I don’t usually cover TV shows on this blog, but I’m making an exception for this one because this show is amazing.
I guess that first I should quickly go over exactly what the show is about for anyone not in the know. Black Mirror is an anthology TV series from writer, presenter and producer – Charlie Brooker. Brooker is one of the finest acerbic, satirical writers we have here in England, his pessimistic style is second to none as he always manages to find the worst of any situation and make miserable poetry from the most dreary of topics with his use of very, very dark humour. So don’t expect happy, unicorns riding rainbows stories here – these tales are bleak, depressing and extremely downbeat.
Black Mirror started out on the British Channel 4 for 2 seasons before being snapped up by Netflix for the 3rd and latest 4th season. As I mentioned before, its an anthology show with each story being self contained – however all the stories follow a theme and that is one of technology, the stories often show how impressive and useful technology can go very badly wrong . Brooker uses things like Facebook, Twitter, The Internet and other modern revelations to tell often bleak and disturbing yarns with twists and stings in the tail covering the pitfalls of modern technology and trends. Think Tales From The Crypt but with technology instead of horror. Most episodes are an hour long or more – with the odd exception of many of the earlier ones which run at around 45 minutes. The first and second season only contain 3 episodes each and then there was a Christmas special too. But the episode count was upped to 6 per season when Netflix brought the show from season 3 onward, bringing the total episodes to 19. While each story is self contained, from season 3 onward – Brooker started to include nods, references and Easter eggs in episodes that relate to others, meaning that all the stories (while separate) take place in one shared universe.
I’m a big fan of Charlie Brooker and I had heard a lot about this show before but never actually got around to watching it. Then season 4 aired – so I thought I would put the effort in to watch every episode from start to finish… and I have to say I thought it was sheer brilliance with every single episode being good to utter genius – not a single dud in the lot. Having just finished every episode (several more than once) including the newest season 4. I thought I would go through each and every episode with a brief synopsis before offering my view on all of them.
Now be warned, this is a show worth going into blind. I will try to avoid any major spoilers and not give away any of the endings. But as I’m covering every episode, endings will be mentioned/referenced… some mild spoilers could pop up. If you don’t want anything spoilt at all, just go watch Black Mirror now and then come back and read this article later.
Season 1 (2011)
The National Anthem
British Prime Minister, Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is woken up in the night by a phone-call from the Home Secretary Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan). Callow is told that much loved member of the Royal Family – Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) has been kidnapped and being held for ransom. But the kidnapper does not want money…they want something very different and if Prime Minister Callow does not comply, then Princess Susannah will be killed. With the entire British nation as well as a big chunk of the rest of the world following the story and watching online – will Callow give into the kidnapper’s demands or will he let the Princess die?
A great introduction to the twisted and yet beautiful mind of Charlie Brooker – if you have never experienced his genius writing before, then you can’t go far wrong with this story. Its perverted, twisted and ‘as black as night’ funny. The ransom Callow has to pay is beyond anything you could probably think up. The twist at the end is as jet black funny as it is disturbing when all is revealed and you realise just what Callow has done…stay tuned during the credits to get the final punch in the gut. This episode sets the downbeat standard that the other episodes will follow.
Fifteen Million Merits
Set in the future where people are required to cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their living quarters and earn currency called ‘merits’ which are used to buy food, goods, entertainment, etc. This one tells the story of Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) who inherited fifteen million merits from his dead brother. Bing meets Abi Khan (Jessica Brown Findlay) and the two strike up a friendship. Abi is a keen singer and when Bing overhears her talent, he suggests that she tries out for the talent show – Hot Shot. Only problem is that the entrance fee is fifteen million merits – which Abi does not have…but Bing does. So he buys and gifts Abi an entrance ticket giving away his entire fortune so she can bring her dreams to life. Only things do not work out exactly as planned and Bing is left merit-less unable to buy the most basic of essentials…for now.
I love the setting of the tale – a near future with technological advancements yet still being restricted. The visual style is sublime and the story pokes fun at talent shows like The X-Factor and its ilk – there’s even a Simon Cowell parody thrown in too. The twist in this one was unexpected and really caught me off guard, it felt like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. The acting is top-notch and the juxtaposition between the flowering romance between Bing and Abi compared to what happens after the talent show audition is emotionally draining as is what happens to Bing by the time the end credits roll.
