Black Mirror returned on New Year’s Eve with a whopping six new episodes.
Easily one of my favourite TV shows ever, I was thrilled. I binge-watched them all in one setting, eagerly lapping them up and researching each episode as I went. It was a truly glorious day.
I’ve also spend a good portion of my time since trying to convince my friends and family to watch them. I was giving out recommendations left, right and centre, and at one point wrote a friend a list of episodes, ranked from best to worst, so she could get the less-great ones out of the way first so they would only get better. It’s probably the most thorough work I’ve done this year.
The thing that really struck me though, there are no BAD episodes – they’re all good in their own way, just some more than others.
So behold – my definitive ranking of every Black Mirror episode, from worst to best. It’s a bloody long read and absolutely FILLED with spoilers, so bare this in mind before starting.
You have been warned.
(Season 4, Episode 5)
In a post-apocalyptic, black and white landscape, three people are on a mission.
Bella’s sister made her promise that she’d obtain an object to ease the suffering of ‘Jack’ – the object hidden in a deserted warehouse.
Bella and one of the men break in, while the other works on their vehicle.
When they’ve almost reached it, they’re scuppered by a mechanical, dog-like robot. The dog kills the two men and shoots Bella, landing a tracking device inside of her leg.
She manages to escape to a nearby river and removes the tracker with a knife, disposing of it in an empty water bottle and sending it downstream.
Bella uses her walkie-talkie, albeit with a bad connection, telling whoever’s on the other line that she might not make it back.
The chase recommences and Bella climbs a tree to escape, noticing that the dog has been damaged in the first altercation. In an attempt to drain it’s power, Bella throws sweets at it, causing it to power up and down every time to investigate.
When its battery fully dies, Bella flees. As the dog is recharging, she finds an empty car but it’s locked. She makes her way into the empty house of the presumed owners and finds two corpses upstairs – she raids the bodies to get the keys and a gun to use for protection.
Meanwhile, the dog has recharged and has made its entrance to the house. It finds Bella’s hiding place but she throws paint over its visual sensor and escapes.
The dog’s able to follow her by the sound of the car radio and attacks once again – using the stolen gun she’s able to almost destroy it.
Using its last remaining energy, the dog blasts her with multiple trackers.
Upon inspection, Bella tries to remove the trackers with a razor blade but realises one is lodged in her jugular.
As more robot dogs approach the house, Bella uses the walkie-talkie to say she’s not coming back and slits her own throat.
Back at the warehouse from the beginning, the spilled box is seen to contain stuffed bears.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautifully filmed episode. The stark contrast of black and white look phenomenal and it’s a very believable performance from Maxine Peake, but I found there was no real story line behind it. Why has the world went to shit? Who’s running the robot dogs? Where does Bella want to get back to? I feel like this would be a lot more enjoyable if we had a bigger sense of the backstory.
18. HATED IN THE NATION
(Season 3, Episode 6)
When Twitter users recieveing trolling tweets start dying at the hands of mechanical bees, they’re linked to a social media game.
Players ‘vote’ for victims using the #DeathTo_____ hashtag, each tweet counting as a vote towards that person in a Game Of Consequences.
Police attempt to intercept the next target and catch the hackers, but the victim ultimately dies.
The story of the hashtag gets into the news and garners much public attention, with hashtag votes blowing up on social media.
It’s then revealed that the game is actually all about the voters, and lists are revealed on who voted for the deaths, presumably to create public-shaming.
The bees are then released and all 387,036 voters are murdered.
It’s a brilliant twist, but it seems like a long and complicated way to go about it. The dialogue didn’t immediately grip me like the rest of the episodes did, and I didn’t find it particularly engaging and I didn’t LIKE any of the characters. However, there’s a strong message about the faceless-ness of social media and people being held accountable for their actions.
17. THE WALDO MOMENT
(Season 2, Episode 3)
Failed comedian Jamie performs on a late-night talk-show as Waldo, a big, blue, cartoon bear that interviews authority figures.
Interviewees are tricked into thinking they’re doing a sketch for children’s TV, then assaulted with off the cuff questions and situations.
The public love his cheeky banter and, at a staff meeting, it’s suggested that Waldo runs for the upcoming by-election to embarrass the Tory party leader, Monroe. Jamie’s dissatisfied with playing Waldo as it is, but feels coerced into going along with it.
