Black Mirror, a show which derives its name from the dark screen shown at the end of an episode as the viewer sits in stunned silence, is a dark and twisted thriller which depicts futuristic realities. Each episode is a complete stand alone, parable-esque, short film, which sculpts entirely new near future realities which are, at times, painfully similar to modern day. One episode, ‘Shut Up and Dance,’ follows the journey of a young man as he is blackmailed by an unknown power. It has been described by Charlie Brooker, the show’s creator, as intensely realistic; “[each episode] absolutely could happen now and today.” It is this atmosphere that makes the whole show so gripping. Nothing that happens in each episode is expected, and although slightly less relentless than the past two seasons, these new episodes fully immerse themselves in the familiar tone of cynicism and pessimism that is iconically Black Mirror.
The first episode, ‘Nosedive’, begins in a perfectly pastel world where people are given ratings dependent on their interactions with others. These ratings affect every aspect of their lives, such as their ability to rent certain apartments and fast-track queues; their acceptance in society is entirely based on the number on their screen. Fans of Dan Harmon’s show Community may find this premise a little too familiar, where Black Mirror’s numerical values are replaced with the typically Community-esq ‘MeowMeowBeenz.’ Brookers version is of course more fleshed out and is perhaps the world in this series in which the viewer is the most immersed. With an ending which may be slightly predictable, the world which Brooker has created is enthralling and a touching comment on a world obsessed with social media and the ratings obsessed temperament which it enforces on us all.
The most thrilling episode of the series however is most definitely ‘Playtest’. A premise which introduces an entirely new way of gaming which, like so many of Brookers futuristic elements, seems so possible. With only a small technological step forward than what is capable now, the episode’s thrill factor is increased tenfold; in essence it is a haunted house episode. In contrast however, an episode titled ‘San Junipero,’ is possibly the most uplifting of any of the three seasons. The mercy that this episode delivers does not mean however that it is any less enthralling, and in fact has one of the most moving story lines. The complex premise of this world takes a little while to understand, but the structure of the episode perfectly engages the audience as a love story between the two female leads develops; a rare feeling of hope and the mystery of this world creates a stirring and captivating episode.
A huge strength of the show is its ability to cross genres. The episode ‘Hated in the Nation’ for instance is essentially a police drama, and complies familiar tropes of the genre. The two female leads give the construction a refreshing spin however, without losing its hard-hitting hint of dystopia and becoming clichéd. ‘Men Against Fire’ however is set in a futuristic war time environment and deals with the intricacies and potential problems of high-tech warfare. Dealing with the subjects of xenophobia and eugenics in a way that forces the audience to think of the moral dilemmas of war time decisions.
Black Mirror is a truly great show which comments on the intricacies of the internet and modern technologies, as well as having the ability to cross multiple genres of television with ease. Each season contains ingenious ideas of the future which are bleak and twisted, yet always with dark humour and a thought-provoking ending.