The Entire History of You
Set in a future where many people have had a groundbreaking technology called ‘grains’ implanted behind their ear. This ‘grain’ allows you to record anything the person sees or hears and then play it back anytime they want so they can relive memories from the past in vivid detail. Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell) is a young lawyer who just had an appraisal at work that he felt went particularly badly. He begins to replay the memory so he can see where he went wrong. His wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) tries to get Liam’s mind off his failure by taking him to a dinner party where he begins to notice that his wife seems to be particularly fond of one guest – Jonas (Tom Cullen). Liam and Ffion return home but he becomes obsessed that something more than just friendship is going on between his wife and Jonas. Maybe her own ‘grain’ will reveal the truth?
Just as a quick side-note: this is the only episode in the entire series so far that was not written by or based on a story Charlie Brooker. This one was written by Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It). But don’t let a change in writer fool you as this is just as dark and disturbing as anything Brooker has written. Relationships are pushed to breaking point and beyond as Liam’s obsession gets out of hand. In keeping with Black Mirror tradition – the ending is unsettling and grim. The last few ending scenes are difficult to watch and while the direction the story goes in is easy to predict – it still packs a punch regardless.
Just thought I’d throw this tit-bit in too. Robert Downey. Jr actually optioned this episode to be turned in to a big Hollywood movie by his own production company – Team Downey. But as of writing, the film has yet to be made.
Season 2 (2013)
Be Right Back
Young couple – Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) move into their new home in the countryside. While Ash is returning the van he hired for the move, he crashes and dies. Soon after and Martha discovers that she is pregnant, worrying about raising a child alone and desperately missing her partner, Martha tries out a new online service that uses the deceased’s online profile and communications to create a virtual Ash that she can talk to via a chat-bot. The more information of Ash it has, the more accurate the bot can be. So Martha begins to upload photos and videos of Ash so the bot can mimic his look and voice. The virtual Ash tells Martha about an experimental technology that allows the artificial persona to be uploaded to a blank, synthetic body – creating an android that looks and acts almost just like the real Ash before he died. But will the relationship work out and what kind of a father will the android be?
This one has a really interesting concept behind it. I mean, if you could bring a loved one back via autonomation using their personal profiles as a basis…would you? Its a very melancholy yarn that breaks the heart a little by the end. A dramatic, sci-fi parable about grief and love which given the technology used, doesn’t seem that far-fetched. The brilliant performances by the two leads adds a lot of depth and believability to this haunting story. Well worth a watch.
Waking up in an unknown house and suffering from amnesia a young woman (Lenora Crichlow) sets out to try and find out who and where she is. The only clue she has is a strange symbol being broadcast on the TV screens in the house. As she heads outside, she notices people just standing around specifically watching her, filming and taking photos with no one willing to help. She starts to get little flashbacks to a toddler, her daughter possibly? She is hunted by a shotgun wielding man wearing a mask with that same symbol from the house. As she runs for help, she meets Jem (Tuppence Middleton) who explains that the symbol began appearing on TV, computer and phone screens, turning most people into passive voyeurs and others into killers. Jem has a plan to reach the transmitter at White Bear to destroy it to stop the broadcasting of the symbol and she takes the amnesia sufferer with her. Along the way the amnesia girl starts to get more and more flashbacks of her daughter, partner/husband, locales and even the name ‘White Bear’ seems to be familiar to her too…but why?
Just have to get this out of the way, this is one of the best episodes of the entire series. The ending is fucking brilliant and while as dark as other twist endings – its also unbelievably satisfying and I guarantee you’ll crack a wry smile of satisfaction once the whole picture has been revealed. Everything comes together perfectly, the acting is great, the story is compelling, the pacing is sublime and the ending is a pure genius. A fantastic episode and one worth repeat viewings so you can pick up on all the well placed and subtle hints peppered throughout the plot.
