What Is Black Mirror?
Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is a sci-fi anthology series that originally aired on Channel 4, a British television channel. Season 1 premiered in 2011, and after two seasons, it was purchased by Netflix. While each episode is a standalone, it’s been confirmed by Charlie Brooker himself that they all happen within the same universe.
Black Mirror focuses on the human relationship with technology – how it can go so terribly wrong in the wrong hands, or how it can turn out quite well (though episodes with “happy endings” are few and far between). The show’s title comes from the ubiquitous screens all around us, from our smartphones to our oversized television screens.
While the show usually casts up-and-coming talents (such as Daniel Kaluuya before he starred in horror hit Get Out), there are the occasional big names that show up – Miley Cyrus, John Hamm, and Bryce Dallas Howard, to name a few! Season 5 recently came out, and while Season 6 hasn’t been confirmed yet, we can look forward to an amazing cast and equally compelling episodes soon!
Our Picks For The 7 Best Black Mirror Episodes
Season 3, Episode 1
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve, Cherry Jones, James Norton
At first sight, with its pretty pale pastel palette, this seems to be one of the more light-hearted Black Mirror episodes. But it’s all a facade: the pretty exteriors and niceties are just for show – a person’s social status is dependent on ratings they receive from people they interact with! Bryce Dallas Howard is perfect as Lacie, a woman desperate to get higher ratings so that she can get a “better life”.
One of the most interesting and compelling things about Black Mirror is how it seems to predict future events. It turns out that the ranking system featured in Nosedive (supposedly a critique on our social media habits) is eerily similar to something that already exists: China’s Social Credit System, meaning the events in this episode could very well happen to us soon!
6. The National Anthem
Season 1, Episode 1
Starring: Rory Kinnear, Lindsay Duncan
A princess is kidnapped and the prime minister is blackmailed into doing something despicable to set her free – that summary doesn’t really do justice to the craziness that happens in the episode, but you wouldn’t want to be spoiled now, would you? (Hint: it involves a pig.)
From the onset, Black Mirror proved it was a ballsy show. This is the very first episode, and it throws you right into the centre of all the madness that this show has to offer. It depicts the world as we know it now – there’s none of that futuristic technology that can be found in other episodes. Instead, there’s the familiar telly, mobile phones, and good old internet.
But it’s the familiarity of everything in The National Anthem that is what’s jarring about the episode – it’s something that can happen at any moment now. We don’t need to wait for any newfangled technology, because we have it all right now. Plus, the craziness of what Prime Minister has to go through in the episode is deeply disturbing but still, we can’t look away.
5. Shut Up And Dance
Season 3, Episode 3
Starring: Alex Lawther, Jerome Flynn
This fast-paced episode will get your heart racing. You root for Kenny (Lawther) and hope he wins against the mysterious entity giving him instructions – after all, he’s just a kid who was videotaped against his will. But this episode just keeps getting crazier and crazier, keeping you on the edge of your seat to the very end, with a twist that will leave you gasping.
Shut Up and Dance is particularly scary because it starts with something that can happen to any of us – our private online transactions hacked and taken advantage of by some unscrupulous characters. The thought of it happening to us is terrifying, especially since it can be manipulated to put us in a bad light.
4. San Junipero
Season 3, Episode 4
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mackenzie Davis
Of course, we can’t have a list of the best Black Mirror episodes without the classic fan favourite, San Junipero! While the show became known for its bleak outcomes, San Junipero gives us a light-hearted ending that restores our hope in, well, technology.
In this genre-bending episode, we get a taste of what could happen if it was possible to upload our consciousnesses to the cloud before we die. San Junipero is literally heaven on earth, and here, a love story that would have otherwise been impossible in the real world unfolds beautifully.
The entire episode isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s a very sweet and heartfelt (and queer!) romance that is told poignantly. It’s something that you really have to watch to understand why people often call this their favourite episode. Plus, it’s got amazing sets and costumes!
3. White Christmas
Starring: Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall, Oona Chaplin
The only Christmas special of the series (yet), this is a really dark take on what’s supposed to be a holiday of joy and love. This episode is jam-packed with all the twisted things of this decade and the next: from pick-up artists to cloning to the pitfalls of turning “blocking” into a real-life concept. As usual, it’s got a surprise ending that will leave your jaw on the floor!
2. USS Callister
Season 4, Episode 1
Starring: Jesse Plemons, Michaela Coel, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson
A disillusioned video game developer obsessed with a Star Trek-esque show creates clones of the people in his life and turns them into characters in an AR-like video game. He runs the show as the captain of the USS Callister starship, but the twist is that his clones are sentient creatures.
While this episode is less a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of technology and more of a “what if” scenario of when tech allows us to play God with real lives (think The Sims but to the extreme), USS Callister is fun because of its wacky characters, scenarios, and Star Trek easter eggs.
1. Hated In The Nation
Season 3, Episode 6
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Faye Marsay, Benedict Wong
The world’s most-hated celebrities are suddenly killed off in a twisted game and two detectives must race against time to figure out who’s controlling the killer bees (yes, you read that right) that are being programmed to make the kills.
Hated in the Nation is Black Mirror’s longest episode, but it’s worth every minute: it’s a thriller that tackles data privacy, the mob mentality that governs social media (it’s basically Twitter IRL), and even the plummeting bee population! It shows how technology with the very best of intentions (saving the environment) can be manipulated into the most terrible, unexpected way.
This episode will take you on quite the ride, and given today’s current social media situation, it paints quite a frightening picture of where we might find ourselves a mere few years – or even months! – from now.