessed’ his father’s murder. But the child is even less aware of what is happening, because he’s blind and would not have been able to recall anything.
This turns out to be Mia’s undoing, however, as entering the child’s bedroom brings her into view of the most innocent and oblivious character – the hamster.
The episode is pretty bleak, but the sadness extends beyond the murdered victims. We finish with Mia watching her son in a school production of Bugsy Malone with the cast singing ‘We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted To Be’.
This obviously applies to the victims, whose lives were ended without concern, but could also quite easily apply to Mia as well, whose life was circumscribed ever since Rob killed the cyclist fifteen years earlier. It could refer to Mia’s son as well, who will now have to grow up with the knowledge that his mother was a serial killer. It could also, in a more banal sense, apply to the musician injured by the pizza truck, unable to perform.
If there’s one overarching message of this episode, it’s that fate is random and cruel forcing people into situations in which they have no control and in the end, the refrain of the Bugsy Malone song is rather bitter – we could have, but we weren’t.