In case you had forgotten that we live in a technology-riddled wasteland almost certainly bound for doom, Black Mirror is here to remind you the same…!! When Black Mirror premiered six years ago on Channel 4 in the U.K., it landed with high acclaim and cult status. With its third and fourth seasons, produced by Netflix, the cult has burst out into the mainstream.
British satirist Charlie Brooker and his array of collaborators have taken full advantage of what the anthology format has to offer in the modern television era. Some episodes are dystopian, others idyllic ; some seem to be decades in the future and a few could have happened last week.
The one surety I always tell everyone who wants to give it a go is that it will make you think about the goods and the bads of technology on relationships, nature, humanity. It’ll make you think a lot…
It delivers far more hits than misses across the 4 seasons, but hashing out which episodes hit the hardest can be helpful as a beginner’s viewing list, given the anthology format supporting non-linear viewing as well.
So, below are the episodes, in no particular order, that one should definitely have a view at first… before we deep-dive into the other good stuff !!
Season 3 | Episode 1
When anyone ask me to explain what Black Mirror is about. I always try and summarize the plotline of this episode to show the dystopian nature of technology in our lives, using references pretty common yet unnoticed in our current lifestyle.
Nosedive takes social media to an Orwellian conclusion with it’s app called ‘Rate Me’ that has market penetration that frankly Facebook would kill for right now…!! The ‘Rate Me’ app allows people to rate every interaction both online and offline out of 5. This leads to a world separated into people who are absolutely controlled by the app and those who joyously remove themselves from what has become civilized society.
And guess what, the ‘Rate Me’ app is no longer a far-fetched dream, it’s already a reality. If any episode will make you momentarily chuck your phone away, it’ll be this one…
The Entire History of You
Season 1 | Episode 3
Taking the ever-growing trend of documenting every moment of our lives through social media and filtering existence through the lens of a smartphone to its most unseemly end, “The Entire History of You” unravels in a alternate, future reality in which people possess a small implant that allows them to record every waking moment of their lives.
Certainly a useful tool for recalling certain happy memories and maybe settling some arguments to be sure… !! It also becomes way too easy to literally replay moments over and over again, harmlessly obsessing over them but also noticing things that slipped by the first time.
Keep an eye out too in the next few years : Robert Downey Jr. was so taken with the episode’s concept that he bought the movie rights in 2013.
Fifteen Million Merits
Season 1 | Episode 2
“Fifteen Million Merits” is certainly the most futuristic episode of Black Mirror, serving up some incredibly impressive production design to immerse us in a world with elements of a 1984’esque constant observing environment where the only way to get out of that endless fate is to go on a reality TV competition.
Brooker puts the carnivorous culture of reality TV on trial in this diabolical hour, set in a world where lower-caste citizens pedal stationary bikes to power their surroundings and earn meager currency. Brooker’s commandment here is to worship no idols, most especially of the reality era.
Hated in the Nation
Season 3 | Episode 3
In near-future London, police detective Karin Parke, and her tech-savvy side-kick Blue, investigate a string of mysterious deaths with a sinister link to social media. They find out about a daily social media campaign with the simple equation that the person with the highest ‘#DeathTo’ posts would be killed at the end of the day.
“Hated in the Nation” is another bleak and scary episode of “Black Mirror” showing the world of social media bullying and it’s misuse by hackers and government. The result is impressive and shocking.
The whole plot is rather a bit convoluted for it’s own good, but for all its outlandishness, “Hated in the Nation” certainly manages to be terrifying in its vision of swift, unchecked punishment in the new republic of social media.
Season 3 | Episode 4
Given the general theme of the show is focused on ill effects of technology , San Junipero is a somewhat refreshing change of pace and tries to show some positive aspects as well… In a nutshell, hard sci-fi with heart.
Although already an Emmy winner, this is another episode that, if it were a film, would surely be a Best Picture contender. It’s visually stunning, joyous to watch for anyone with any sense of ’80s nostalgia — and makes you grateful for life and love. “
San Junipero” is absolutely gorgeous to look at in all ice cream pastels and filtered light. One of the all-time best television episode IMO in terms of cinematography and writing.
Hang the DJ
Season 4 | Episode 4
Being the only entry from the latest season, recency bias does somewhat skew the overall extremely positive feedback for this one. But just like San Junipero, this episode is capable enough to stand the test of time. Hang the DJ is a fun and fascinating take on toxic online dating culture that extrapolates the tech of Tinder to its most logical extreme.
Knowing that dating is awful enough as is, adults sign up to The System, a service that automates everything from dinner to going home together to even the duration of a relationship.
Like “San Junipero”, the episode is held aloft largely by the sugary charm of its two lead actors (Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole) who, separated after an abrupt meet-cute, must overcome the arbitrary structures of their constrictive dating system to find their way back to one another.
Season 2 | Episode 4
Difficult to judge as a single package considering the series’ Christmas special consists of three, interconnected episodes tied together by the smarmy charm of Jon Hamm, “White Christmas” nonetheless is so rich with ideas that it seems Brooker could easily have mined an entire season from the mini-narratives contained in the extended installment.
As mini-twists give way to jaw-dropping mega-twists and the episode’s core concept gets frightfully postmodern, both actors deliver skin-crawling work as villainous but sympathetic figures. “White Christmas” never stops delivering the very best of Black Mirror’s brilliance. Just don’t expect this one to bring any holiday cheer… !!
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