For those of you who watched this stellar series, you know how unsettling it can be to complete an hour of Black Mirror and return to reality. For those who haven’t watched I strongly recommend you to watch the following 13 episodes.
Charlie Brooker created this series which is now available on Netflix and has been renewed for a fourth season.
13. The Waldo Moment
Centered on a profane cartoon blue bear who inserts himself into an election, played by a brutally honest comedian who doesn’t know much about politics, this episode can be considered as the only true dud in the entire series. The episode lacks that sense of fear or even black satire that makes most of the black mirror episodes clicks. A good idea but not well executed, on a positive note, it can be considered a reprieve from the usually dark premises of other episodes for a binge-watcher.
12. White Bear
This has to be the most harrowing episode of them all. It begins like a dystopian horror where a woman has no idea what has happened to her and is being chased by people, while being filmed by people in the vicinity, straightforward in its narrative until the twist which leaves the viewer confused. In any story when the protagonist turns out to be the bad guy it’s a little hard to take for the viewer, here it makes us question our own appetite of punishment and its opposing number of empathy for the punished.
11. Shut up and Dance
This is a close second to White Bear as one of the most disturbing episodes in Black Mirror. The episode follows a young man, who after his computer is hacked, is led on dangerous and disturbing tasks all over England alongside Hector (played a very good Jerome Flynn). The identity of their tormentors is kept unknown until the end, and the end provides a twist which will make the viewer question their compassion.
The episode is very efficient in its pace moving along and building up the action but the ending gives it away. This episode is not futuristic at all and probably is happening already all around the world.
10. White Christmas
A pair of men at a remote outpost share three tales of deception and murder, but they’ve both got secrets galore. The episode packs three separate stories and a framing device into only 75 minutes, and the lack of room to breathe makes the story feel a little forced and the narrative cramped. Even then, the individual mini-stories are all quite inventive, and the presence of Jon Hamm throughout the episode makes for an entertaining dive into the many worlds Charlie Brooker has to offer. Jon Hamm relates his past life of sleazy seduction-coaching by night and torturing digital copies of living people by day, racking up a host of futuristic sins along the way. His companion Rafe Spall isn’t much better, having handled his separation from his wife badly.
There are a lot of twists in this episode and the concept is nearly modern (post-modern) that it’s frighteningly close to reality (although most of the Black Mirror episodes are like this).
9. Men against Fire
Set in a futuristic world, Stripe (Malachi Kirby) joins a group of soldiers protecting a village from an infestation of mutants. In a brutal encounter, he guns down three of them but then experiences peculiar feelings and interference in his mass, which is an implant all futuristic soldiers have. There is a twist although we can see it coming which makes him rebel against the authorities although to no end. A pretty interesting concept although not original and again not far off in the future. It’s a dark story about how we delude ourselves into violence.
This episode promises a lot but doesn’t deliver. Halfway through it, I was like this just might be the best black mirror episode I’ve watched till now but was disappointed. I think the episode was very ambitious visually, based on virtual reality and its uses in gaming, Wyatt Russell’s character signs up for augmented reality video game that uses the player’s own fears to terrorize them. The game uses his fear of spiders, memories of his childhood bully and his estranged relationship with his mother to create layers of fear which make the viewer question the truth of what they’re watching.
It’s a pretty straightforward episode to rank among black mirror’s best but Charlie Brooker does a great job of trying to create a straight-up horror feature.
7. Hated in the Nation
The final and longest episode in our Black Mirror odyssey, Kelly MacDonald and Faye Marsay star as cops who investigate a string of killings, related to public hate. Brooker uses all the old cliches of an investigation movie but in a wonderfully weird future, with robotic bees, a serial killer and hatred of the public.
A feature length episode, it is a commentary on social media pile-ons and it is a solid ending to the third season of Black Mirror. And Kelly MacDonald is excellent
6. National Anthem
This was the episode that started it all and what a way to start. It immediately set the tone for most of the episodes to come. Story in a few words – The prime minister of England is asked to fornicate with a pig on national TV to secure the release of a royal hostage. I know right, this episode was relentless in its pace, well crafted. The main talking point in the episode was how true the depiction of the public was, the changing tide of opinions was what made the prime minister actually go through the ordeal.
5. Fifteen Million Merits
Out of all the episodes of Black Mirror, this one has the most intricate world building involved, in a very distant future (or very near), people are forced to be cogs in a machine, mindlessly pedaling to earn merits which allows them to control their lives. The only escape – a X-factor type reality show which can either be very rewarding or very demanding.
Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) is another face in lower classes until he encounters Abi (Jessica Robbie-Findley) who has a beautiful voice, he helps her get into the reality show but when she is pulled into the corruption of society, he works hard to get himself into the same reality show hoping to teach the judges a lesson, until even he can’t escape the temptations.
A satiric take on the cutthroat nature of reality shows, Andy Warhol’s words on “15 minutes of fame” are strongly resonant in this episode.
Already we have so many ratings, apps like uber and tinder propagate this culture. Nosedive’s sunny world applied this concept on a macro-level, a person can rate every person, every social interaction that one has with any other.
Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is obsessed with her score, trying to raise her score from 4.2 with unrelenting positivity and selflessness. When an old friend Naomi reaches out to her and invites her to her wedding, Lacie is thrilled because Naomi is a 4.8 and the wedding was sure to be packed with similar elites who would surely boost her score. The episode then catalogues her struggle to reach the wedding and on the way a string of mistakes and serious bad luck make her score ‘nosedive’ leading to a complete meltdown by the end of the episode. A perfect episode.
3. San Junipero
A rare deviation from the usual bleak routine of Black Mirror, a romance set in a futuristic society which contains an afterlife – San Junipero – for people to pass onto. The afterlife is basically divided into different decades, the 80s, the 90s and so on, a place in California where people can relive their glory days.
Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) fall in love in San Junipero where they are sprightly 20 somethings, but in reality, both are well into old age. The different plotlines are handled very well emotionally and the episode ends very well although it might be considered too right by some. The visuals of the episode are gorgeous, with the filtered light and the vivid colors of San Junipero.
2. Be Right Back
A close contender for the top spot, Be Right Back is a ladleful of science fiction followed by a bite of emotion. The episode grapples with the age-old question of ‘would you bring back someone you loved back from the dead?’
The excellent Hayley Atwell plays Martha who loses her partner Ash to an unnamed tragedy and tries to cope with her loss with a substitute android who has the personality of Ash. Artificial Intelligence gathers all the social media content including tweets, Facebook posts, comments on various articles etc. and creates a consciousness which is then imparted to a similar looking android. Martha is unable to live with the substitute as he is perfect but just not Ash. A near perfect mix of drama and science fiction, this episode is a tearjerker. Domhnall Gleeson as Ash and his android is amazing.
1. The Entire History of You
The best hour of television that I’ve ever watched until now. Already people obsess with recording very moment of their waking life through photos or notes, what if there was an implant which could record every moment and then later those memories could be recalled either externally or in the mind’s eye for analysis?
This is exactly what happens in the futuristic world of this episode, it examines the relationship of its core characters, Liam’s (Toby Kebbell) and Ffion’s (Jodie Whittaker) marriage is under scrutiny. A weird interaction between Ffion and her friend sets of Liam on a obsession which unearths an affair. The episode is a perfect example of how technology can ruin a relationship and that’s what Black Mirror is at its heart.
Interestingly this is one of the only episode of Black Mirror not written by show creator Charlie Brooker.
There you go Black Mirror Ranked. Hopefully the fourth season is better although the bar is set pretty high.