Be sure you have a full forty minutes to watch this episode, because you really won't want to interrupt the action. "Metalhead” is Black Mirror meets thriller meets black-and-white arthouse cinema, and it’s downright riveting.
The episode begins much in the same vein as a heist movie might. Three middle-aged people — two men (Jake Davies, Clint Dyer) and a woman (Maxine Peake) — are driving in a beat-up car, towards some mysterious destination they only refer to in vague terms. They pass a desolate version of the Scottish highlands along the way. Seemingly, nothing is alive except for the three of them. Rows of empty pig houses line the highway. According to one of the man, the “dogs” ate all the pigs.
The trio is heading to the warehouse to pick up something for the woman’s sister’s son. The kid is dying, only has days left. The plan is risky, but the woman convinces the men to join her because the warehouse may have useful supplies, like batteries, as well.
After pulling into the parking lot, the woman and one man go into the warehouse. The other man fumbles into the U-Haul, and tries a series of codes to try to get the truck to open on.
Once in the warehouse, the woman navigates them toward a specific box from a number and letter combination scrawled on a scrap of paper. Eventually, they find what they’re looking for. The man climbs up on a ladder, and lifts the large box. Whatever’s inside can’t be too heavy. Behind the box, however, crouches this episode’s Big Problem.
The episode’s primary antagonist is a small robot, called a Dog. It’s fast. It’s lethal. And worst of all, it’s smart. The dog — which, in a different universe, might have been a cutie lil’ robo-pet — unfurls, and pushes the man off the ladder. It shoots tracker spores onto the man’s body. One tracker lodges itself into woman’s thigh. He turns and yells at the woman to go. The dog almost immediately shoots him with a weapon that causes his brain to promptly explode.
The woman runs out of the warehouse, terrified, but also determined. Just at the right moment, the other man manages to start the engine. Both escape the warehouse parking lot in their vehicles. The little dog is fast, and starts running after them like a four-legged animal. The man driver is freaking out, since the dog is right behind his car. The dog manages to leap into the back window of the U-Haul. The dog swiftly shoots his head clean off.
Just like that, she’s the only survivor. She keeps driving her little car. All of a sudden, the U-Haul starts moving. The dog got ahold of it, and swiftly catches up with her. He drives her car off the road. She goes hurtling and stops right before her car plunges off a small canyon. After losing sight of her, the dog surveys the landscape, and sees a small dot beeping. It’s the tracker — she had gotten one tracker spore lodged in her thigh in the moments after the dog had gotten activated in the warehouse.
She manages to trap the dog in the car. It goes down the cliff, giving her some time to run away. The first thing she does is cut into her thigh and remove the tracker. The process is bloody and gruesome, but crucial. When she puts her racker in a water bottle and sends it down the creek, she throws off the dog.
She runs away and final to the top of a peak. There is no sign of life around her. She gets on her walkie talkie and tries to find someone, anyone. A voice faintly sounds. She latches on to the voice, and tells him what had happened to Tommy and Clark. She tells Ali she’s sorry — she had just wanted to console Jack, who was in pain. And she asks them to pass the message to Graham that she loves him. She know she might not make it back.
Elsewhere, we see the dog pull itself from the car wreck. The lethal gun on its arm is gone, but it’s still powerful. The dog scans the region and latch onto the signal of her walkie talkie. On the walkie talkie, she says that the dog is tracking her from the signal — so at least, she’s prepared to start running when the dog approaches.
It comes soon. She runs and climbs high up into a tree. The dog lunges onto the bark, but can’t climb. She’s found one weakness. The dog curls up and goes into sleep mode at the foot of the tree. It’s not going to let her go.
Exhausted, she falls asleep on the tree trunk. Then, she starts to move off the branch. The dog suddenly wakes up and is ready to catch her when she falls to the ground. She manages to stay on the branch. When the dog goes back to sleep, she sees its small battery wheel blink, and lose a chunk of energy. This gives her an idea: She’ll drain the dog’s battery. She lets the dog go to sleep, then every thousand seconds, drops a hard candy on its shell. The dog wakes up, and loses a bit of battery, and goes to sleep. Eventually, this on-and-off motion will shut the dog off for at least a while (it’s unclear how the dog recharges itself).
She pulls her scheme off! The dog loses battery and doesn’t respond to any of her hard candies. She hops off the branch, and runs for the nearest structure. She comes by a gate, but can’t get it to open. So she keeps going, and finds a car parked outside of a house. She stands at the mansion’s door, and fishes for the key through the mail slot using this long, nifty fishing hook of a tool. Clearly, she came prepared for this trip. After some struggling, she manages to get the key — but it’s a key for the house, not for the car. She chooses to go into the house, and hopefully find the car keys in there.
Meanwhile, the dog is waking up.
The mansion is glassy and beautiful and empty. The car key are nowhere to be found. She wanders upstairs, where she comes upon the house’s treasure trove of horror. On the bed in the living room are two decaying corpses. But like, really decayed. Skeletal. They’re clutching one another. The man is holding a rifle, which he never got to use. The dogs were too quick. The wall behind them is splattered with the blood from their skulls. Clearly, the dogs had ravaged the entire country (and world?).
She fishes into the man’s pant pockets, stuck to his corpse. But she finds the keys! Success. She also takes the rifle, because she has bullets. She goes into the large master bathroom to wash up, and grab some medicine.
The dog, at this point, has let itself into the gate and then into the house. The dog can hack just about anything — even its own body. Since the dog had lost its head-blaster gun in the car wreck, it attaches a huge kitchen knife to its arm, and then heads upstairs to where our protagonist is still in the bathroom.
When she realizes the dog is in the house, she prepares for it with a trick right out of Home Alone. She hides in a semi-finished room. When the dog comes in, she splatters white paint on its head, then throws the paint can on the opposite wall from her. The dog can no longer see, so it starts drilling into the wall with its knife. She throws the dog off and has enough time to make it to the car.
Unfortunately, after this much time gone unused, the car won’t start. Still, at least out here, she can trap the dog again. She blasts music from the car and lures the dog outside of the house so they can have the final showdown. She, the fighter that she is, manages to gravely impact the dog with her rifle. After a few blows and bullets, it lies limp on the floor.
She’s relived, but she shouldn’t be. The dog still has a final trick up its proverbial sleeve. Before dying, the dog shoots out tracker spores. They land all over her body, including her face. Cutting them out would be extremely painful.
She retreats back into the house, and stares at herself in the mirror. She’s full of trackers. Looking at the state of her body in the mirror, she brings out the walkie talkie for a final chat. She says she’s sorry, but that she’s not coming back. They never ended up getting the replacement that Ali’s son had wanted. She wants someone to tell Graham she loves him. We’re not even sure if anyone is listening.
The camera zooms out, and we can see that she’s getting ready to slit her throat.
The camera keeps zooming out. We see dogs waking up — dogs that surely would have tracked her down using the tracker. There are dogs in the countryside, and dogs surrounding the man’s body in the warehouse.
Near his body is the box of items the entire mission had been predicated on. And what’s in the box? Goddamn teddy bears. They’d been on a mission to find teddy bears, and restore some sweetness and light in a sick kid’s life, a sick kid who’s spent his entire time on earth probably terrified of robot killer dogs. What a sad, sad episode — but a redemptive view of humanity. Kindness had gotten the trio killed. But what kindness. And what intelligence. The woman outsmarted the dog over and over. If it were a fairer fight, she would have gotten out alive.
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