October 21st 2016 saw the release of season three of ‘Black Mirror’ onto Netflix. ‘Black Mirror’ is an anthology TV series, creator Charlie Brooker has this to say about it;
“each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”
Personally I’m not the biggest fan of television series, I can’t stand the lack of closure between episodes and I’m often put off if a show is in say it’s seventh season before I begin watching it. However, with the lack of continuity between the episodes in ‘Black Mirror’ and the small numbers of episodes per season, ranging from a total of three to six over the three seasons, I thought this might be achievable for film loving me! The buzz for the release of season three helped too so I took the plunge and got stuck right in. No one was more surprised than myself when I became hooked and binge watched all three seasons in a weekend.
In this piece instead of reviewing the seasons I’m instead going to rank the episodes from my least favourite to most favourite. Bare in mind this is my list and doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the episodes but just how much I enjoyed them.
#13. ‘San Junipero’ (Series 3, Episode 4)
‘San Junipero’ was one of the two episodes in the entirety of ‘Black Mirror’ that I didn’t enjoy. There is nothing inherently wrong with this episode I just didn’t connect with it all that much. There is a distinct change in the tone from the rest of the series here and that darkness which I had become so accustomed to over my binge watch just wasn’t present. There is much to be admired though with a different time setting from the rest of the series and impressive costume and set design too. Many will really enjoy this episode, some will probably rate it as their favourites. This one just wasn’t for me but I did love the use of film posters throughout the run-time.
#12. ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ (Series 1, Episode 2)
‘Fifteen Million Merits’ was the second of the two episodes which I didn’t enjoy. However, I liked this one a lot more than ‘San Junipero’. I was impressed more than anything as it brilliantly shames our culture obsessed with talent shows. The reason that I couldn’t enjoy this episode was due to its claustrophobic and repetitive nature which was reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem For A Dream’. This of course was intentional and makes it’s point very well but in the process takes the title for the most depressing episode of the entire three series. The performance from Daniel Kaluuya is another noteworthy element as it was the first of the series to really stun me, something that I quickly realised would become a reccuring theme.
#11. ‘The Waldo Moment’ (Series 2, Episode 3)
‘The Waldo Moment’ was personally one of the more surprising episodes of ‘Black Mirror’ for me. At first I found it to be far less engaging than previous episodes, this can be put down to my lack of interest in politics though which is the main focus for the episode. However quite quickly the episode demanded more and more of my attention and by the end I was very engaged with it. ‘The Waldo Moment’ doesn’t just have one main point to put across, it raises a number of these making it an episode that will benefit from re-watches. What’s maybe the best thing about this episode though is it’s parallels with the current US Presidential race.
#10. ‘Men Against Fire’ (Series 3, Episode 5)
‘Men Against Fire’ was a welcome return to the darker tone after the disappointing ‘San Junipero’ combating the lighter tone that came before it with a bleak landscape, a focus on warfare and graphic violence. It’s a shame that the narrative reveals a little too much of itself too soon because this is an episode with much content, with a message not just for the future but a reminder from the past.
#9. ‘Nosedive’ (Series 3, Episode 1)
Sticking with series three for the moment the opening episode showcases the tremendous pulling power through the casting of Bryce Dallas Howard. This episode was refreshingly comedic for such a dark series and is filled with great performances. It has a really believable plot, one that seems scarily close to the society we already live in. I’ll admit that this episode didn’t grip me in the same way others did and the content did become monotonous, although this sort of is the point so credit is due for replicating character feelings onto the audience!
#8. ‘Be Right Back’ (Series 2, Episode 1)
Another series opener now with ‘Be Right Back’ starring Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson. This is one of the more contained episodes of the series demanding a lot of it’s small cast. Both of the central performances are fantastic and despite the short length of the episode the concept is very well thought out and the narrative keeps up with this making for a great episode.
#7. ‘White Bear’ (Series 2, Episode 2)
If it wasn’t for ‘Men Against Fire’, this episode would take the crown for being the most action packed. At the time in the series it comes it’s a nice change of pace especially coming immediately after ‘Be Right Back’. This episode is an agonizing watch with spectacular performances, Lenora Crichlow and Michael Smiley especially shinning. There isn’t so much of a message in this episode, possibly more of a prophecy but it draws out many points about our culture right now which should send alarm bells ringing.
#6. ‘The Entire History of You’ (Series 1, Episode 3)
The cumulative episode in the first series of the show was an absolute treat. Featuring a new kind of technology which allows users to record, rewind and re-watch everything they see through their eyes, throughout the episode the integration of which into everyday life was so cleverly executed. There is a strong central performance from Toby Kebbell and the episode builds well over it’s run-time making it one of the best stories from across all three series.
#5. ‘White Christmas’ (Series 2, Episode 4)
It was three for the price of one for this Christmas special starring Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall. Over the course of the extended running time for the episode the two men Hamm and Spall play converse about three stories which are interconnected. The relation the stories had to each other made for a very entertaining change to the usual standalone nature of the show. With superb performances, social commentary galore and deep dark storytelling ‘White Christmas’ was a ‘special’ in every sense of the word, maybe best enjoyed apart from the actual Christmas period though as it’s sure to put a dampener on your festive spirits.
#4. ‘Playtest’ (Series 3, Episode 2)
Bringing a terrifying reality to modern horror gaming ‘Playtest’ was an ordeal to say the least. Playing with a horrifying concept of a game that attempts to scare it’s players based on their unique fears this episode will connect deeply with every viewer. You’ll begin to wonder what the game would throw at you if you were playing and things only become more chilling when you have a mutual fear of the characters!
#3. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ (Series 3, Episode 3)
Having to follow ‘Playtest’ wouldn’t be ideal for any episode but ‘Shut Up and Dance’ easily deals with this kind of expectation holding my attention like no other episode in the series did. On any given day this could be my favourite episode. This episode is easily the most current and as was noted by Brooker could happen today. The episode features a blisteringly good performance from lead Alex Lawther which will leave you broken for some time.
#2. ‘The National Anthem’ (Series 1, Episode 1)
The episode that started everything off with the most brutal ultimatum you’re ever likely to hear. The narrative here is so brilliantly crafted with coherent and conclusive writing with one of the clearest messages of all the episodes. ‘The National Anthem’ captured the reactions of the public so accurately and featured the best performance I’ve ever seen from Rory Kinnear as the Prime Minister. Accompanied by a harrowing score this episode paved the way for this brutal series and until the very end of the most recent series held the top spot on my list of favourites.
#1. ‘Hated in the Nation’ (Series 3, Episode 6)
Yes, if you hadn’t worked it out already my favourite episode of the entire ‘Black Mirror’ collection is the feature length finale to the new series, ‘Hated in the Nation’. It’s no wonder that the film fan in me loved the ninety minute run-time here and the police investigation set up was only further to my liking. This episode felt like the type of story that ‘Doctor Who’ could only dream of. Combining a murder mystery with exciting action, super performances, a brilliant narrative and all with a sting in the tail. Mr. Brooker certainly saved his best for last.
So that’s my list from least to most favourite, please let me know what you think about my rankings and let me know your order. Hopefully if you haven’t watched any of ‘Black Mirror’ this list has encouraged you to watch some of it, the beauty is you can watch any episode in isolation without having to catch up so you’ve no excuse not to try it out! I can wholeheartedly say that ‘Black Mirror’ is the best television series I have ever seen and can’t wait for more of it.
Thanks for reading this list and please let me know what you thought about the three series! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.