Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

After a four-year hiatus, Black Mirror is again. Season six is now on Netflix, together with the entire again catalog—together with one Christmas particular and an interactive film.

The present, created by Charlie Brooker and producer Annabel Jones, is a contemporary tackle basic anthology sequence like The Twilight Zone. Via Brooker’s darkish, playful, and typically uplifting lens, the present examines the unintended methods know-how impacts our lives.

As a result of it’s an anthology sequence—by which every installment has new material and a barely totally different tone—every episode has its followers. And detractors. Selecting one of the best of one of the best and the worst of the worst is hard. However, we tried. Under is WIRED’s definitive rating of each episode of Black Mirror launched to this point.

28. “Smithereens” (Season 5, Episode 2)

Black Mirror’s tackle a British police drama, “Smithereens” tells the story of Chris (Andrew Scott)—a person who blames social media for essentially the most tragic second in his life. And that’s it. The paper-thin plot is simply sufficient to maintain this episode plodding from scene to scene, and regardless of being primarily based round a hostage state of affairs, the stakes by no means really feel notably excessive. Assume an episode of The Invoice however with a bit of little bit of “social media is dangerous” thrown in.

27. “White Bear” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Half disturbing zombie thriller and half slamming indictment of society’s hankering for public punishment, “White Bear” boasts one of the crucial unpredictable twists of any Black Mirror episode. However the setup to get there may be brutal, a horror-inspired slog that lacks any emotional depth. Within the remaining tally, “White Bear” has just one hand to play, and it does so in a burst of violent catharsis.

26. “Males Towards Hearth” (Season 4, Episode 5)

Black Mirror is typically responsible of fixating on an attention-grabbing concept or idea with out a entire story to help it. “Males Towards Hearth” is such an episode. Its warning in regards to the potential misuse of know-how in warfare is legitimate and attention-grabbing, nevertheless it’s arduous to cowl in a 50-minute installment of TV. The ultimate twist is suitably bleak, in true Black Mirror custom, however you may’t assist questioning in regards to the wider context of the story and its central character.

25. “The Waldo Second” (Season 2, Episode 3)

Together with “The Nationwide Anthem,” this episode of Black Mirror took some time to line up with the instances. Set within the midst of an election, “The Waldo Second” tells the story of Jamie (Daniel Rigby), a comic behind a puerile animated bear who unexpectedly finds himself having an outsize impression on nationwide politics. Think about Bo’ Selecta’s Avid Merrion working for workplace and also you gained’t be far off. On the time, this episode appeared to lack agency footing, and it tosses a number of too many concepts into the air with out creating them. However following the election of a sure US president, it seems to be as prescient as any in Black Mirror’s canon.

24. “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” (Season 5, Episode 3)

Brooker took on a wholly new style with this teen-drama-tinged rumination on vapid pop music, exploitative managers, and impressionable followers. Miley Cyrus performs Ashley, a pop star who has inexplicably had her persona downloaded into some futuristic dolls. Accomplished proper, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” may have been certainly one of Black Mirror’s finest episodes but. But it surely fails to essentially grapple with the know-how in query, and it’s by no means clear whether or not the episode is an ironic touch upon teen movies or only a poor simulacrum of the style, with a “pop music is dangerous” argument tacked on.

23. “White Christmas” (2014 Particular)

Regardless of Black Mirror’s success, the most effective issues in regards to the present is its capability to forged relative unknowns in starring roles. You’ll see loads of recognizable faces, however you’re unlikely to know many names. Enter Mad Males’s Jon Hamm. A fan of the present from the beginning, Hamm wished to congratulate Brooker in individual. Because of the assembly, Hamm was forged in a starring position for the present’s first (and solely) Christmas particular. Merely put, Hamm is simply too well-known for Black Mirror. Extra frustratingly, the episode lacks a robust sufficient concept to carry its plot collectively. Consequently, it feels disjointed, and the sensible remaining plot twist arrives too late. However it’s higher on a second viewing.