The Waldo Moment
Struggling comedian Jamie Salter (Daniel Rigby) plays the part of a satirical animated blue bear called Waldo on a late-night, topical comedy show. Waldo becomes a huge sensation with the British public, so much so that he is even given his very own show. Despite the success of the Waldo character, his creator Jamie is depressed and feels that his life is unsatisfactory. When Jamie/Waldo crosses paths with Conservative candidate Liam Monroe (Tobias Menzies) things start to get heated as their rivalry grows. Waldo, producer Jack Napier (Jason Flemyng) suggests that Waldo should run against real politicians in an upcoming by-election. During the campaign Jamie meets Gwendolyn Harris (Chloe Pirrie), Labour candidate who, despite having no chance of winning, is entering the by-election to further her own political career. Jamie and Gwendolyn start a relationship which quickly goes awry and the rivalry between Jamie/Waldo and Liam Monroe reaches boiling point while Jaime’s life begins to fall apart and he loses control of his creation.
You know how I said in the introduction that there is not a single dud episode in the entire series? I still stand by that, but this one comes close – not because its a bad episode as its not, but more due to the fact that other episodes have been so damn great that this one just does not live up to the rest. Its a good episode but one that I feel Brooker mis-wrote, which is strange given that fact he is an amazing political satirist and this topic is right up his street. The story just lacks any real punch or depth and the ending is rather bland. The episode has some great moments – such as the late-night, topical comedy show that Waldo gets his big break on as I feel the presenter is very Brooker-esque and it seems he was making fun of himself a little. But overall, its just a ‘good’ episode that ultimately misses the mark.
Christmas Special (2014)
Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) are two lonely guys stuck in a remote house on Christmas. The two have hardly spoken in to each other in five years. Joe seems reluctant to talk about anything, so Matt decides to open up and tell Joe about himself. This takes us to the first flashback where it is revealed that Matt works as a dating coach using the ever present ‘Z-Eye’ technology, an augmented reality device that grants access to the Internet and allows Matt to see and hear what his clients witness and provide instructions to them in real time. Matt tells a story of one of his clients before revealing that the dating coach is just something he does on the side. Matt then tells Joe about his real job – which is told in another flashback. Matt’s real job has him coaching artificial intelligence inside small sized computer chips known as ‘cookies’ to help make the lives of humans easier around the house. At this point, back in the remote house, Joe begins to open up to Matt and he tells his own story about his failed relationship with Beth (Janet Montgomery) via yet another flashback.
The strange thing about this episode is that I began to watch Black Mirror for the first time over the festive period and just be sheer coincidence – I watched this episode on Christmas Eve. And I have to say that this will now become a Christmas tradition to watch this episode every year around the same time. This is an utterly brilliant story and one that is well written and told. I suppose you could look a this as an anthology story within an anthology as there are really four stories contained in this one episode – the three flashbacks and the ‘current’ events, its also one of the longer episodes with a 74 minute run-time as well as the final episode before the switch to Netflix. The four stories all seem separate at first but by the time Joe finally reveals more about his past and confides in Matt, all the strands come together beautifully and you finally see the big picture. The ending is well written and in true Black Mirror fashion…pretty bleak and downbeat too. An absolute cracker of a tale and one of those that you can really enjoy repeat viewings of as you’ll notice the subtle, well placed clues second, third, forth time around as to what is going on.
Also worth noting that this is the episode where Brooker began inserting the nods and references to previous episodes and where the whole shared universe really began. So its worth keeping an eye out for those along the way as there are several to spot. And keep your eyes peeled for even more references in other episodes from this point on.
Season 3 (2016)
Using a combination of eye implants and mobile devices – society has the ability to share and rate everyday activities on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. One’s rating can have an affect on their socioeconomic status. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) holds a 4.2 overall rating but needs a 4.5 to get a discount on her dream apartment. She tires hard to improve her rating by being overtly nice to any and everyone she meets so they rate her higher but her pleasant persona does little to help. Lacie takes a photograph of Mr. Rags, a teddy bear that she and childhood friend, Naomi (Alice Eve) made together when they were children. Naomi is a very successful socialite and very highly rated. Touched by the fond memories of Mr. Rags, Naomi asks Lacie to be maid of honour at her up and coming wedding. Lacie agrees as she thinks this could massively help her increase her rating. She writes a speech and everything – but it is when Lacie heads off to the wedding that things start to go wrong.