During his running, Jamie meets Labour candidate Gwendolyn Harris and, after discussing their individual politics, she admits that running for office is a steppingstone for her. They sleep together.
Later, Gwendolyn’s warned by her campaign manager to stay away from Jamie, as it could affect her ratings. Jamie can’t understand why she’s avoiding him and becomes further dissatisfied with the situation, stemming into anger.
While taking part in a TV panel, Jamie/Waldo launches into a rant against artificial politicians, in turn exposing Gwendolyn as one herself.
The video of the segment goes viral on Youtube and Waldo garners more and more support, where Gwendolyn’s popularity seriously suffers as a result.
Jamie decides he no longer wants to be involved in the Waldo movement, but the producers threaten to take Waldo away and have him voiced by someone else, which Jamie can’t accept.
Jamie, along with the producer, meets with an American agency who advises that because Waldo isn’t an actual person, he could potentially become the popular face of a not-so-popular authority. Jamie refuses and attempts to apologise to Gwendolyn, but she rebukes him.
On the day of the vote, Jamie begs the public to not vote for Waldo and, in a rage, attempts to smash up the scene where Waldo’s being projected.
The producer takes control of Waldo and urges the public to attack Jamie, offering a reward.
Later, Jamie watches the election results from his hospital bed; Monroe wins with Waldo coming second. Gwendolyn places third. At the result, Waldo urges the audience to riot, which they do.
Following on from the election results, Jamie struggles to find work and becomes homeless, while Waldo is doing well.
Jamie tries to attack the screen where Waldo’s being shown and is tasered by police.
There’s a lot to be pondered on a satirical character running for * these days (see: Trump), and it’s another indication of Brooker’s beautiful, fucked up mind basically predicting the future. It’s a super clever episode, and I think the only reason it doesn’t appeal to me like the others do is that there’s less shock and gore. As Waldo was a season finale, it was unexpected for it to land on a politcal note rather than a shocking one.
16. MEN AGAINST FIRE
(Season 3, Episode 5)
A military organisation are set on exterminating mutated humans to protect civilization. These sub-humans are commonly known as Roaches, and are widely feared and hated by the public.
Stripe, a soldier fighting against the Roach population, is eager and ready to get stuck in to it. The team are briefed on a raid they’re about to complete via their MASS implant – a chip that gives the user a visible interface screen, enhances their senses, provides them with data and gives them comforting imagery in times of need.
The squad storm a derelict farmhouse and their leader interrogates the owner, who she suspects is harboring Roaches. She tells him that she understands his predicament as a Christian, but implores that he’s doing more harm than good, as the Roaches will breed and more people will die at the hands of their contamination.
Throughout the house, the rest of the team are searching. They come upon a ‘Roach nest’ and frantically attack with guns, obliterating most of them immediately.
One Roach attempts to shine an LED light at Stripe but he intercepts it, having to stab the Roach to escape. Afterwards, while inspecting the light, he accidentally zaps himself in the eye.
The owner of the farmhouse is arrested and his home is burned to the ground.
That afternoon, Stripe notices that his MASS seems to be glitching and he’s sent for an examination. Doctors and professors find no issues and puts it down to the stress behind his first proper Roach kill.
On duty the next day, Stripe experiences another glitch. In that moment, the squad leader is killed by a Roach sniper. Stripe and his team mate Hunter storm the building and open fire, with Hunter slaughtering a handful of Roaches immediately.
In a deserted room, Stripe comes across a young woman. He tells her to run, concerned that she will be attacked by the roaches herself. She does, but on her way out the door is shot by Hunter who steps over her body and moves on.
It becomes clear that where Stripe is seeing normal people, Hunter is seeing Roaches. He tries to explain but Hunter’s too preoccupied with eliminating the nest. Stripe knocks her out and escapes with a frightened woman and her young child.
The woman, Catarina, explains to Stripe that the MASS implant skewers their perception of ‘Roaches’, who she also identifies as. It’s revealed that the Roaches are normal-looking people, but victims of genocide from the previous war, where those seen as inferior were almost wiped out. Where those with MASS see demon-looking creatures, with pale skin and pointy teeth, they are actually the same as them.
Stripe doesn’t want to believe Catarina and points out that the public don’t have MASS, yet they still want the Roaches eliminated – Catarina explains that the public see them as normal people. Through propaganda and prejudice, the public have an intense hatred for them without seeing them as the monsters that the soldiers do.
