If you haven’t seen or heard of the British TV show Black Mirror, then you’re missing out on one of the smartest shows of the 21st century. It essentially takes the best aspects of The Twilight Zone, science fiction and dystopian fiction and turns them into hour-long capsule episodes. If you’re currently shopping around for a new series to binge-watch on Netflix, here are some episodes that will help convince you to give this hit a try:
1. The Entire History of You
The third episode of the first season is the ideal starting point for beginners (it has so much promise that Robert Downey Jr. optioned it to be developed into full length film). It focuses on some strange piece of technology or societal change and shows the kind of disruption it can have on someone’s life; essentially, it showcases the best of what a sci-fi series has to offer. In The Entire History of You, people have the option to install a ‘grain’ in their head, which will record every second of their lives. Grains offer seemingly endless possibilities for their users, such as when Liam (Toby Kebbell) replays a job appraisal for missed body language indicators as to how it went. This incredible resource soon proves to be as damaging as it is helpful for many of the characters. The morning after a dinner party, Liam pours himself a drink while watching a highlight reel of his wife Ffion (Jodie Whitaker) flirting with another man. There are no major plot twists or last minute reprieves here; everything that happens to Liam and Ffion is as heartbreaking as it is horrifying. The disintegration of their relationship might have been possible in a world more similar to ours, but with the added technology documenting every lie and insult and betrayal, it becomes entirely inevitable.
2. White Bear
It’s impossible to talk about this episode without mentioning the incredible, show-stopping twist that occurs in the eleventh hour. We’re introduced to Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) and her life as abruptly as she is; she jolts awake in a house she doesn’t recognize, surrounded by scattered pills and mysterious days marked off on a calendar – a strange symbol emanating from the television. She asks nearby people for help, but finds that the growing crowds will only respond by recording her on their cell phones. In between sudden bursts of recovered memory – a video of her a girl she believes is her daughter and a memory of a man smiling next to her – we can’t help but root for her to survive this nightmare. There’s a pressing need to piece together all of the hints and solve the mystery before Victoria does, and for a while that begins to seem possible. But when the rules of this universe tumble around Victoria in a moment of disbelief, you aren’t left feeling cheated or annoyed. The only thing you can think about while the credits are rolling is whether or not White Bear is justifiable (or better yet, if anything similar could ever exist in our reality).
3. Be Right Back
While technology continues to play a significant role in this episode, it’s the emotional arc that sets Be Right Back apart from the rest. We meet Martha (Hayley Atwell) when she’s moving into an idyllic country house with her boyfriend Ash (Domnhall Gleeson); they have beautiful views, a loving relationship and a promising future together. But when Ash dies in a car accident the following day, Martha plunges into inconsolable grief. No sense of direction appears for her until she’s signed up for a service that takes Ash’s online correspondences and turns them into a virtual avatar of him. Martha is able to speak with Ash via online messenger and cellphone, until a more drastic option is presented. As Martha allows herself to buy into this supposedly temporary reprieve, she begins to realize that clinging onto the past costs more than she ever realized. We get to see her transition through the stages of grief while battling her conflicting feelings about moving on, and by the end of the episode there’s a sense that she’s formed a deal with the devil to bring Ash back; she’s clung so tightly to her past that she’s now unable to move on from it.
In addition to being one of the most complex and thought-provoking modern television series, Black Mirror has a third season being released exclusively on Netflix this October. With only seven episodes currently available to American audiences, you’ll have more than enough time to mentally prepare yourself for the moral dilemmas that the series loves to explore.
What do you think of ‘Black Mirror?’ Let me know in the comments below!