Scary yet terrific, creepy yet realistic, Charlie Brooker’s British sci-fi anthology series is set in a dystopian future modelled on the contemporary world. It unveils and analyses the problems of modern society while portraying the ugly face of technology in our lives. It mirrors a future that is right around the corner which is fuelled by technology; a future where inter-personal and social relationships are manipulated by advancing technology. Being an anthology series, each episode focuses on a different character, the stories of which have a lingering presence on the minds of the viewers. Interactive and provocative, Black Mirror elaborates on the changes in human behaviour when mind-controlled by technology.
The series is brilliant, with superb visuals and amazing performances, reeking of absurdity and realism. Memory, mind control and trust form an integral part of all these narratives. Living in a world where there is the rapid advancement of technology in the formation of AI and the like, Black Mirror advises people to slow done, lest they face fateful outcomes like that of the characters.
As soon as Netflix added this series, it became an instant fan favourite. From people being repulsed by the scary portrayal of the near future to people writing full-length theses papers, Black Mirror has received all the hype it deserves. After traumatising their loyal and dedicated audience for over five seasons, the future of the series remains unknown and somewhat “flexible”. Brooker has reportedly spent his quarantine writing scripts that are far different from the darkness encapsulated in the series and, apparently, he has been aiming to write comic scripts.
With the future of this fan favourite being pretty bleak, we decided to rewatch all the five seasons yet again and create a definitive ranking list in the order of greatness.
Let’s get started.
A middle-aged infidel man and a teenage boy who is caught masturbating on camera are both coerced into committing various bizarre and offensive crimes. How far are they willing to go to protect their public image unfurls a chilling narrative.
Quite similar to previous Black Mirror episodes, this particular storyline was dismissed for not being dark and horrifying enough. Although the acting performances were critically acclaimed and the episode does portray the vulnerability of one’s darkest act being recorded and exposed, it fails to live up to the Black Mirror shock value.
Mia helps her friend Rob cover up a hit-and-run incident. However, as memories come flooding in with Rob wanting to confess for his crimes and Shazia using the recaller device to track down memories, Mia embarks on a warpath, killing everyone who stands in her way of happiness.
Viewers have often described Mia’s cold and ruthless attitude appropriated by insincere tears like that of “crocodile tears”-possibly the show derived its title from that. Well-crafted and perfectly agonising, it, however, stays at the bottom of the list due to the stiff competition it faces from other episodes.
What better way to carry out genocide than putting an implant in your soldiers’ to make them view the ethnic groups you want to exterminate as horrifying humanoid monsters? However, what happens when Stripe, one of the best soldiers, gets to know the truth and fight back against this systemic oppression is what this episode entails.
Grim and grisly, the episode, however, reeks of embarrassment as the characters are left underdeveloped and unexplored. With an optimum shock value resulting out of the concept of warfare and genocide, the episode, however, fails to leave a mark on the viewers due to lack of depth and a somewhat predictable climax.
With what can be considered a more positive ending, this episode is one of Black Mirror’s more optimistic creations. However, it is not one of the topmost episodes, even pink-haired Miley Cyrus could not salvage it. Though it exposes the downsides of fame and the sinister nature of agencies and relatives often pushing stars to the edge, the anguished popstar somehow escapes these shackles of repression.
While the real Ashley O is depressed and insecure of her own image, the Ai robot modelled after she is thriving. When Rachel, a misfit, receives her favourite pop idol’s AI personality in the form of Ashley Too, she befriends it before realising the consequences; she tries to save her idol from committing a grave mistake.
This is probably one of the most muddled episodes of Black Mirror which misses the mark by a considerable distance. Jamie plays an animated bear by the name of Waldo who interviews influential public figures. As he attempts to expose his contemporaries by using his interview knowledge and other secrets to his knowledge, he slowly descends into the darkness all by himself.
The episode was regarded as extremely prophetic due to its determination of the outcome of the 2016 US elections. The political intonation fails to resonate with the audience and somehow does not feel like a Black Mirror episode.
What harm could constant parental surveillance do? Sure, they would try to protect you from all the bad things in the world but how would you react? Sara’s anxious mother Marie has her daughter get an Arkangel implant at only three years of age to constantly monitor her movements. Marie who cannot seem to get rid of this addiction to keep constant tabs on her daughter soon regrets it.
While the concept of the episode is quite scary, one might not resonate much with it due to the lack of meatiness to the characters. However, the ramifications due to the mother’s annoying amount of paranoia and attempt at controlling her daughter’s life are pretty evident. The premise, despite being interesting and quite a terrifying one, has a predictable and somewhat disappointing ending; it seems like a cliched waste of a great concept.
