If you have clicked on this article, there is a good chance you have seen (or are at least familiar with) the British anthology series Black Mirror. If you are not familiar with the aforementioned series, then it is recommended that you stop what you are doing, gather food and water, walk to the closest Netflix compatible device, and spend the next few hours watching it in its entirety. There is not a chance you will regret it.
For those who don't know, Black Mirror is a British sci-fi anthology series that began airing on Channel 4 in December 2011. The show was created and is primarily written by Charlie Brooker, a British satirist who was perhaps best known for his Wipe series which were broadcast on BBC Four between 2006 and 2009.
While each episode presents a different plot and a different cast, the theme throughout the show is the same. Black Mirror intends to show us the darker sides of technology, and brings to life our subconscious fears in a world that is becoming more technologically obsessed. Brooker stated in an interview with Huffington Post that his intent is "to actively unsettle people", and that is exactly what he has done with Black Mirror. For the most part, the series has a very dark tone and can be unsettling and disturbing to some viewers.
SInce 2011, Black Mirror has only aired a total of seven episodes: a three-part series in 2011 and 2013 followed by a Christmas special in 2014. Quality over quantity indeed. Since being added to Netflix near the end of 2014, Black Mirror has begun gaining popularity in the United States, and rightfully so. An American remake is already in the works (unfortunately), and Robert Downey Jr's production company purchased the rights to create a film version of "The Entire History of You".
Below is the order in which I would rank the seven episodes of Black Mirror thus far, starting from the worst (which is still pretty good) and ending with the best.
7. The Waldo Moment
Saying "The Waldo Moment" is the worst episode of Black Mirror is like saying green is the worst flavor of Skittles; it's still delicious. "The Waldo Moment" is a slight deviation from other Black Mirror episodes in that it takes place in the world of politics. It is also slightly more comedic in tone than other episodes, due partly to the profane cartoon bear who is the centerpiece of the episode. Waldo the Bear becomes a sort of overnight sensation after humiliating a political hopeful on his talk show. The people love Waldo's gimmick, and his popularity goes so far that he (a blue cartoon bear) almost ends up winning the election. Despite Waldo's new found celebrity, his creator Jamie (Daniel Rigby) begins to despise his own creation and what the public forces him to be. "The Waldo Moment" is still a solid hour of television, but when placed next to the rest of Black Mirror, it lacks the emotional punch and sharp satire of the rest of the series.
6. White Christmas
The most recent episode of Black Mirror, the Christmas special aptly titled "White Christmas" is three different stories intertwined into one. The plot is a bit too lengthy and complicated to delve into in this article, but the three plot lines shift so drastically in tone that they may have done better as individual episodes. The segment with Jon Hamm is hilarious, the one with Oona Chaplin seems unnecessary, and the segment with Rafe Spall turns into a heartbreaking drama. Rafe Spall's magnificent performance saves "White Christmas" from being an incoherent disaster, although, for a series as arduous as Black Mirror, the bit with Jon Hamm as a relationship coach does provide a much-needed (if out of place) laugh.
5. The National Anthem
Being the first episode of Black Mirror to air, "The National Anthem" probably lost the show a large chunk of viewers right from the get-go due to its revolting plot. Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) has been kidnapped, and a ransom video emerges online stating that she will only be freed if the Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) has sex with a pig on live television. Without spoiling the plot, what follows is a masterfully orchestrated statement about how we as a people would rather watch disgusting acts carried on television than live in the real world. Which is ironic considering this is a television show about a disgusting act condemning other television with disgusting acts, but that's beside the point.
4. Be Right Back
The first episode of the second series of Black Mirror, "Be Right Back" features Martha (Hayley Atwell) and her husband Ash (Domhnall Gleeson), a man who is obsessed with social media and his online profiles. Right at the beginning, Ash is killed in a car accident, and Martha is left a widow. Martha's friend informs her of a new technology, one that allows a virtual person to be created based off of one's social media profiles and online interactions. Although she is reluctant at first, Martha eventually gives in, and new version of Ash is created. "Be Right Back" is quite so slow and dare I say boring in the beginning, but by the end the message is loud and clear. The episode successfully brings to light just how vapid and one-dimensional we are on social media.
3. The Entire History of You
In the world created for "The Entire History of You", every human has received an implant inside their head which allows them to record and watch everything they have ever done in their life. One night Liam (Toby Kebbell) and his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) attend a dinner party with some of Ffion's friends. Throughout the party, Liam begins to notice a strange tension between his wife and a man he doesn't know, Jonas (Tom Cullen). What follows is a slow breakdown of Liam's psyche, as his obsession and paranoia coupled with the ability to replay the truth lead the couple down an ugly path. This episode is almost entirely dialogue and character driven, and the result is excellent. The closing sequence is so well done that it could easily induce tears in many a viewer.
2. White Bear
"White Bear" is easily the most disturbing episode of Black Mirror, which is saying something for a show that specializes in being unsettling. A woman named Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) wakes up with no memory, and she soon finds that no one will speak to her or come near her; they only record her with their cell phones. Victoria is then suddenly chased by what appears to be masked lunatics throughout the town, all the while the voyeurs continue recording her. The episode initially plays out like a fast-paced action film, but if we know anything about Black Mirror, it's that nothing is ever that simple. A plot twist is pulled off to perfection about 3/4 of the way through, and the last scene is powerful enough to make one reevaluate the way we seem to exploit others' tragedy as our entertainment.
1. Fifteen Million Merits
"Fifteen Million Merits" is just an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. I would not expect to find a deeper, more thought-provoking hour of television anywhere or ever again in this lifetime. This episode explores themes such as love, loss, loneliness, idolatry, and conformity, and it hits each nail on the head with impeccable precision. The story is set in a completely indoor, claustrophobic, dystopian world where one can only escape by earning fifteen million points called "merits" and exchanging them for a chance to impress on the fictional talent show "Hot Shots". Merits are earned only by mindlessly pedaling away on exercise bikes and by watching countless advertisements, and they can only be spent on digital games and apps. The episode focuses primarily on a man named Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) and his attempt to "fight" the system, and his relationship with Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), a like-minded girl stuck in the same predicament. Everything about this episode works together to create a powerful, go-outside-and-experience-something-real message that resonated with me for weeks.
So there you have it: all seven episodes of Black Mirror. How would you rank them? Let us know in the comments.