22. “Bandersnatch” (2018 Interactive Movie)

“Bandersnatch” is concurrently sensible and underwhelming. Brooker’s tackle choose-your-own journey TV has 5 endings dictated by the alternatives you make. At first, the novelty of controlling the story is thrilling, particularly because it takes quite a few darkish turns. The Nineteen Eighties setting is pitch-perfect, and there’s the kernel of an important story in “Bandersnatch,” however finally the novelty overtakes the storytelling and proves why TV is finest in a linear format.

21. “Demon 79” (Season 6, Episode 5)

Cowritten by Brooker and Bisha Okay. Ali, the author who penned Disney+’s Ms. Marvel sequence, “Demon 79” is billed as the primary “Crimson Mirror” episode—it’s extra horror than science fiction. Or horror-comedy. Or horror-fantasy. It’s arduous to categorize this story of a store employee in Nineteen Seventies England who’s compelled to show to homicide to avoid wasting the world after unintentionally releasing a demon. It may need been higher off with out the Black Mirror tag.

20. “Past the Sea” (Season 6, Episode 3)

This one dragged. That’s ironic, as a result of it’s in regards to the tedium of long-distance area journey, with Aaron Paul and Josh Hartnett enjoying astronauts on a years-long mission who can soar into their lives again dwelling by transferring their consciousness into android replicas of themselves. When tragedy strikes, issues take a darkish flip, however that is slow-burn sci-fi, extra about human feelings and relationships than area journey. It wins factors again for a suitably unhinged cameo from Rory Culkin.

19. “Placing Vipers” (Season 5, Episode 1)

Most likely the raunchiest Black Mirror episode, “Placing Vipers” begins with an intriguing premise—what occurs when VR intercourse is nearly as good as the actual deal—nevertheless it fails to discover the tantalizing questions this raises about human sexuality. Its Road Fighter-style VR world, rendered in sensible online game coloration, is good however falls flat after an anticlimactic ending that locks this courageous new world of intercourse again in its field.

18. “Metalhead” (Season 4, Episode 5)

Social media’s worry of these Boston Dynamics clips made manifest, “Metalhead” is filled with people on the run from murderous robotic canines roaming the countryside. The episode’s black-and-white fashion and course efficiently evoke basic horror movies. It’s tense, exhilarating, and genuinely scary, however the remaining twist undercuts the episode’s menacing tone. Particular point out should be manufactured from the second a robotic canine picks up a kitchen knife and spins it menacingly.

17. “Playtest” (Season 3, Episode 2)

Charlie Brooker likes video video games. And “Playtest,” because the identify suggests, is all about video video games. One specific sport, in actual fact: Resident Evil. There’s the genius Japanese sport developer, the haunted home, a personality known as Redfield (Chris, not Claire), and even covers of Edge hidden within the background. Brooker’s familiarity with the subject material actually exhibits, with cultural nods and winks rigorously combined right into a well-paced, ingenious plot. It is a actual love letter to the survival horror sport style, instructed with an expertly crafted dollop of Black Mirror gore and worry.

16. “Mazey Day” (Season 6, Episode 4)

This quick, sharp shock of an episode was impressed by a documentary about Britney Spears and follows a paparazzi photographer in mid-2000s Los Angeles on the hunt for a star who hasn’t been seen in weeks. It’s not notably intelligent, however it’s schlocky, enjoyable, and tough to debate intimately with out giving the sport away.

15. “Grasp the DJ” (Season 4, Episode 4)

“Grasp the DJ” is good. It drops us right into a tightly managed world the place folks date by algorithm. You go on dates determined for you, eat meals chosen for you, and keep in relationships for a predetermined time period, which might be hours or years, all within the identify of discovering the proper match. Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole (of Peaky Blinders fame) make for likable protagonists, however the ending is considerably telegraphed. Whereas “San Junipero” touches on the advanced morality of loss of life and consent, “Grasp the DJ” is a much less difficult however finally feel-good 50 minutes.

14. “Fifteen Million Deserves” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Aired in 2011, at a time when The X-Issue was at its cultural peak, this tackle the grim endgame for actuality tv hasn’t aged effectively. Positive, the shrill caricature of Simon Cowell is entertaining, however the entire episode lacks the subtlety of Brooker’s most compelling morality performs. Black Mirror is at its finest if you really feel complicit within the terrible scenes unfolding earlier than you. Until you’re an enormous fan of make-it-or-break-it-style Saturday evening leisure, the drama of “Fifteen Million Deserves” will really feel a bit overcooked.