This was the first show after the switch to Netflix and you can really tell the difference. The increase in budget shows on screen, the style is much brighter, the colours more vivid and the overall production is far more impressive. But don’t think that means the stories themselves are going soft. This is a great little story and one that pokes fun at all the people who are desperate for ‘likes and shares’ on social media platforms today. It a well observed and written satire that hits all the right buttons. The ending is quite different to others and I may even say that this one has some what of a happy ending…’happy’ for Black Mirror anyway. I really enjoyed this one – but that is probably as I detest all that attention seeking ‘like me’ on social media.
Cooper (Wyatt Russell – son of Kurt) leaves home to travel the world. The final leg of his tour sees him end up in London where he meets a tech journalist, Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen). Cooper’s mother calls him several times but he never answers the phone, purposely ignoring her. During his stay in London, Cooper finds his bank account has been hacked and all his money has gone. Now penniless and stuck in England, he turns to Sonja for help who shows him an app called Oddjobs which offers short term employment. SaitoGemu, a video game development company famed for their horror games are looking for people to playtest their latest software, which Cooper signs up for. At the company, Cooper meets Katie (Wunmi Mosaku), who asks him to try out a piece of their new technology – a kind of augmented reality device that can blur the lines between real life and video games. This was just an introduction to the main event and Katie takes Cooper to meet Shou (Ken Yamamura) who created the company and the advanced technology for their games. Cooper is then invited to take part in horror game where he is taken to a real mansion and left alone to face whatever horrors the mansion holds.
I didn’t know who it was that played Cooper in this while I was watching it but found him very familiar and charming. Afterwards, I did some research and discovered that he was the son of Kurt Russell. Knowing that, you can really see a resemblance in both their looks and mannerisms. This one is a great tale and particularly great fun if you’re an avid gamer like myself as its full of nods and references to famous games – one so subtlety well done its easy to miss at first but explains a lot of what is going on. There are some genuine scares in this one as Cooper is stuck in the mansion and begins to question his own sanity. The ending is a belter and one that will frustrate as well as entertain. This is what Black Mirror does best with its dark and twisted storytelling – one of the great episodes and highlights of the show.
Shut Up and Dance
While trying to clear his laptop of malware, teenager Kenny (Alex Lawther) downloads a purported anti-malware tool called Shrive. Once his laptop is clear of viruses, he decides to ‘enjoy himself’ over some adult entertainment – not knowing that the Shrive tool he used actually allows an unseen hacker to record Kenny through his laptop camera. The hacker then emails Kenny and says that they will send the video of him doing the ‘five knuckle shuffle’ to all his friends and family unless he does as the hacker asks. Kenny is sent on a chase around the city which evetually leas him to meet Hector (Jerome Flynn). It is revealed that Hector is also being blackmailed by the same hacker over him cheating on his wife with a prostitute. Both Kenny and Hector are sent on a very specific task by the hacker and if they fail, then the hacker will release the information they hold over both of them.
This is a heart-pounding episode, its tense, thrilling and blisters along right up to the massive punch in the face ending. Brooker’s writing and storytelling are brilliant here as the story moves along and keeps you guessing what is going on right up to the beautifully brutal twist end. Its a simple tale, but told incredibly well with great performances. Its not preachy, it doesn’t try to get some kind of message across. Its just good ole’ plain Black Mirror storytelling with one of the best endings in the series and one you will want to watch again.
A nervous and shy young woman, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), discovers the beach-side party town of San Junipero. Its 1987, the time of big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. In San Junipero anything goes as long as its fun. Yorkie meets Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is a party girl through and through – the complete antithesis to the sheltered and bashful Yorkie. The two strike up a friendship as Kelly teaches Yorkie to loosen up and enjoy herself. Their friendship blossoms into romance and Yorkie and Kelly have sex, but when Yorkie tries to find Kelly later – she is nowhere to be found. As Yorkie searches for Kelly, the truth is slowly revealed.