This episode, by far, contains the most number of ‘horror’ elements. It involves a Black Museum at the filling station maintained by a shady proprietor Rolo Haynes. One day Nish visits it and is given a tour while the proprietor explains almost every artefact in detail. The episode is a culmination of three different stories which are tied together at the very end.
It is interesting to note how elements alluding to previous episodes of Black Mirror are scattered throughout the episode. This episode is legitimately scary and somehow feels like a walk-through of the Warrens’ museum from The Conjuring. Unsettling in true Black Mirror fashion, it almost seems like Brooker alludes to the new set of horrors to be introduced in the fifth season.
Nominated for a BAFTA, this episode’s sheer brilliance lies in the splendid performance of Wyatt Russell as Cooper, an American man, who evades his mother’s calls after his father’s death and agrees to playtest an augmented reality London-based game. Soon he finds out the sinister implications of not following instructions to the T.
As it teases the psyche of the audience, the on-screen horror slowly unfolds. Somewhat unnerving, it consistently foreshadows the end and keeps testing the patience by being an annoyingly slow burn.
While driving and checking a notification on Smithereen, Chris kills his fiance. Later, while he is ferrying a passenger in his cab, he finds out that the latter is a Smithereenemployee. He takes him hostage and brings out a bitter truth about social media.
Alluding to increased social media usage and the ramifications of it on modern society, this episode is sure to send shock waves of terror through the minds of the viewers. Andrew Scott received Emmy nominations for his brilliant portrayal of the protagonist plagued by his conscience.
Detectives Karin and Blue try to investigate the death of a journalist after her hated column as well as others who mysteriously die at the hands of Autonomous Drone insects after they are named in ‘Death to’ hashtags.
An intimidating commentary on online trolling and social media hate, the episode is dark and terrifying. A perfect conglomeration of environmentalism and cyberbullying, the episode is rumoured to have gained inspiration from Brooker’s personal experience of having received hate mail after writing a scathing article on George Bush.
Does sex in video games transcend the reel and slowly seep into reality as well? Danny and Karl play a fictional fighting game where their characters have sex and they are somewhat addicted to it, causing a strain in Danny’s relationship with his wife. Then they kiss.
An immersive experience, the show questions the fidelity and sexuality while being a trapped in-game reality. Compelling and eerily accurate, the episode, however, lacks the pace one would expect from an episode which has an iconic dialogue such as “I fucked a polar bear and I still can’t get you out of my mind.”
Bing and Abi slowly feel the sweet pangs of love and Bing gives up all his merits to secure her a ticket to the HotShot show to showcase her singing abilities. She is, however, hired as a pornographic model much to Bing’s displeasure. He then goes on the show himself to rant about the unfair, unjust and heartless society while holding a glass shard to his neck and becomes famous for it.
The episode ends on an ambiguous note. Though it deals with very sensitive and pertinent issues such as commodification, commercialism and greed, the poor acting performances somehow make it lose the compelling value.
With three increasingly gripping storylines, two men find themselves confined in a snowbound cabin. As they narrate the seemingly disparate tales, the connection is revealed which reek of technological nightmares.
Jon Hamm features in this extremely complicated episode which features a hard-hitting ending. Unsettling and ominous, issues like Internet blocking, sexual offences and rapidly advancing AI technology.
The show creators love testing the viewers’ endurance and love watching how far can one withstand this emotional and psychological upheaval. We feel pity for the woman at the beginning of the episode but try not to get too attached as sinister information soon comes to light. An intense and gruesome take on voyeurism, this is one of the episodes that will push viewers to the very threshold.
A woman named Victoria tries to shut down the transmitter at ‘White Bear’ to prevent the general public from harassing her and recording her on their phones. Soon she is forced to live the same, torturous day repeatedly after she discovers the heinous crime she has committed.
When Black Mirror was first released, this episode left people shocked, appalled, disgusted and terrified. Prime Minister Michael Callow is asked to have intercourse with a pig while people watch it online as a ransom to release Princess Susannah who has been taken, hostage. Will the Prime Minister choose to save the Princess and be hailed a national hero or will he be a good husband is a golden question.
A wonderful opening episode, it is an episode that will leave you nauseous and devastated. The element of pity and repulsion is well explored and peppered with shocking turns and twists which promises the start of something ominously splendid.
Imagine being part of a society where ratings will appear for every social interaction you have, affecting your socioeconomic status subsequently. How far are you willing to push your limits to get that perfect score? A cautionary tale reeking of darkness and obscure and somewhat fake relationships being formulated, this episode hits differently.