13. “Arkangel” (Season 4, Episode 2)

The one episode of Black Mirror’s first 4 seasons to be directed by a girl (make of that what you’ll), “Arkangel” is among the least futuristic and, in consequence, most hard-hitting. Directed by Jodie Foster, it tells the straightforward story of a mom (Marie) who decides to implant a monitoring system in her daughter (Sara) to watch her well being and emotional state, and likewise to censor what her younger eyes can see. In contrast to episodes that take a bounding leap of religion, “Arkangel” feels prefer it may occur proper now, which makes its ugly conclusion all of the extra chilling.

12. “Loch Henry” (Season 6, Episode 2)

Brooker instructed WIRED that this episode was impressed by binging true crime in the course of the Covid-19 lockdown, and it adheres intently to the tropes of the style, with sweeping vistas and a mounting sense of dread. It’s about greater than ugly murders, although, and the darkish, devastating conclusion for 2 younger filmmakers and their investigation right into a infamous serial killer in distant Scotland lingers within the thoughts for a while.

11. “Joan Is Terrible” (Season 6, Episode 1)

Within the standout episode of the most recent season, Black Mirror bites the hand that feeds: A mildly terrible younger lady will get dwelling after a tricky day at work to search out that her life has been become content material on “Streamberry,” a Netflix-like leisure platform. From this barely flimsy premise, the episode builds into a pointy examination of the content material machine, the AI apocalypse, and even quantum computing, with the sequence’ standard mixture of the satirical and the scatalogical, together with some real star turns.

10. “The Whole Historical past of You” (Season 1, Episode 3)

Maybe essentially the most crushingly unfavorable of Black Mirror’s romantic tales—or, effectively, tales that contain folks in a relationship—“The Whole Historical past of You” is an actual gut-punch of an episode. As in most Black Mirror episodes, the world is recognizably our personal, other than one essential element. On this case, it’s that almost all people have been implanted with a “grain” that information the whole lot they see and permits them to play again any reminiscence at will. This doesn’t result in good issues. Written by Jesse Armstrong—the creator of Peep Present and Succession—that is the one episode of Black Mirror not written or cowritten by Brooker. An unrelenting examination of know-how’s position in self-inflicted injury to our fragile human egos, issues on this episode begin off dangerous and find yourself a lot, a lot worse.

9. “Crocodile” (Season 4, Episode 3)

A good moodier tackle the Scandi noir style, “Crocodile” is ready in a world the place insurance coverage firms faucet into folks’s recollections in an effort to settle claims. Once more, issues begin off dangerous—with a hit-and-run accident—and spiral downward. Though the unique script had a person within the lead position, Andrea Riseborough stars as Mia, who finds her good life unraveling when previous misdeeds meet up with her. Shot in Iceland, with gorgeous pictures of huge open roads and lonely properties, this is among the best-looking Black Mirror episodes, with a plot to match. The final scene, in basic Black Mirror fashion, undercuts the awfulness of all of it with only a contact of on-the-nose bleak comedy.

8. “Shut Up and Dance” (Season 3, Episode 3)

When did folks begin protecting up the webcams on their laptops? It was undoubtedly a factor earlier than “Shut up and Dance,” however this darkly cynical episode little doubt impressed many to take precautions. The setup is straightforward sufficient: A teen (Alex Lawler) is blackmailed by a hacker who recorded him masturbating. However his path quickly crosses with different victims of the hacker, all with their very own indiscretions to cover. Occasions develop at breakneck velocity because the more and more determined victims dance to the hacker’s tune, culminating in an ending so brutal you’ll have nightmares in regards to the stuff you don’t need your family and friends to know.

7. “Black Museum” (Season 4, Episode 6)

This stays essentially the most divisive episode within the historical past of Black Mirror. Directed by Colm McCarthy of Peaky Blinders and Sherlock fame, “Black Museum” is a visceral distillation of Brooker’s obsession with the macabre. It’s additionally the closest Brooker has gotten to The Twilight Zone and Hammer Home of Horror, each of which had been inspirations for its anthology fashion. And whereas it’s entertaining to look at a person ruined by know-how compelled to plunge a drill right into a homeless individual’s cranium in an effort to orgasm, you may’t assist however really feel that is counting on shock for the sake of shock.

