Created and written by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is the perfect dystopian drama. Since its first episode aired in 2011, it has explored the disturbing effects of futuristic technology, from hackers getting into a teenage boys laptop to a service which allows people to communicate with their dead loved ones. With 19 self-contained episodes, there is clearly going to be something for everyone. However, to celebrate the release of the fourth series, I’ve decided to put together the top five episodes.
5 – San Junipero (S3, E4)
If you’re familiar with the cynical tone of Black Mirror episodes, you’ll know that ‘San Junipero’ is a welcome change. The lead characters Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) find themselves falling in love, despite Yorkie being dorky and introverted, and Kelly being the complete antithesis. This episode is successful because Brooker beautifully develops their romance, whilst hinting that things may not all they seem in the town of San Junipero. We notice that the protagonists find themselves in different eras of time throughout the episode, and as soon as it reaches midnight they must leave each other. We come to find out that this is because San Junipero is a virtual world, which consciousness’ can be uploaded to permanently after they die. Yorkie and Kelly are only visitors here, as an escape from their everyday reality of being alone and slowly dying. The episode has a rare upbeat ending, with the two girls making a decision to share their ‘lives’ with each other forever, uploading their consciousness to the San Junipero system.
4 – White Bear (S2, E2)
‘White Bear‘ is easily the most disturbing episode of the series. Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) seemingly wakes up from a suicide attempt. She struggles to work out where or who she is, and instead of being offered help from those nearby, she is surrounded by onlookers seemingly filming her every move. After we see Victoria being chased by eerie ‘hunters’ in animal masks, we come to find out that she was an associate in the murder of a young girl. This merciless form of justice continues for Victoria everyday, as she is psychologically and mentally tortured at the ‘White Bear justice centre’ a harrowing day out where the public can pay to assist in Victoria’s punishment.
3 – The Entire History of You (S1, E3)
Have you ever noticed something so trivial and obsessed over it until it drove you crazy? Well you’re not alone. ‘The Entire History of You‘ centres on a technological implant, which allows people to record and re-watch their memories at any time. At first this seems useful, with the leading character Liam (Toby Kennell) being able to analyse his appraisal at work or ensure that the babysitter is does job properly, however it slowly leads to his mental descent. The technology allows him to scrutinise his wife Ffion’s (Jodie Whittaker) every move, after seeing her with an ex partner. Ffion insists that her relationship with him is ancient history, but Liam begins to obsess over the fine details, uncomfortably interrogating the babysitter and eventually attacking Ffion’s ex Jonas (Tom Cullen.) The episode bleakly ends with Liam coming to the realisation that having the implant is not all it’s cracked up to be.
2 – White Christmas (S1, E4)
In the Christmas special of the series we’re introduced to a trio of stories, in a world where people have implants that let them share and control what they see. A new surgery is introduced, where people can have copies of themselves produced, and inserted into a ‘cookie’ in their brain. These duplicates are essentially slaves, who fully believe that they are human beings, but are only there to fulfil tasks for their ‘real self.’ Matt (John Hamm) is a shady (but extremely likeable) dating coach, as a side job to his participation in helping copies of ‘people’ settle in to their new environment. Greta (Oona Caplin) is an entitled woman who undergoes this surgery. Matt debatably tortures her ‘copy’ when breaking her in to the new routine, insisting it is all part of the job. The third (and most interesting) storyline features Joe (Rafe Spall), a troubled man who after having an argument with his wife is blocked by her forever – unable to engage with her in any way. The episode nicely features a small twist where we find out that his wife had an affair, and raised another mans child whilst Joe believed it was his. However, the episode ends with one of the most impressive twists of the series, where we come to find out that the whole episode was part of a criminal investigation against Joe.
1 – Shut Up and Dance (S3, E3)
‘Shut Up and Dance‘ holds its place as my favourite Black Mirror episode, due to it’s completely unanticipated and harrowing ending. Kenny (Alex Lawthere) is brilliantly portrayed as an innocent and introverted teenage boy. One day, after his sister infects his laptop with a virus, Kenny is recorded through his webcam opening his laptop, grabbing some tissues and dropping his trousers (I’ll let your mind fill the rest of the blanks.) He immediately gets a text from the hackers, and is forced into meeting their demands, otherwise the video will get leaked. Obviously this is most people’s nightmare, however we see Kenny rob a bank, and even have a fight to the death. So we are left questioning is this really worth stopping the leak of the video? The episode ends with the answer that yes, it was worth it, because Kenny was actually illegally watching child pornography. The audience is left with the painful realisation that the seemingly pure and vulnerable Kenny (who we were all rooting for) is actually a paedophile.