Lacie wants a luxurious apartment which can be availed at a discount if she has a 4.5 rating. Despite her serious efforts to succeed, several mishaps occur which affect her ratings negatively. What happens when her rating falls completely and she cannot salvage it anymore?
Shot in a monochromatic scheme, this episode follows intense chase sequences where you find yourself desperately praying for the protagonist’s safety. The ruthless robotic dogs symbolise the vast rapidity with which androids are overpowering humans gradually leading them towards a sense of desolation and catastrophe as portrayed in the episode.
Bella’s compatriots are killed by a vicious robotic dog and she is pursued by it. What follows is an intense survival game till Bella questions herself if there is a way out of this mess.
The System manages relationships and finds matches for couples. When Frank and Amy enjoy each other’s company and subsequently fall in love, they must evade the System to continue their relationship.
Dating apps and being trapped in a simulation are the two predominant themes in the episode. Most comparable to all-time fan favourite San Junipero from season 3, this episode ends on a seemingly positive note. However, it successfully shatters the cliched notion of ‘happy forever’ and constantly challenges the audience’s notions regarding love and relationships.
After programmer and co-creator of a popular online game Robert Daly is left increasingly disgruntled by the lack of empathy and recognition from his co-workers, he simulates a space adventure game inspired by the Star Trek-verse. He steals his co-workers’ DNA samples and creates clones. However, the newbie Cole enters the game and mobilises other clones to stir up a rebellion against Daly.
With brilliant cinematography, incredible performances and constant allusions to the cult favourite Star Trek, this episode is one of the very best Black Mirror episodes out there. Despite its overtly amusing tone, the episode deals with workplace sexual offence; the covert allegory, if decoded, will explain why this brilliant episode won four Emmys.
A young woman Martha loses her husband Ash and is grief-stricken. To fill the void in her life, she creates an android version of Ash with whom she wants to rekindle their connection. However, there is a certain downside to it which slowly eats away at her.
Poignant and grave, this episode sees grief being dealt with uniquely. Technology cannot replace real human emotions and sexual satisfaction is not the only thing one looks for in a relationship- these are the major takeaways from the relationship. One feels sorry for the young couple who deliver engaging performances in this emotionally charged, heartbreaking narrative.
Very few optimistic episodes in the history of Black Mirror have managed to resonate with the audience. This episode is one such example which makes you regain faith and hope in love, reunion and attachments. Beautifully crafted with scenic settings and heartwrenching performances, San Junipero had won two Emmys and remains an all-time fan-favourite with its wonderful and intricate examination of love and loss.
In a quaint beach resort town San Junipero, Yorkie meets a very outgoing and attractive Kelly with whom she gets romantically involved. San Junipero turns out to be a simulation which can be inhabited by the dead in forms of their youth. For a change, technology brings hearts together instead of destroying them.
A ‘grain’ can be implanted right behind the right ear to record your memories and you can rewatch them over and over again? Would you do it or would you let things go? The importance of letting go is the underlying theme while the episode overtly depicts the downside of a tech-driven future the title itself ominously foreshadows the near future which coupled with a domestic drama makes it the best Black Mirror episode of all time.
Lawyer Liam Foxwell is obsessed with his wife Ffion lying to him about her past lovers. He catches her being an infidel and ponders over whether losing his family is worth the price of knowing. With a flawless and gripping narrative, you will find yourself gasping for breath at the end of the hour-long episode due to its claustrophobic atmosphere.
“We’re on one path. Right now, me and you. And how one path ends is immaterial. It’s how our decisions along the path affect the whole that matters.”
With as many as five alternate endings, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive film where the audience choices shall determine the outcome. In the film, Stefan, who holds himself responsible for his mother’s death, adapts a book into a game. However, as he wishes to proceed with his dream, the audience is presented with tough choices that will determine Stefan’s success or failure in the dystopian future.
With ‘free will’ as its central theme, this postmodernist narrative breaks the fourth wall and vests enough power in the audience to change the fate of the protagonist by influencing his actions. Unlike other films where the audience is powerless, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch encourages audience participation to make it seem like a game. However, the illusion of freedom exists in the minds of the audience as well, as they cannot choose other outcomes than what is already provided in the film; the screen-writer is a mastermind who pulls the strings. Guilt and hopelessness loom large as young Stefan visits therapists to talk about his role in his mother’s death. The film is scary and unsettling, and poses an important question; ‘what is real?’
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