The 7 Greatest (& Not Always Gloomy) ‘Black Mirror’ Episodes to Watch on Netflix
It’s been a long few years since we’ve gotten any new episodes of the Channel 4 (British PBS) turned Netflix exclusive anthology Black Mirror. Created and written by British satirist Charlie Brooker, each episode explores the range of human experiences heightened by technology (black mirrors/screens, if you will.) Though the show is not (always) outright critical of technology itself (just the people who use it), Brooker also doesn’t shy away from criticizing certain aspects when held by people in power.
As of spring 2022, there are 22 episodes and one Black Mirror movie (Bandersnatch). In 2020, Brooker told Radio Times that while season six in some form is not off the table, he is taking a break from it. Brooker cited a bleak pandemic world as an influence and is working on his comedy writing at the moment. Many fans still want more—perhaps to counter our current reality by showing this isn’t the worst circle of hell. But whether more will come remains to be seen. Nevertheless, many episodes remain perfect for rewatching. In order of release date, here are the seven best Black Mirror episodes to rewatch (or to get into the series!).
Fifteen Million Merits
While we love Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Judas and the Black Messiah) and Jessica Brown Findley (Harlots), this episode (co-written with spouse Konnie Huq) made the list because it’s unfortunately still a super relevant episode even over a decade later. When Bing (Kaluuya) convinces Abi (Findley) to sing for a big talent show competition, the industry coerces Abi into adult entertainment, leading Bing to take action. The episode is an excellent commentary on capitalism and technology (two staples of the show) with great world-building. And I don’t know if this was intentional, but there are some parallel markers to incel and Black Pill behavior.
Be Right Back
This is one of the sadder episodes, not just because of the events, but in the tone and exploration of grief. After Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) is killed in a car accident, his girlfriend, Martha (Hayley Atwell), struggles to move forward. She then enrolls herself in an A.I. program to communicate with a version of Ash. Slowly, the program allows her more and more features to connect with Ash’s essence. This one will make you cry.
The story begins with a woman (Lenora Crichlow) alone in an amnestic state. As she tries to piece together what has happened to her, groups of people watch and record her from a distance. The atmosphere is incredibly creepy. I opted to include this title over the similar episode, Shut Up and Dance (episode 10), as I think it’s more substantive But watch both, both are good.
White Bear is in my top three not just because it’s an entertaining episode (where everything falls into place in a fascinating and upsetting way). But because almost every time I’ve rewatched it, I’ve felt differently about the ending. I don’t flip flop per se, but without going into spoilers, the implications of the ending are nuanced. And no matter what side you fall on, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable and conflicted.
As one of the most famous (and lovely) episodes in the series, is there anything to say? Two women, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), meet and fall in love in a very 1980s beach resort town called San Junipero. The use of technology will be a spoiler, so we’ll end it there for those who have never seen the episode. While there is criticism about a particular trope, this is one of the best-received episodes and is both very gay and blissful. I now associated Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth with this story exclusively, regardless of other famous media this song appeared in previously.
Men Against Fire
This military drama follows soldiers clearing out spaces where violent, mutated humans are nesting. Stripe (Malachi Kirby), like other soldiers, uses help from his neural implant, MASS, for intel and a tactical advantage. However, when something interferes with the implant, his job as a soldier becomes nearly impossible.
Slight spoilers on this episode
Men Against Fire often ranks lower on other lists with critics citing the predictable ending. However, I counter with the latest waves of xenophobia (among many other issues) can be a bit more on the nose if it helps people understand. While one-hit drone buttons are certainly horrifying enough, certain technological elements of the episode are very close to present efforts to gamify war such as partnerships with Activision Blizzard and augmented reality binoculars.
Director by legendary actress Jodie Foster, Arkagnel follows single mother Maria (Rosemarie DeWitt) struggling to find the balance to allow her daughter Sara to grow and still keep her protected from all the dangers in the world. Maria enrolls Sarah in this microchip implant program (Arkangel) that will allow her to track her child’s locations, what she sees, and more. As Sarah grows up, Maria starts to recognize the ways this technology affects Sara’s social and mental development.
Even with a very cis-white cast and setting, this episode was a more disturbing revisit in the current context of book banning, critical race theory panic, and the current anti-gay panic where most adults become mandatory “reporters” if their child is transgender. Also, read this after you watch it.
Even with Letitia Wright‘s shenanigans, this is still worth a watch as the hour-and-a-half horror episode it is—basically another Black Mirror movie before the actual film that would come two years later (Bandersnatch). Black Museum features three stories, two the young woman (Wright) learns about while exploring the eerie space and then her story, at the end. Like only a handful of episodes, Black Museum‘s ending is fairly positive. You know, all things considered.
These are by no means the only amazing and/or fascinating episodes. If this were a longer list, Nosedive (episode 8), USS Callister (episode 14), and Striking Vipers (episode 20) would all definitely be included.
(featured image: Channel 4, Netflix)
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