6. “Be Proper Again” (Season 2, Episode 1)

The second when Martha (Hayley Atwell) meets the android model of Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) stays one of the crucial profoundly unhappy and brilliantly acted within the historical past of Black Mirror. This story about grief and love makes use of a sci-fi leap of religion to grapple with a really up to date drawback: what to do with somebody’s on-line id after they die. What begins off as a touching strategy of extended grieving quickly turns ghoulish. The one factor that lets the episode down is an ending that tries to be one twist too intelligent. Ash, in fact, ought to one hundred pc soar off the cliff.

5. “Hated within the Nation” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Though the plot of “Hated within the Nation” is straight out of sci-fi—involving rogue robotic bees that turn into embroiled in a sadistic homicide plot—the episode performs issues straight with a gripping take in your typical British crime drama. At 89 minutes, it’s the longest Black Mirror episode, nevertheless it doesn’t really feel prefer it, with the plot unfolding neatly and culminating in a scrumptious twist that provides a depth some episodes lack. The unbelievable plot works within the episode’s favor, conserving it from feeling too preachy and turning it into one thing that may make folks suppose twice earlier than piling on the hate the subsequent time social media selects its enemy for the day.

4. “Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1)

In one of many standout Black Mirror performances, Bryce Dallas Howard performs Lacie, a younger lady obsessed together with her score in a world the place individuals are scored on a scale of 1 to five for each interplay they’ve. Set in a superficial American suburbia full of insipid pastel shades, “Nosedive” is a good rebuttal to naysayers who deride the present as too bleak or miserable. Black Mirror episodes are sometimes riffs on a selected style, and that is Brooker’s spin on a street journey film, as Lacie’s spiraling score sends her on a mishap-laden journey throughout America and into the trail of the wonderful Cherry Jones. The penultimate scene—whereas a bit of predictable—is among the most pleasant closers in all the sequence.

3. “The Nationwide Anthem” (Season 1, Episode 1)

The episode that began all of it, “The Nationwide Anthem” set the tone of the Black Mirror universe in its first 5 minutes, when the British prime minister is instructed he will need to have intercourse with a pig on stay TV or face the execution of a beloved kidnapped princess. On the time, the plot felt so farcical that it was arduous to see how Black Mirror would purchase its later fame for predicting the longer term. 4 years later, when a memoir by former Tory donor Lord Ashcroft alleged that David Cameron put his penis in a lifeless pig’s mouth throughout a weird college ritual—one thing Brooker insists he had no data of—the present’s future-predicting credentials had been sealed for good.

2. “USS Callister” (Season 4, Episode 1)

Black Mirror is usually at its finest when it’s scaring you with thought-provoking demonstrations of know-how run amok, however “USS Callister” is extra grounded in the actual world than its sci-fi setting suggests. Sure, antagonist Robert Daly creates a digital world by which he imprisons and abuses avatars of colleagues who’ve slighted him, however largely he’s simply one other indignant younger man who takes his grievances to a digital area as a result of he’s incapable of addressing them in the actual world. The sensible Star Trek-inspired backdrop lends the story a grand scale as Daly and his enterprise companion James Walton painting two sides of poisonous masculinity and its degrading outcomes. The truth that “USS Callister” tells this story in a morbidly humorous, usually terrifying method seals its standing as certainly one of Black Mirror’s most interesting.

1. “San Junipero” (Season 3, Episode 4)

Fairly a number of issues modified when Black Mirror moved to Netflix. “San Junipero” in all probability finest captured a subtly totally different method from the present’s creators. Right here, the grit and (comparatively) low-budget grime of the Channel 4 days is changed by an American dream sheen. The additional price range means extra elaborate and detailed units, nevertheless it additionally brings the motion nearer to Silicon Valley, the supply of so many Black Mirror plots. However what actually makes this episode stand out is that the present abandons ghoulish farce to discover one thing extra human. In brief, it’s going to make you cry in unhappiness moderately than recoil in disgust.

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