Many people consider this to be the best episode of the whole series. Its not my personal favourite but its right up there. I wrote the synopsis of this one quite short as the twist doesn’t really come at the end, but more so a little over halfway through and I didn’t want to spoil too much. This really is a wonderful piece of storytelling and I can understand why so many think of it as the best episode so far. Its well designed and the soundtrack is more than just a great reminder of the 80s as the songs have been very specifically chosen to give some subtle clues along the way, so keep them ears open. The midway reveal is a very poignant one and the overall story and end in really quite heartbreaking but heartwarming at the same time. But even with the mid-twist in this one, there is still an ending that will leave you emotionally drained. Yet another wonderful episode and one that offers a great change of pace and a very bitter-sweet conclusion.
Men Against Fire
‘Stripe’ Koinange (Malachi Kirby) and ‘Hunter’ Raiman (Madeline Brewer) are soldiers working for an unknown military organisation. There mission is to eliminate mutated humans called ‘roaches’ in Denmark. The soldiers have a neural implant called ‘MASS’ that enhances the processing of their senses and provides useful data via augmented reality. Lead by Medina (Sarah Snook) the team search and interrogate a small farming village they suspect are harbouring these so called roaches. Stripe discovers a whole hidden nest of roaches, humanoid like creatures with pale skin and razor sharp teeth. He and Hunter open fire killing them all. Stripe notices one of the roaches was holding a strange LED device and as he examines it, it flashes him in the eyes. The device disrupts his MASS interface which causes glitches. Sent out on another mission to hunt roaches, the MASS implant get worse and worse as Stripe begins to experience further glitches he sees things other soldiers can not, including what these roach creatures truly are.
This one is one of the lesser episodes for me. You can pretty much see the twist coming early on and the story is pretty bland for Black Mirror. There is that trademark final gut-twist epilogue that leaves you on a downer which is probably the best part of the whole thing. Its not a terrible tale, but it certainly lacks a lot of what other episodes have.
Hated in the Nation
Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) is a Chief Inspector investigating the gruesome murder of Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) along with trainee Detective Constable Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay). Jo was a journalist who had been receiving online death threats prior to her murder. Her husband claims that Jo cut her own throat with a broken wine bottle and injured him in the process as he tired to stop her, a story the police find hard to believe and suspect the husband of being the murderer. The next day and a rapper named Tusk (Charles Babalola) is also found dead after becoming a target of online hate too. The two deaths are linked to an online social media hashtag ‘game’ called ‘Game of Consequences’ where the public vote who should die next by simply leaving #DeathTo (name of victim here) on Twitter. Further investigation reveals that both deaths were caused by small, robotic bees or Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs). These ADIs are a creation a company called Granular who use the ADIs to counteract the falling bee population. Are Granular and their ADIs really responsible for these deaths, can Karin and Blue get to the next victim of the #DeathTo game before its too late?
This is the longest episode so far coming in at just under 90 minutes – its pretty much movie length. This is a great one, a nice detective thriller that brilliantly uses those annoying hashtag things people set up in a vein attempt to become popular. A compelling watch with wonderfully observed satire dished up in that unique way only Charlie Brooker can do. The ending features not only a great twist but also a devastating climax, but even before you get to the end you have a hell of a lot of story that is captivating and engrossing throughout. One of the many highlights of the series with great acting from start to finish.
Season 4 (2017)
Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Callister Inc. A company known for making a massively multiplayer online game called ‘Infinity’ which uses neural interfaces to play the game in a simulated reality. His co-workers dislike him and he’s treated with no respect. New employee, Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) is impressed with the game coding and she learns that Robert is a big fan of an old sci-fi TV show called ‘Space Fleet’. After work, Robert returns home and logs onto play a game of Infinity that is modded to incorporate elements of his favourite show Space Fleet. In the game Robert is the Captain of a spaceship, the USS Callister and members of his crew are represented by digital versions of his co-workers. As Captain, he is admired, respected and feared – the complete opposite to his real work-life. Robert often uses the game to take out the frustrations of his work life on the in-game avatars of his work colleagues. The next day at work, Robert take a shining to new employee Nanette – he swipes a disposed cup of coffee that she drank from and uses the DNA on it to upload a version of her into his modded game. Nanette wakes up inside Infinity confused and not knowing where she is. She finds her work/crew mates and they disclose everything about them and her being digital clones of their real selves and how Robert in the game is a tyrant who takes out his real world frustrations on the digital versions of his work colleagues. When Nanette refuses to cooperate with the overbearing Captain and his demands, she comes up with a plan to overthrow him, escape the game, free herself and the rest of the crew.