During this explanation, Hunter was woken up and approached their hiding place. She shoots the woman and her son and knocks out Stripe.
When he awakens, his fears are confirmed as Arquette, the military’s psychologist, explains that Roaches are indeed ‘real people’ – MASS was installed in all soldiers as a way for them to better deal with the remorse and fear that comes from battle and killing. By making the Roaches look like monsters, soldiers are more willing to kill without remorse and fight more proactively. Another factor of MASS is that it’s able to erase certain memories, including one of Stripe initially agreeing to the MASS implant knowing it’s doings.
Stripe has in fact been working towards ‘protecting the bloodline’, as the government believe by getting rid of imperfect genetics (like the Roaches), they can secure better living and economical benefits for the remaining population.
Arquette shows Stripe footage of him agreeing to the procedure. He then shows him the actual footage of the farmhouse attack, this time without the MASS filter. The Roaches are seen begging Stripe to spare their lives and crying, fighting to survive.
Stripe is told that if he doesn’t agree to have his memory wiped, he will be incarcerated, with the psychologist ensuring him the uncensored farmhouse footage will be played on a constant loop in his mind.
Some time later, Stripe’s shown being discharged from the military with honors, presumably having accepted to the wipe of his chip. He approaches an immaculate house that is now his, with a beautiful woman waiting to greet him.
Away from Stripe’s eye-line, it’s shown to be an empty shack.
This episode goes so much deeper than technology scares, addressing propaganda, racism and military intelligence. It talks about the human psyche, saying most people don’t want to kill others, which is something that created a wave of other thoughts for me in regards to our actual armies – definitely a thought provoker. The only thing that I thought was a bit pointless was the sex-dream part of MASS. I get that it’s comforting for lonely soldiers, but was it necessary?
(Season 4, Episode 3)
Young couple Mia and Rob go clubbing and drive home through the mountains. In their drunken state, they hit and kill a cyclist.
Knowing they will be incarcerated, Rob convinces Mia to help him throw the body in a lake and get rid of the evidence.
Fifteen years later, Mia’s a high-flying architect with a family of her own. While on a business trip, Rob visits her hotel. The old friends seem happy enough to see each other, but talk soon turns to the dead cyclist.
Since they last spoke, Rob has undergone treatment for his alcoholism and is trying to make amends to those he’s hurt through his drinking problem – this includes the wife of the cyclist, who still believes her husband to be alive somewhere.
Rob says that he wants to send an anonymous letter to the wife explaining what happened, but Mia is adamant it will be traced back to them.
They row and Mia kills Rob.
While she’s figuring out her next move, Mia witnesses a road accident, with a self-driving pizza truck hitting a pedestrian.
She orders room service and rents a pay-per-view porn movie as an alibi, packing Rob’s body into her car to dispose of.
Afterwards, the man hit by the pizza truck contacts his insurance company and is visited by Shazia. By using a temporary implant that recalls peoples memories, Shazia hopes to determine who’s at fault. She uses this on the man but isn’t able to determine who’s to blame, explaining that memories are emotional and are subjective so cannot be 100% relied on. She struggles to ascertain the speed of the pizza truck and must seek out witnesses for their account of the event.
Shazia follows a trail of leads, eventually leading to Mia, who is now back home with her family. Mia’s her last resort, but she’s conscious that she may not be forthcoming with her memories as Shazia’s aware she had rented porn around the same time.
On arrival, Mia admits to witnessing the accident but is reluctant to allow Shazia to install the temporary recall chip. Shazia explains that she’s only interested in the events of the incident, assuring her that anything else she was doing at that time is not something she’s concerned with.
Mia still refuses to take part until Shazia reminds her that it would be illegal for her to do so – she agrees.
During the recall, Mia tries desperately to think only of the road accident, but memories from not only Rob’s murder but the cyclists cloud her vision. Shazia, having seen this, tells Mia she has everything she needs and tries to leave. Mia pursues her in a panic and knocks her out.
Shazia wakes up tied to a chair in Mia’s barn. She tries to convince Mia that she won’t tell anyone and will delete the evidence, but Mia knows she will not legally be allowed to do this. She uses the chip on Shazia which reveals her husband knows where she is and who she’s seeing. She kills Shazia and heads out.
Mia kills Shazia’s husband and, upon realising their baby seen her, reluctantly kills him too. She then leaves to attend her own sons school performance.
