(Disclaimer: The following article contains spoilers for season three of Black Mirror. Continue at your own risk!)
Black Mirror is a slightly distorted look into the future that we already live in. It exaggerates our readiness to rely on #technology, and with each episode, it shows us a better glimpse into the world of this "tech-based Twilight Zone".
All of the subjects that appear on the show are ones we are familiar with in our every day lives. Whether it be virtual reality, social networking, or the overall lack of personal privacy, it shows us a world that we might already know. These ideas, while engaging and very well put together, are not wholly original. With that in mind, what influences can we see in each specific episode?
If you have finished up the most recent episodes and need something else to sink your teeth into until the next six episodes drop in 2017, have no fear! We have compiled a list of movies and shows to watch to get you through your Black Mirror withdrawal at least until the new episodes arrive on Netflix.
If you want to read more about Black Mirror, please check out:
- The Top 18 WTF Moments Of 'Black Mirror' Season 3
- 'Black Mirror' Season Finale 'Hated In The Nation': 4 Times Trolling Went Too Far
- 'Black Mirror' Finale: Automated Animals Are Closer Than You Think
Episode 1 - 'Nosedive'
'Nosedive' is a snapshot of what our world can become (or some might argue, has become) when we put our self-worth in the hands of others. When you break this episode down to its base components, it becomes clear that it is commentary on how we view ourselves within the social hierarchies of the world. The hues of any film involving a dystopian future are present. This flavor can be felt in such films as: Logan's Run, Hunger Games, 1984, and Zardoz. Of course, these are are light influences on this piece, but you can imagine if time went on, this "social rating culture" would become more polarized and devolve into chaos.
Community: Season 5 Episode 8: 'App Development and Condiments'
This episode revolves around the release of an app called 'Meow Meow Beenz', that is essentially the same app that Bryce Dallas Howard's character uses in 'Nosedive', just with a sillier name. It revolves around a 1 to 5 rating system, and your worth is decided by your ranking. The main characters on Community become heavily addicted to the app, and everyone in their college quickly becomes obsessed with this ranking system.
This episode pays homage to the previously mentioned films Zardoz and Logan's Run. They more or less beat you over the head with the theme, but it works pretty well and is the same exact story as 'Nosedive', just a lot less depressing. If you need some levity after your Black Mirror binge like I did, then this episode of Community is sure to put a smile on your face.
Episode 2 - 'Playtest'
What's real and what isn't? This trippy look into the future of virtual reality is as strange as it is interesting. During the first 15 minutes it seems like a fairly normal show, but we know better than that — don't try and trick us Black Mirror! Everything Cooper (Wyatt Russell) experienced in the VR world seemed like days to him, but it only took place over the course of 0.4 seconds — what a twist! When we get passed all of the love-making and phone call dodging, our final stop is a mix of Lawnmower Man, Truman Show, and THX-1138, but with a slight twist. 'Playtest' has you second guessing from start to finish with misdirection and shocking reveals. This insane journey is all woven together by the final twist: Cooper was actually going deeper and deeper into his consciousness.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief who has the ability to enter people's dreams to steal secrets. With the help of his trusty team — played by Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, and Ken Wantanabe — he attempts the impossible by going into the depths of the human mind and trying to plant an idea, rather than taking one. Manipulating the dream worlds around them, it's a race against the clock to complete their dangerous mission.
Featuring dreams within dreams, within dreams, Inception takes us deep into the subconscious mind. 'Playtest' and Inception both use technology to dive into people's minds, making their characters confront their worst fears. The ideas of how we perceive time, the theory of relativity, and facing mortality propel both this episode of Black Mirror and Inception.
Episode 3 - 'Shut Up and Dance'
Someone is always watching you — well, at least if you're up to no good. This episode posits a world where "trolling" takes on the form of vigilante justice. 'Shut up and Dance' has the fingerprints of a classic Hitchcock film all over it. While watching this episode, you definitely feel flavors from the films Dial M for Murder and Strangers on a Train. Kenny embodies the "wolf in sheep's clothing" archetype perfectly. The reveal has the same elements as the film Inside Man, where the true motives and details are hidden until the very end, and change your perception of the entire film.
