Over the long weekend going into Martin Luther King Jr Day, I found myself in an oddly productive place. Homework was done and I was free for three days of absolutely nothing but to make a dent in the long list of shows I wanted to watch. One of many shows was Black Mirror.
I had planned to watch this show around a year ago but frankly forgot about it and never picked it up. I am one of those viewers who watches things later than they originally planned and is notorious for getting behind on the trends, but when I finally sit down and have the time, it is usually right worth it. Black Mirror was nothing different.
Although I doubt there are people unfamiliar with the premise of Black Mirror, it is pretty simple to summarize. It is the modern Twilight Zone, taking the future and twisting it. It is not over saturated with science fiction (give or take a couple episodes) and reasonably puts technology in our modern day world and demonstrates the possible issues that could appear in the future.
It is one of those shows that does deserve the hype it gets because you can jump in on any episode and don’t have to keep up with characters given each episode is in a different universe and timeline. That being said, it definitely deserves credit for being able to build a scene and expand on a plot better in an hour (give or take) than some shows do in a season.
As I was typing in episodes online, I noticed many articles in the trend of naming the best and worst episodes from the series given there are only nineteen. It seemed as if it were popular to debate the best episodes, or have your own input; therefore, I compiled my own.
This will not contain all nineteen episodes, but the top ten of the series based solely on my opinion.
10. "White Christmas" (season 1 episode 6)
White Christmas was one of the more subtle episodes I had scene, but it wins the number ten slot because of the ending. It follows two men, Matt and Potter, who "swap tales" of their lives in the "outside world" as they are snowed in. A rarity in T.V., both men have interesting and vastly different lives which are both easy to follow and pay attention to and the twist ending was one I still think about a few days later- even with how subtle it was in comparison.
9. "Hanged the DJ" (season 4 episode 4)
In the future, the dating game is simplified to an app like feature which sets up two unknowing people on dates, forming profiles until it will ultimately introduce them to the one. In "Hang the DJ", Frank and Amy meet on their first date, both first timers, and hit it off immediately only to discover their "relationship" would have to end in twelve hours from dinner, and they could not overstay their welcome due to being watched.
This episode was a new watch for me just a few hours ago and it seemed to be on the majority of lists created by viewers, so I was looking forward to it. While it is not as dark, you spend the entire time rooting for these two likable characters and hope for a happy ending. What earns "Hang the DJ" the number nine spot on my list is it's ending, while admittedly predictable, it wraps up the little Easter eggs and hints in the episode beautifully and ends in an unlikely, but still, happy ending. Even expecting it, it was frustrating to watch because they were perfect but for a few moments here and there, it looked like it may end up elsewhere.
8. "Playtest" (season 3 episode 2)
"Playtest" follows thrill seeker Cooper in the hunt for the latest adrenaline rush and money to return to America. Due to the financial issue, he accepts a job offer from a video game company where he would be testing out their new virtual reality technology. Quickly, it begins to take it's toll on Cooper's mental state.
Upon first meeting the character of Cooper, I wasn't sure how much I would like the episode simply because of him, but I was quickly mistaken the moment he walked into the main room. This episode toys with the idea of surrealism and questioning what reality is and it mentally messes you up for a good few minutes. Easily, it earns a spot in my top ten due to the climax and just when you think it's over and the problem is solved, you're wrong.
7. "San Junipero" (season 3 episode 4)
Much like "Hanged the DJ", "San Junipero" is one of the more uplifting and positive episodes of the series with a happy ending. Set in 1987, shy visitor Yorkie meets the much more extroverted Kelly and falls in love. Eventually the town is revealed to be a simulated reality in which the elderly visits to relive younger days. Without giving too much away, it is one of the more positive spins on the future in which two women fall in love and have to make very important decisions involving their future together. "San Junipero" is also one of the fan favorite episodes having been high on many lists of viewers favorites, and while I can easily see why, it just wasn't my type of watch. It was still good, however. Two likable characters, a complicated reality, and a happy ending? Sounds like the perfect date night short flick.