Meanwhile, police investigating Shazia’s murder mentions that their son was blind so wouldn’t have been able to see the murder anyway, revealing that he died needlessly. The team use the recall chip on the pet hamster.
In the school-hall, Mia weeps into her husbands shoulder.
Outside, police wait for her.
I mean, super weird episode. Mia was cold and unlikable from the start – she didn’t come across as your typical murderer but seemed to find it pretty easy to kill four people without much thought. Where it’s understood that the Mia’s situation got way out of hand, I feel like a better performance from the main character would have went a long way.
Cooper leaves his family home to travel the world. Throughout his journeys, he constantly ignores phonecalls from his mum, struggling to deal with their relationship after the passing of his father due to althzeimers.
While in London, Cooper meets and sleeps with the local Sonja – an easy-going tech journalist. Soon after, his credit card is stolen meaning that he can’t continue with his jaunts or buy a ticket home.
Instead of making contact with his mum and asking for help, Cooper shows up on Sonja’s doorstep for help. Although she can’t help him out with money, she tells him about Oddjobs – an app that people like him can use to pick up freelance work.
He immediately takes interest in an advertisement for a famous video games company looking for people to test their new game on. Sonja urges him to use it as an opportunity to snoop and send her a few pictures, hoping for a good scoop.
At the company building, Cooper meets Katie and is taken to a stark, white room to undergo some tests. Katie inserts an implant into the back of his neck that will allow him to see the game in 3D. She tells him he must keep his phone off during the test. When she leaves the room, Cooper turns his mobile back on and snaps a few pictures for Sonja.
Katie inserts a ‘mushroom’ implant into the back of his neck that will allow him to see the game in 3D. At this point, Coopers mum calls his phone and Katie takes it away.
Cooper plays a 3D whack-a-mole game and is impressed at the gimmick. Katie deems the test a success and asks if he’s interested in moving on to some beta-testing. He is, and Katie explains that the implanted mushroom will probe his brain to find out what he’s scared of
After consulting with Shou, the owner of the company, Katie gives Cooper an earpiece to communicate with her and delivers him to a run-down mansion a few miles away from the main building.
After a few typical jump-scares, Cooper finds that his earpiece is starting to malfunction and he can’t communicate with Katie.
At the same time, Sonja shows up at the mansion and warns Cooper that he’s in grave danger, telling him that various travelers like him have went missing after using the Oddjobs app. He initially thinks she is a hologram like the rest, until she stabs him and he realises he can feel the pain.
After a struggle, Cooper is able to overpower Sonja and rip the skin from her face, revealing her to be a demon-like being with red-raw skin. He impales her on a shard of glass, killing her.
Soon after, he realises that Sonja, the mess and his own wounds have disappeared and his earpiece is now working normally. He’s considerably shaken up and tells Katie he’s had enough and wants to end the simulation.
Katie tells him to stop it he must reach the ‘access point’, which is located upstairs. He’s reluctant, but does so. Once in the room where the alleged point is located, Katie reveals there was no such thing, and they wanted to check he was accustomed enough to blindly follow orders from them.
Katie begins to ask him basic questions about his life that he can’t answer, revealing that his true fear is ending up senile like his father.
Cooper rips out the earpiece but Katie’s voice is now in his head – she taunts him.
He smashes a mirror in the room and attempts to use a shard to remove the mushroom – Katie and Shou appear and try to calm Cooper, but he is inconsolable, not knowing who or where he is.
Katie frantically says that the mushroom is too far ingrained and can’t be turned off.
Cooper wakes up back in Shou’s office and Katie confirms that one second has passed since he started the simulation – they apologise to the now normal Cooper, explaining that it was never meant to go that far. He leaves and is able to travel back home with the money he’s earned.
On returning home, Cooper finds his mother crying in her bedroom. She doesn’t recognise him, also having succumbed to Alzheimer’s like his father.
He wakes up back in the stark white room where he began, apparently having a seizure. Katie tells Shou that his mothers phonecall interrupted the upload. Cooper dies.
This episode was a total roller-coaster. It’s the only Black Mirror episode that’s properly looked into gaming until USS Callister came along, and with VR technology coming out in the real world at around the same time, it was definitely poignant and gave a good insight in what the future could possibly hold. Out of all of the episodes, despite it’s scattered story line, it’s probably the most well put-together and relatable of all.
