Recently I got into the Netflix series Black Mirror. If is a very beautiful (but also dark) series illustrating the dangers of new technology. The single episodes are not connected with each other, so you can watch them in any order you want. Some episodes are nearer to today’s world that you maybe want them to be while others seem to be further away from today. But no matter how near or far the displayed world seems to be, the series asks important questions how human living is influenced by modern technology.
I want to give a broad evaluation of every episode and put them in a ranking order. I’ll start from the in my opinion worst episode to the best one. To make this ranking comprehensible, I made my decisions based on the following two criteria:
- Is the episode exciting to watch? Would I rewatch it? Would I recommend it to watch?
- Is the episode thought-provoking? Does it introduce interesting and controversial questions about the use of technology? In my opinion one of the outstanding features of this series (but not necessary of every episode).
And as usual with this kind of rankings: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the series, go and watch it.
- The Waldo Moment
A very straight forward and plain episode. The last scene, in which the main character realises what his character has become, is maybe the best of this episode. But everything else simply cannot keep up with the standards of other episodes.
This episode discusses the future of videogames and VR in a really interesting way. But the ending is really bad and left me confused, in a negative kind of way. So what is the lesion of this episode? Don’t volunteer for testing new games? Call your mum on a regular basis?
- The National Anthem
An episode which is overall terrifying realistic. Not all things seem that plausible, like for example the rapid change in public opinion. A very grim and shocking episode which sets the tone for future episodes to come. Not that much thought-provoking, no real lessons learned in this episode.
- White Christmas
My opinion is highly divided with this episode. While there are three interesting individual ideas/stories, they are in my opinion put badly together. This idea of blocking people is very fascinating and I wouldn’t mind if this idea will be expanded in upcoming episodes. The idea with the mind in the egg was too weird for my taste. Kudos to the I_AM_Waldo easter egg.
- Shut Up and Dance
So basically a story about 4chan. While the twist in the episode was well made, I was having problems seen the main character as a pedophile, maybe because he looked like underage to me. This is one of the grimmest episodes of Black Mirror which was thrilling to watch for the first time but I definitely won’t rewatch it. In my opinion the whole “punishment of a criminal” aspect was better done in the episode White Bear.
- Hated in the Nation
Oh, the story about the killer bees. It starts very interesting and is designed like a crime series. Do I have to be worried that I wasn’t much emotionally touched by the mass killing of this social media mob? Or was this intended by the producers? And I really dislike the (overused) idea of a single hacker mastermind who is outsmarting everyone else. A better villain would have maybe been an autonomous A.I. gone wild. Kelly McDonald’s accent is by the way just lovely.
- Men Against Fire
While the concept of this episode wasn’t innovative it contains a story twist I really enjoyed. I definitely want to see more of this world because there were some questions left open. What are the real reasons the government wants to hunt down the “roaches”, did the woman the main character was constantly dreaming about ever existed? While Michael Kelly did a great acting job (experience from House of Cards?), the main character was very boring.
- 15 Million Merits
This episode is settled in a more distant future and displays a dystopian society. I really enjoyed the episode, it has a nice love story and a very good twist. It is also very thought-provoking: Is the main character in the end seeing the “real outside world” or just starring at another screen? Is there an escape to this nightmare? Are the people forced to cycle the bikes? Why is Wraith Babes the best commercial ad ever made?
- Be Right Back
That’s a very touching story. The idea of bringing dead people back to life (oftentimes at all costs) is in my opinion always a good concept for a story. This episode also illustrates the problem of the Uncanny Valley in Human-Robot interaction. The only negative thing about this episode is the unsatisfying ending. I think a better ending could have been chosen (maybe the main character realises that she can’t bring back her real husband and decides to jump off the cliff).
What a pastel mirror of today’s society. A very innovative concept which seems horrifying realistic, just look at the company Uber or the consideration of the Chinese government to give every citizen a ranking based on their social reputation. The discussions in this episode between the main character and her brother and between her and the truck driver are real highlights. Overall a very good episode.
- White Bear
I love this episode from the beginning to the end. First I thought the episode is about today’s people more interested in filming accidents than offering help. But the twist was awesome. At some point I was asking myself, if I would visit such a park (yes I would). Other interesting questions raised by this episode include: Is this a justified punishment for criminals? Is it even a punishment if the criminal can’t (and shouldn’t) remember what he/she did? Can this even be called punishment anymore and not torture?
- The Entire History of You
The best Black Mirroresk episode in terms of being grim, shocking and having a bad ending. While the story focuses on the relationship between the two main characters I don’t think the real question this episode wants to address is who of them is guilty but how technology can enhance bad personality traits of people. It also shows how technology could not only change one relation, but a complete society. Just look how the woman willingly to reject the chip was seen by the others as some kind of outsider/rebel. This can be seen in today’s society with people not willing to hop on the social network/smartphone train seen as outsiders. Really awesome acting.
- San Junipero
In my opinion the best episode in which everything fits together well. The acting was superb, the story was awesome and had a nice twist in it, the music fit perfectly, the display of technology was not over the top. Yes, it’s not your typical Black Mirror because it is not that grim and has a good ending. But that makes it in my opinion even better because you are able to watch it without being too much mentally disturbed at the end. Together with Nosedive the two episodes I would recommend to watch first (and rewatch after kind of shocking episodes like Shut Up and Dance). So TCKR basically made heaven a place on earth?
Black Mirror, online available on Netflix.