The production on this one is brilliant, a wonderful pastiche of Star Trek wrapped around a story about a cyberbully. There is a real and genuine story being told here and the episode has a real dark tone to it, but then its also littered with funny one liners and visual jokes too. Robert Daly is a disgusting villain when in the game world but then you feel real sympathy for him being looked down on in the real world. Its an interesting dichotomy and one that works fantastically well in this yarn. An excellent start to the new season with great comic moments engulfed in a bleak and dark tale. The ending is also classic Black Mirror gloom with a little silver lining snuck in.
3 year old Sara Sambrell (Aniya Hodge) goes missing while chasing after a cat in a park. After a search, she is found safe and well near some train tracks. Her mother, Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) agrees to participate in a free trial for something called ‘Arkangel’ – a chip that when placed inside the child’s brain that allows the parents to track them as well as monitor their health, detect the child’s stress levels, enable the parents to see whatever the child sees though a tablet and then censor anything out that the child should not be seeing. Years later and 9 year old Sara is known as ‘the walking snitch’ among her classmates at school because of her chip. A troublesome older schoolmate known as ‘Trick’ (Nicky Torchia) tries to introduce Sara to violent videos on the internet, but as she can not see them due to the chip, he instead explains violence to her as well as what blood is. Back at home and Sara tires to draw a violent picture using her own blood that she draws from her own finger. Marie sees this through her tablet and tries to intervene, but Sara lashes out and hits her mom. Marie becomes concerned over her daughters mental health due to the chip and seeks help from a doctor who tells her that the Arkangel chip can not be removed, but that she should turn the tablet off and never use the Arkangel system again. Marie does so and lets Sara out in the world for the first time without restraint on what she can see. While at school Trick shows Sara violence and sexual videos for the first time. Now 15 and Sara (Brenna Harding) grows up without Arkangel protecting her. Her personality changes due to the influence of old school friend Trick (Owen Teague). The relationship between mother and daughter begins to break down as Marie starts to distrust Sara and contemplates reactivating the tablet and the Arkangel system to see exactly what her grown up daughter is now getting up to…but will she like what she sees?
As a quick side note, this episode was directed by Jodie Foster (yes THAT Jodie Foster) and is the first episode of the show directed by a woman. A marvellous tale about trust, paranoia and overbearing parenting. The acting is solid throughout and the story asks an interesting ethical quandary about controlling our kids. While the moral of the story is quite obvious, its still well handled and told, complete with an ending that will not really shock or surprise but will still leave a lasting effect filled with bitter irony.
While driving home from a night out at a club, Rob (Andrew Gower) hits and kills a cyclist. He convinces his passenger Mia (Andrea Riseborough) to help him cover up his crime by throwing the dead body and bike into a lake. Fifteen years later and Mia is married, has a son as well as a successful career. She goes on a business trip where Rob tracks her down at her hotel and shows Mia a news article about the dead cyclist and how the wife of the cyclist believes her husband is still alive and is actively looking for him. Rob suggests writing an anonymous letter explaining what happened fifteen years back, but Mia believes that the letter could be traced and tires to talk Rob out of it. They argue and Mia ends up killing Rob to keep him quiet and not risk her happy life. Shorty after, outside of her hotel, there is an accident where a self-driving pizza delivery truck hits a pedestrian which Mia witnesses. When the man who was hit by the truck contacts his insurance company, they send investigator Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) to establish exactly how the accident happened. Shazia uses a device known as a ‘Recaller’ to scan a claimant’s memories. The memory reveals that Mia witnessed the accident and Shazia is hopeful that Mia’s testimony will allow her to prove the accident was the pizza truck’s fault so she can pursue a lucrative negligence suit against the owners of the truck. However its when Shazia tries to get information from Mia with the Recaller device when things start to unravel and Mia is forced to protect her family and successful life.