(Season 4, Episode 2)
Single mother Maria is shown as slightly overprotective, highlighted when her three-year-old daughter, Sarah, goes missing in a local park.
Sarah is found safe, but the event shakes Marie who signs up to an experimental free-trial Arkangel – a tech-system ingrained into a child to allow the parent to monitor what they’re seeing, their heart-rate and be able to put blockers on anything the child finds stressful.
The procedure seems successful during her early-years, though the stress-blocker stops Sarah from seeing her grandfather having a stroke – luckily Marie tunes in in time to step in and save him.
Years later, Sarah’s grandfather dies. Sarah’s since become outcasted due to her status as a ‘chip-head’ and is emotionally immature due to lack of exposure to the real-world. She becomes increasingly frustrated by not knowing anything, with her classmates trying to educate her on the sight of blood etc.
While drawing one day, Sarah attempts to draw death, but even the crayon-blood becomes pixalated to her. She pricks herself with the pencil, drawing pixelated blood.
Marie decides to have Sarah analysed by a professional – the psychologist explains that the soon to be banned Arkangel technology is having a negative effect on Sarah’s psyche and, although it can’t be reversed, she recommends turning off her stress-filter and getting rid of the monitoring tablet.
Sarah goes to school on her own for the first time, and her school friend Trick delightedly shows her gory videos and pornography.
Years later, Sarah is fifteen and living a normal life. She attends a hang-out with her best friend and Trick, telling her mum she’s over at a friends house.
As the night progresses, Sarah and Trick get closer and have sex.
Marie, becoming increasingly concerned that Sarah isn’t home yet, calls the friend’s parent who she’s supposed to be with. The mother confirms that she’s not there and Marie boots up the old tablet to make sure she’s safe.
Upon reactivating the tablet, she sees Sarah and Trick in the middle of intercourse. Upon Sarah’s return home, Marie doesn’t mention what she has seen.
Over the next few days, Marie finds herself checking the tablet more and more, eventually seeing Sarah and Trick sniffing cocaine together.
While not telling Sarah what she saw, she shows up at Trick’s workplace and threatens him, insinuating that she will report him for sex with a minor, unless he leaves Sarah alone.
A heartbroken Sarah cannot comprehend why Trick will no longer speak to her. When Marie crushes a morning-after pill into Sarah’s drink, it makes her ill and she visits her school nurse. The nurse confirms that the pill will still work to a confused Sarah, who connects the dots and finds an empty contreceptive packet in the bin.
On returning home, Sarah discovers the activated tablet and confronts Marie. They row and physically fight over the tablet, accidentally reinstating the stress-block. Sarah beats Marie with the tablet, unable to see the actual damage she’s doing due to the filter.
Sarah the scene, leaving her mothers limp body behind and flags down a truck to take her away.
Marie is seen screaming in the street, bloody and shouting for Sarah.
At its most basic lesson, this episode’s a good example of what can happen when parents shield their children from too much. This is shown when Sarah has sex with Trick and tries to act how she’s seen in pornography. This was Jodie Foster’s first directing gig and I think she did a good job with the well-written and well-rounded story.
12. WHITE CHRISTMAS
The story line is revealed in three parts, the first seeing Matt and Joe sharing a small cottage in the snowy wilderness.
It’s Christmas day and Matt cooks dinner while I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday plays on the radio. Both residents have been there for around five years, but don’t seem to have struck up much of a friendship in that time.
Matt tries to engage Joe into telling him how he ended up there, but Joe’s closed off. Hoping it’ll get him to open up, Matt decides to share his story.
Acting as a virtual-dating coach for the unlucky in love, Matt uses Z-Eye technology to monitor his clients vision and feed information through an ear piece to them.
Socially awkward Harry crashes an office-party on Matt’s instruction and takes a liking to beautiful outcast, Jennifer. Matt and a team of onlookers use a facial-recognition system to learn more about her before Harry approaches, giving tips on how to pique her interest through conversation.
The two hit it off, and when she leaves to use the bathroom she sees him speaking to his earpiece. Jennifer quickly suggests that they go back to her flat.
Back at Jennifer’s place, she pours them a drink and tells her to wait in the bedroom while she freshens up.
On her return, Jennifer tells Harry that their drink will liberate them from the voices in their heads – revealing that, when spotting him speaking in to the earpiece, she thougth he was talking to himself and recognised him as someone going through the same as her.