6. "Nosedive" (season 3 episode 1)
"Nosedive" caught my immediately when I saw the preview image of a phone with a rating on it. Upon watching the episode, it was one of the episodes that made me question the potential outcome of the future more than the others. "Nosedive" ultimately deals with today's issue of public presentation. Young teens and adults thrive off of likes and approval, and that is exactly where this episode amps it up. With a public ranking system, people are downgraded for something as shallow as looks or something as coincidental as having bad attitudes. Where this episode got me was weighing the pros and cons of having a system like this.
On one hand, it would not be bad at all to know who you're dealing with. Other people may have a weight on their shoulder to have good attitudes and thus people being kinder. On the other, it could be superficial in the way that people rank high on scales just because of looks and pretentious attitudes. In the end, when meeting one character who simply stops caring about the system that others use as a latter climbing opportunity, it shines light on how people should be approaching such popularity contests; it contrasts those who care with those who people may over look. Of all the episodes of Black Mirror, "Nosedive" is one of the episodes that was most in touch with our modern day reality.
5. "White Bear" (season 2 episode 2)
I'm going to be cmpletely honest and admit I didn't pay attention to the first bit of this episode, but when I turned to the screen and saw what was happening I was immediately attached. What I saw first was many people holding cameras up and recording (or it looked as though that's what they were doing) a girl who was running from pursuers. She did not remember who she was or what was happening, but all eyes were on her. It's during the ending that everything snapped into perspective, but it is hard to explain without giving a full in depth analysis.
The simplest way to put it is, while she was being attacked and hunted, everyone sat watching and waiting; a metaphor for modern coverage which is perhaps the scariest part of the whole episode. And as stated before, the ending only drives it home further. I'll have to rewatch it at some point, because I did not appreciate it enough at first.
4. "Arkangel" (season 4 episode 2)
Much like "Nosedive", "Arkangel" is one of the episodes that closest resembles what modern day is like. Following a mother who only wishes for the best for her daughter, she implants her with a chip which allows her to see what she sees and track her every move. It also gives her the option to censor things which cause distress. From the time she's a child into her teenage years, her mother, Marie, does not turn off the censor.
Her censored and protected life leads her to risky behavior of drugs and sex and hate for her mother who sheltered her her whole life. This episode challenges thoughts on censorship and challenges people to think critically about whether it is good or bad to keep stressful situations classified, and the show clearly makes a show of which side it is on all the way up until it's gruesome ending.
3. "The Entire History of You" (season 1 episode 3)
The first episode to really seal the deal that this show was genius in my eyes, the episode takes place in an alternate reality where people are "grained" with the ability to record and playback their memories, and centers around a suspicious husband who suspects his wife may have had an affair. The episode earns such a high spot on my list because of the take of future technology not being so "scifi" to distract from the modern elements, and the drama that ensures. I would even go as far to say as it made me temporarily paranoid of cheating all together. It's no wonder Robert Downey Jr. himself championed for it to be made into a movie.
2. "Be Right Back" (season 2 episode 1)
On many lists, "Be Right Back" has a solid spot on viewers favorite episode, and truth be told it is tied for first with only one difference keeping it from the first spot (which I will explain later on). The episode is centered around young Martha after the loss of her boyfriend, Ash, who is introduced to a new service which allows people to keep in contact with the dead. After awhile of talking and discovering she is pregnant, Ash eventually tells Martha that it's possible to have him back physically- leading to the creation of a human Ash which is far from perfect.
The thing about this episode which makes it one of my favorites is Ash as a character. In other episodes, it was hard to feel for a specific character him artificial Ash, but it was his dedication to being as real for her as possible which made me love him so much. Again, it is impossible to really explain how much his character gets you to feel for him unless you view the episode for yourself, but it truly left a really big gaping hole in my heart by the ending.
1. "Shut Up and Dance" (Season 3 episode 3)
Easily the one episode which made me the most uncomfortable, "Shut Up and Dance" taps in to the theory and fear that the government or someone is watching our every move via webcams and phones. It follows a teenaged boy who was spied on through his webcam, recorded, and threatened that if he did not follow through with his orders, they would release his video and tell everyone what he did.
I don't think that it would do justice to explain elaborately what happens in this episode, but in the vaguest way possible, it left me sick to my stomach to think I was rooting for the wrong person. In the end, you question if the bad guys were bad after all or were they purely doing a service. "Shut up and Dance" is morally conflicting, and it may be a cliche but I was left dumbfounded and speechless. There is no doubt in my mind that this episode is the best episode of the series.