This one is bleak – very, very, very bleak – even for a Black Mirror episode. It was filmed in Iceland and looks gorgeous using the wonderful snowy, Icelandic landscapes to great effect. The performance of Mia by Andrea Riseborough is utterly brilliant as the hardened business woman just trying to protect her family and life. The story is pretty violent with numerous deaths along the way and gets quite tense a few times too. Everything wraps up nicely as the chain of seemingly unrelated events all come together via the use of people’s memories and leads up to a chilling but deserving finale. Not one of the pure genius episodes, but still a good solid one with a satisfying resolve.
Hang the DJ
Frank (Joe Cole) uses an artificial intelligence program called the ‘System’ and a dating app called ‘Coach’ to find a date. He is paired up with Amy (Georgina Campbell) who is also using Coach. The System which runs the Coach app pre-selects everything from where they go on their date, what they eat and even how long the relationship will last. When Frank and Amy check Coach to see how long they will be together, they are told only twelve hours. After the meal, they are taken to a pre-selected location where they spend the night together and after the twelve hours are up, they part ways. Both Frank and Amy begin to question Coach and the System as to how it manages and selects the parings of couples. Coach states that is has users go on numerous dates until their perfect mach is found while it collects data of the two people to evetually match them with their ultimate life-partner on what its known as a ‘paring day’ with a 99.8% accuracy. Later, Amy is assigned a new partner lasting nine months – Lenny (George Blagden) and Frank is assigned Nicola (Gwyneth Keyworth) for one year. A paring day celebration for a new couple is held, Frank and Amy attend with their previously chosen respective partners and they reconnect with each other once more. When their pre-chosen relationships evetually expire, Frank and Amy are once again paired up with each other by Coach, both of them agree to not check how long the relationship will last this time around. The couple really do get on and there is a genuine shared attraction there…but how will their second time around work out, has the System and Coach got it right this time?
An interesting take on online dating and dating apps with great satirical undertones running through it. This is Black Mirror’s take on a glossy ‘rom-com’, its a love story done really well with a twist…and for Black Mirror, not a necessarily downbeat, depressing twist either. The acting of the two main leads is really good and this helps to emotionally affect the story. There’s also some amazing visual symbolism worth keeping an eye out for. Even though its not too hard to second guess where the episode is going and what the twist will be, it still manages to leave a lasting impression and even a smile on your face.
Three petty thieves – Bella (Maxine Peake), Tony (Clint Dyer), and Clarke (Jake Davies) break into a disused and seemingly unguarded warehouse. While Clarke is preoccupied trying to steal a van to aid their getaway – Bella and Tony enter the warehouse looking for a specific box. The box is said to contain an object that will help one of their own called Jack and it must be important if the trio are willing to risk their lives to get it. Tony finds the box, but it is being guarded by a robotic dog-like machine. The machine kills Tony and also shoots electronic trackers that embed themselves in Bella’s skin. She runs out of the warehouse without the box and escapes in a car while Clarke uses the van. The guard dog robot chases them down, kills Clarke leaving only Bella alive. She then faces a nightmare as this robotic dog-like machine chases her through a post-apocalyptic wilderness with the intent of killing Bella…but all for what? Bella must fight to survive using only her wits, guile and whatever she managed to scavenge in this desolate land.
This is the shortest of all the episodes coming it at around 40 minutes…but don’t let that put you off. Its also shot stylishly in black & white which sets it apart from any other episode in the series. I suppose if I were to boil this down to basics, this is a horror/slasher movie style tale. You ever seen The Terminator? Replace the T-800 with a robotic dog and Sarah Conner with Bella and you get the general idea. Its fast paced (most of the characters get killed off in the first few minutes) and tense chase story where the female is continually being perused by a killer robot. The machine itself packs quite a few surprises, so much so that you’re never sure of exactly what it will do next or what it is capable of with its many gadgets and weapons. There’s even a few light comedic moments that ease the more tense aspects of this story. The ending is a real downer that tops off a superbly written and directed episode.
