(Spoiler alert: Do not read on unless you’ve watched “Black Mirror” Season 4 episode “USS Callister.”)
At practically the last minute, “Black Mirror” Season 4 gave viewers what is easily a contender for the best — and timeliest — line of dialogue in 2017: “Stealing my p—y is a red f—ing line!”
That gem was delivered by Cristin Milioti, star of Season 4’s “USS Callister,” a brutal deconstruction of toxic masculinity, workplace sexual harassment and cyber-bullying wrapped inside a sincere homage to “Star Trek.”
“Like, this woman refusing to go down. I just, I loved it. I thought it was so wildly creative,” Milioti tells TheWrap.
“Callister” takes place in a virtual reality game based on an in-universe “Star Trek”-esque TV series called “Space Fleet.” But the titular ship’s crew are actually the cloned consciousnesses of several co-workers being held captive by resentful company executive Daly (Jesse Plemons), who serves as their “captain.” This includes Milioti’s character, Nanette.
“In the real world she has to do so many things that women are brought up with,” Milioti tells TheWrap. “Her boss pats her on her lower back and it couldn’t be more timely to be coming out right now. So she’s put in this situation and won’t back down. And she’s way more of a tiger than you think. What’s amazing about how [“Black Mirror” creators] Charlie [Brooker] and Annabel [Jones] write is you can underestimate people and first impressions aren’t what they seem.”
“It’s also sad, because I don’t know how a man would respond to that in the workplace,” Milioti adds. “I had to interpret that it was completely terrifying and that she already puts up with a lot in the workplace. There just seems to be this light air of people thinking she’s this sweet cute little thing. And she’s a magnificent coder.”
In “Callister,” Daly traps Nanette and others at the company he feels have wronged him, including his business partner Walton (Jimmi Simpson), inside the simulation — actually a closed-off portion of a massively multiplayer online game — by copying their DNA to create exact digital replicas for him to toy with. This is not something Nanette will let stand, especially after she discovers Daly has eliminated the characters’ genitalia inside the game, leading to the line above that has since become one of the season’s most-talked about moments.
“I think it’s like when she’s in such a state of emergency from the moment she steps into that world and she’s fighting for her life,” Milioti says. “She’s never going to see her family again, she is never going to see the people she loves. She’s trapped there. She can either keep fighting or give up. And she keeps fighting. And when the episode ends, she’s the captain.”
Milioti also has a strong take on the plot point in “Callister” where her character’s “virtual self” blackmails her real world self (a badass coder) with her own naked selfies as part of a plan to free the digital consciousnesses from captivity. Though the threat of a release of very private photos isn’t an ideal scenario for a woman, Milioti says it felt okay, because her character is in charge here. “So if she has to hurt herself, she’s in control.”
“She knows about a weakness that she has and that’s awful, but she needs to get the job done,” Milioti says. “She becomes the captain, even if it’s at her own expense. And it’s weird too, cause she needs to have faith in herself. She doesn’t know if she can commit a felony. She comes into her own in this way, in this ‘virtual’ world. She knows, ‘I have this within me now. The me on the outside may not know that. But she will commit a felony.’ It was so risky, but it worked.”
“Black Mirror” Season 4 is available for streaming on Netflix as of Dec. 29.