Open Windows (2014)
Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) wins a contest to meet the actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), with whom he is obsessed. However, when Nick fails to receive an invite to the contest event, things begin to go sideways. He is contacted by Jill's manager Chord who might not be what he seems. What follows is an elaborate game of "cat and mouse" that ends up going to unexpected places.
Open Windows mirrors the same gritty tone of 'Shut Up and Dance', which can make you feel almost dirty. The perversion of technology and the human psyche is on full display in both of these tense thrillers. The idea that someone could be watching you at any time make both Open Windows and "Shut Up and Dance" as interesting as they are frightening.
Episode 4 - 'San Junipero'
Once you get past all the technology, at its core, this is a story about love. Despite facing their own mortality, Kelly and Yorkie find each other, true love, and end up happily ever after.
'San Junipero' is the odd duck in this slate of Black Mirror episodes, but it is also one of the best. Its has notes of The Matrix mixed with a heartfelt love story. It's a wonderful combination, much like Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One. The virtual reality element is apparent but it is not what the story is about, much like the TV show Lost. The science fiction element of 'San Junipero' is only one part of the puzzle, however; the story hinges on the characters.
Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013)
The story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) is one that transcends any language. It's a beautiful coming of age tale that follows Adèle discovering who she is and what love means to her. The ideals that course through this film's veins are ones that should be taken to heart, passed on to others, and cherished.
'San Junipero' and Blue Is The Warmest Color share cohesive themes, but at their hearts, they're stories about love that exists regardless of gender or sexual orientation. They both are about finding yourself and not worrying about what anyone else thinks about you, because in the end, it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks.
Episode 5 - 'Men Against Fire'
Thematically, 'Men Against Fire' shares a lot with films such as Ender's Game, The Matrix, and A Scanner Darkly. They all posit the notion that we only experience the world as we perceive it. The 2002 film Equilibrium explored this idea from the angle that suppressing emotions helped citizens maintain a certain perception of the world. All of these are examples of humans having the wool pulled over their eyes, then finally seeing the real world for the first time.
Dark City (1998)
John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens with no memory of who or where he is. He receives a phone call from a Dr. Daniel Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) urging him to run, which starts his discovery of a world of eternal night. He encounters many peculiar things, including a group of very pale bald men named "The Strangers". As the plot begins to unfold, you are entrenched in a world that is not what it seems. Murdoch is the only one who can see the world for what it really is, and begins to peel back the layers of deception.
Dark City is one of the greatest science fiction movies of the last 20 years. With its themes and mankind's ever evolving technological dependence, it still remains relevant. Much like 'Men Against Fire', Dark City centers on the human condition: how our perception dictates our actions, and how we exist. It asks the question: "Once we know the truth, will life ever be the same again?".
Episode 6 - 'Hated In The Nation'
This episode has the most social relevance of all the episodes this season. It is an "anti-troll" message like we have never seen before. In this episode Garret did what he did because someone he loved tried to kill herself due to internet trolling. That point brings up the through-line of "righteous justice" which pulsates in this episode like it does in such films like Law Abiding Citizen, Prisoners, and Death Sentence. These movies are about people taking justice into their own hands, because they believe it's the only way.
Fifty people are abducted by an unknown entity and placed in a large dark room in two concentric circles with a black dome in the center. The people cannot move or touch any one else; when they do they get a warning sound, if they keep going they are killed by a blast of energy from the dome in the center of the room. They begin to hear a countdown clock, and realize that they are part of an elaborate game: Every two minutes every person must vote for someone to die. If nobody votes, somebody will die at random.
Circle is one of the few movies that deals with the idea of "crowd-sourcing" executions. The tone is very much the same as 'Hated In The Nation', and it also shares the idea of the lengths humanity will go to survive. One main differences is that in Circle, the people are fighting for self-preservation and not being hateful internet trolls. Circle is more of a character study on humanity and the hard decisions that we make when we are in dire straits.
The next 6 installments of Black Mirror drop some time next year. Until then, be sure to check out our recommendations — and if you burn through those, you can always go back and binge all 3 seasons of Black Mirror available on Netflix!
Sound Off! What did you think about Black Mirror Season 3? Let it be known in the comment section below!