While out driving, Nish’s (Letitia Wright) electric car runs out of power, while waiting for it to be recharged – she accidentally discovers and enters the Black Museum. Inside she meets the proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) who takes her on a tour of the museum and tells her stories connected to several of the artefacts he has collected over the years. The first tale is of Rolo’s earlier life – he used to be a neurological research recruiter. He has in his possession a neurological implant that allows the user to feel the sensations of others. Rolo persuades Dr. Peter Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) to try out the implant which would mean he can diagnose his patients with much more accuracy, leading to a higher cure rate and save many, many lives. However, Dr. Dawson starts to misuse the implant for his own benefit and things start to backfire. The second story has Rolo convincing Jack (Aldis Hodge) to transfer the consciousness of his comatose wife Carrie (Alexandra Roach) into his brain. The idea being that Carrie will feel the sensations Jack feels and that will help her feel alive once morw. When he hugs their son, she feels the benefit, etc. While her consciousness will be in Jack’s brain, her body will be euthanized and her organs donated for medial use. But the downside is that Jack no longer has any privacy with his comatose wife’s conciseness always there and their relationship breaks down. Jack evetually meets Emily (Yasha Jackson) and starts a new relationship – much to the annoyance of Carrie’s consciousness. But with no body to put Carrie into, what can Jack do? The third yarn is one of convicted murderer Clayton Leigh (Babs Olusanmokun). Rolo convinces Clayton to sign over all the rights to his post-death consciousness when he is still on death row. After his execution, Clayton is turned into a hologram and used as a sadistic attraction in the museum. Meanwhile, back at the Black Museum. The truth as to exactly who Nish is gets revealed and her trip to the Black Museum was not by entirely an accident…
Very much like the previous Christmas special episode, White Christmas, this is another anthology episode with four interconnecting stories. The three flashbacks with Rolo talking about his past life before he opened the Black Museum and the current tale involving Nish visiting the museum. Big pre-warning for this particular episode – this one is chock full of nods, references and even spoilers from previous episodes. So my advice would be to watch this one last, not only so you can have fun spotting the references – but also to avoid any of the spoilers. All of the stories work well and the way everything comes together at the end is sublime. The final twist is a belter and a great way to end the season.
So there you have it, every episode of Black Mirror covered and reviewed…and without major spoilers too. If you are a fan of these anthology style shows then I strongly suggest this one. Its really is wonderful with brilliant writing and numerous episodes worth watching more than once. They are often bleak and depressing tales, but now and again the show offers a few sliver linings along the way. The only real downside is how long we’ll have to wait for another season.
My Personal Picks
Okay, so for a while I thought about putting all 19 episodes in a ‘top 19’ ranking order from worst to best…but then I quickly realised I think there are several episodes that I would easily put at number 1. Its not so simple to pick apart an entire show where even the lesser episodes are still worth a watch and the better ones are nothing short of genius.
Instead I thought I’d just offer a list of 10 episodes I think you should check out if you don’t feel like trawling through all 19. Not in any particular order, no ‘top 10’, no worst to best or best to worst. Just 10 solid, well made and entertaining episodes you should most definitely watch and why.
- The National Anthem. The first episode and I think its a great introduction to the world of Black Mirror.
- White Bear. This would definitely make it as one of my top 1 episodes. The final twist is my favourite of the entire series.
- Playtest. As an avid gamer, I loved this one. Not only is it a great tale but its also full of gaming references.
- Metalhead. Sheer brilliance. This one is simple but really effective. I looks beautiful and offers a stunning story.
- Shut Up and Dance. This is another one that would hit my number 1 spot. Its a well paced episode with a huge middle finger of an ending.
- Hated in the Nation. This almost movie length episode is a thrilling cop drama with a plot and end that will drop your jaw.
- Arkangel. This one stuck a particular cord with me as I became a father to a girl myself a few months back. I really related to this one and the moral questions it raised.
- White Christmas. The first anthology episode is well written and acted. Everything tied together nicely and the ending is justified and dark.
- San Junipero. Often cited as the best episode of the series. Not for me but its still a fantastic yarn with a heartwarming/breaking ending.
- Black Museum. While I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other anthology episode – its still a cracker and well worth watching…last.