Black Mirror has caught on with many viewers thanks to its disturbing stories about the encroaching dangers and drawbacks of technology in our lives. Each episode in the sci-fi anthology series always points out the challenges and impact that new tech will bring. This superb series only consists of 19 episodes, but hopefully more episodes will be commissioned by Netflix. After all, not only is Black Mirror growing in popularity, but one of its episodes (“San Junipero”) won an Emmy award for Outstanding Television Movie What follows is how each episode ranks; keep in mind that the lower-ranking episodes of Black Mirror are not bad, it’s just that the higher-ranked ones are extremely special. Needless, to say spoilers will be revealed.
19. “Men Against Fire”
A distraught soldier finds out there is more to the deadly mutated humans he and his team are hunting down and exterminating. By itself, this is not a bad episode, it’s just that by the time this one came out, the concept felt too familiar and the twist was too easy to guess.
18. “Hated in the Nation”
Again, an enjoyable if unremarkable story that repeats themes from previous episodes. A detective investigates a series of deaths that are connected by the victims’ negative social media status. The payoff here is the means of how the killings are carried out.
A stranded American tourist in the UK participates in a playtest of an experimental AR game. What he experiences in his artificial hell is chilling and the entire “is this real or not” scenario for the most part works. Unfortunately, it was obvious to viewers how the story would end.
16. “The National Anthem”
The very first Black Mirror episode is one of the most disturbing and revolting stories and has the least amount of sci-fi elements, if any. The prime minister of the UK is forced to have sex with a pig on live TV to prevent the death of a kidnapped member of the Royal Family. Enough said.
Jodie Foster directed this unsettling story of an over-protective mother who has her young daughter implanted with a tracking device that functions as a censor to the dangers and violence in the real world. The consequences are just sad and the episode is a valid lesson for all parents.
A successful architect’s attempts to cover up an old murder are imperiled thanks to a device that recalls a person’s memories. This Black Mirror episode is more like a a murder mystery with a sci-fi device thrown in, but it’s well done. What stands out is its disheartening final act as the murders pile up.
13. “The Waldo Moment”
A vulgar animated bear that lampoons politicians becomes unexpectedly popular when on a lark the character is used to run for office. The implications of the outlandish campaign from the fictional character and the people behind the scenes are well explored. But what made “The Waldo Moment” so relevant is that it turned out to be an eerie foreshadowing of the Trump campaign.
12. “White Bear”
A woman wakes up to find herself being hunted and videotaped by strangers. This was one of those Black Mirror episodes that kept you guessing until the final moments when we learn why she was being chased. This revelation completely changed our feelings towards the tortured woman.
11. “Black Museum”
A trio of stories rounds up the final (to date) episode of Black Mirror. A British tourist visits a remote museum in the American Southwest. The museum’s owner reveals the stories behind some artifacts (numerous props from other episodes are also seen, which tie together the entire series). The three stories themselves are well done and the payoff at the end was quite satisfying.
10. “Be Right Back”
Hayley Atwell plays a woman who resurrects her deceased lover (Domhnall Gleeson) and quickly finds out that it is not easy to recreate what was lost. That is because the synthetic being is an incomplete copy due to missing data about the lover. The story has many tragic overtones as it explores the main character’s loneliness and yearning for a lost love.
9. “15 Million Credits”
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) stars as a laborer in a futuristic society living a slavish existence where he has to peddle a stationary bike to generate power and earn credits. He falls in love with a fellow drone and tries to help her find a way out of the dreary life through the dominant form of entertainment in the society: tacky and impersonal reality shows. These, of course, are biting critiques of today’s reality TV shows. Looking at you X-Factor.
8. “The Entire History of You”
A tragic and disturbing story of obsession and jealousy that is amped up by a futuristic tech that allows people to record what they see and hear. In this episode, the main character (Toby Kebbell) uses the tech to confirm his suspicion about his wife’s (Jodie Whittaker) indiscretions. The agony that follows was harrowing to watch as his jealousy and rage got the better of him. The final scenes which juxtaposed his current dark and bleak reality where he is alone against his previous idyllic life that included his wife are especially haunting.
7. “U.S.S. Callister“
The darker side of Star Trek fandom is examined in this episode about a meek CTO who is ostracized by people in his job. He retreats to a Star Trek-like virtual reality where he is the heroic starship captain and a malicious god-like entity like Charlie X. The crew around him are digital recreations of his colleagues, who are actually sentient and tortured by the malicious geek. For many fans this episode hit a little too close to home as it revealed that even hapless geeks can have a dark and sadistic side to them.
6. “Shut Up and Dance”
Much like “White Bear” this episode does a complete 180 on the characters we initially empathize with. Also, like “The National Anthem” there are not any sci-fi trappings as it focuses on the dark side of today’s technology. A young adult is forced by hackers to commit crimes that escalate in nature. Throughout his ordeal we’re led to feel for him until the final revelation about him and other “victims”, which pulls the mental rug out from us and leaves us questioning ourselves.
In a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape, a lone woman is relentlessly pursued by a killer, four-legged robot. As the shortest episode of Black Mirror, and filmed in black and white, “Metalhead” evoked science fiction classics like The Terminator and the Alien films with its tense mood and scares. Since the episode is so short, it ignored the loftier themes and allegories of other Black Mirror episodes and focuses on the horror factor. In the end, it works as we can’t help but root for the woman as she struggled to stay one step ahead of the resourceful robot.
4. “San Junipero”
The much-acclaimed episode is different than other Black Mirror episodes because of its more optimistic tone. A shy young woman in the 1980s meets a free-spirited woman and the two engage in a love affair that apparently spans decades without them aging. It turns out that the two are elderly women whose consciousness experience life within a simulated world. As a love story, “San Junipero” is a welcome change of pace for Black Mirror and well deserves all the praise it has received.
3. “Hang the DJ”
Another romantic episode that is just as uplifting as “San Junipero”, “Hang the DJ” takes place in a walled-off society where a dating app determines how long you should be with a partner. The episode features a young couple who fall in love, but are forced to separate because the app only allows them to be together for 12 hours. Then they have to spend time with other partners even though they feel they are destined for each other. “Hang the DJ” is a rather touching tale thanks to the natural chemistry and performances of the two leads (Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole).
One of the more humorous, yet cautionary, episodes in the series stars Bryce Dallas Howard as a woman obsessed with her social media status. In the future, your ranking in social media determines your lifestyle, which leaves people desperately seeking likes from their interactions with others in order to even be able to live and work in preferred places. “Nosedive” does a great job extrapolating how social media may evolve and its shallowness is laid bare to viewers as Howard’s character desperately pursues a quest for a top ranking.
1. “White Christmas”
While other episodes may be more unsettling or original, “White Christmas” best epitomizes the core essence of Black Mirror: a look at the pitfalls of technology as it becomes more ingrained with our lives. Featuring Jon Hamm, he plays a man sharing a remote winter outpost during Christmas with another man. To pass time, the two exchange stories of how they wound up in the outpost. The tales themselves are well written and acted as they feature elements from other episodes like “The Entire History of You”, but boast equally stunning twist endings that leave you thinking long after the episode ends.