story contains spoilers for Black Mirror Season 4, episode 1.
The premiere and most talked about episode of Black Mirror‘s fourth season, “USS Callister,” ended on an uncharacteristically happy note — or at least happy for a show seemingly engineered to induce sickening paranoia in its viewers.
Or so we thought.
Because according to actor Jimmi Simpson, and in true Black Mirror fashion, there’s a “but” to even the moderately happy ending of “USS Calister.” In an Entertainment Weekly interview, he revealed a personal pet theory to the lingering question of what exactly became of his lovable Spock stand-in, Walton.
And oh boy, bleak does not begin to cover it.
To recap: The episode revolved around the “Star Fleet” (read Star Trek) superfan Robert Daly escaping his unsatisfying work life through a virtual reality game of his own making that allows him to play as captain of his own crew. But, adding creep factor to pitifulness, the crew members aren’t just a bunch of programmed NPCs. They’re digital copies of his coworkers’ actual consciousness, enslaved to an eternity of this empty half-life where they must act out his nerd wet dreams — or suffer the consequences.
In the end, though, the crew manages to narrowly escape through a black hole that brings them to the game’s larger online world, leaving Robert to rot in a black purgatory of broken code.
But conspicuously left out of this triumphant victory is Simpson’s Walton, arguably the true hero of the story that sacrifices himself at the climax to ensure his friends’ escape. Last we see of him, Walton is screaming in abject agony as he “burns to a crisp” in the ship’s jet propeller — denied even the sweet relief of death since he’s a piece of computer code.
The optimist in us wants to believe that, once the crew made it past the wormhole, Walton at least got deleted, finally released from his suffering. But according to Simpson, “My take is — and you’ll have to ask [show creator Charlie Booker], I’m not writing his script — but, yeah. Screaming cells for all eternity.”
Ooooof. So Walton was, in all likelihood, left to live out the rest of his time in a perpetual state of undying torment. That’s a hard pill to swallow for even the most tortured Black Mirrorcharacter (which is saying a lot, since there’s no shortage of those in the anthology series).
Evidence in the episode and series as a whole do support Simpson’s theory, though. I mean, no good digital deed ever goes unpunished in Charlie Booker’s futuristic hellscape. And as Simpson pointed out, it’s Walton’s initial callousness toward Robert that inspires him to create this digital revenge fantasy playground in the first place.
“It’s essential, I think. These people [on the Callister] have been tortured for what feels like hundreds of years,” Simpson explained. “It’s not about getting redemption… He’s not trying to redeem himself; he’s trying to make it right for the people, because he f—ed it up. It’s not about now give me a thumbs up; I’ll never see their thumbs up, but hopefully they’ll be free.”
So there you have it, folks. Redemption is not possible — and being rude to your weird coworker is grounds to damn your immortal digital soul to a Promethian-esque punishment of neverending physical torture.