On the other end of the Z-Eye, Matt senses something is wrong and urges Harry to leave. When he tries, Jennifer straddles him and pins him down, forcing the rest of the drink down his throat with a funnel – he becomes weaker and starts to cough up blood and foam.
Matt hurridelly disables the feed and the others delete the evidence.
On his way out, Matt’s discovered by his wife who is enraged at what he’s been up to and enables the Z-Eye’s ‘block’ on him, meaning that she can no longer hear him and he appears to her as a pixelated grey mass.
Back in the cottage, Joe is stunned by what Matt has told him, but he says that being a dating coach was merely a side job for him.
At his ‘real’ job, his company are offering a service where customers can have a ‘cookie’ inserted into their brain to make a copy of their consciousness. This results in an egg-shaped device that runs the home of the customer along with their diary, like a virtual PA.
Matt’s role is to speak with the copy and acclimatise them to the situation, as well as making sure they know their role within this.
A wealthy young woman, Greta, decides to have the cookie installed.
Upon activation of her cookie, the consciousness is confused and scared, believing herself to the the ‘real’ Greta and unable to accept that she’s not an actual person.
Matt provides her with a stark white room, a body identical to Greta’s and a desk. When she refuses to cooperate, Matt alters the cookie’s perception of time, making her think three weeks have passed when in fact it has only been seconds. Cookie Greta is shook up but still refuses to play her part, until Matt alters her time to 6 months. Her will is broken and she agrees to cooperate.
In the cottage, Joe is further disgusted by Matt’s actions. Matt recognises that Joe is empathetic, and seems to generally be a ‘good person’.
Having loosened up through alcohol, Joe feels ready to share his story on why he’s there too.
Flashbacks from Joe’s memory seem to show an idyllic relationship between himself and a girl called Beth, the only bumps being Joe’s tendency to get drunk and show her up.
At a dinner party with their friends Timi and Gita, Beth is acting cold towards the group, which Joe puts down to his drinking. When their friends leave, Joe finds a positive pregnancy test in the bin and is delighted that he’s going to be a father. When he comes to discuss this with Beth, she cooly says she doesn’t want it.
The intoxicated Joe accuses Beth of being selfish, mentioning that she’s been drinking that night which could harm the baby. Beth blocks him and leaves, not able to hear his apology due to the block.
Later, Joe learns from Tim and Gita that she’s resigned from work and moved away – he spends months writing letters to her fathers house with no reply.
Knowing that Beth always visits her dad on Christmas Day, Joe waits a few meters away to see her. When she arrives she’s heavily pregnant and Joe is stunned. He doesn’t approach her, but continues to visit every Christmas for a glimpse of his child. However, blocks cover offspring too, so although he knows the child exists, he’s only able to see her as a clumped, grey mass.
One Christmas, he leaves a snow-globe as a present for her.
At home, Joe discovers that Beth has died in a train accident. Although sad at her passing, he’s elated as it means that the block is lifted from their child.
Joe travels to the fathers house and sees the little girl playing in the garden – as he approaches her it’s revealed that she’s of Asian descent, despite neither Joe or Beth being so. Tim is the real father.
Enraged, Joe storms in to Beth’s dad’s house and demands answers. He reveals that he never passed any of the letters on to Beth. Joe smashes his head in with the snow globe as the child plays upstairs.
In the present, Matt asks Joe what happened to the little girl. Joe knows that she tried to go and get help for her grandad, but didn’t make it further than a few meters away, succumbing to the cold and dying.
By now, Joe is hysterical and knows something’s wrong. Matt announces to the room that he got the confession, apologises to Joe and disappears.
Back in reality, this has all been happening inside a cookie taken from Joe’s consciousness, who’s been made to believe that five years has passed.
Matt, who has been working with the police to eject a confession from Joe, is pleased with himself, having been promised his freedom if he succeeded.
The chief officer agrees to keep her promise, with the exception that Matt is now a registered sex offender and thus will have to live with a thorough Z-Eye block from the public, who will be alerted when he’s near that he’s a criminal and will not be able to communicate with him.
After he exits, police enter the ‘real’ Joe’s cell and tell him that they’ve got the confession. They all leave for Christmas, but set Joe’s cookie to 1,000 years for every 24 hours that passes until they return from leave.
In the cabin, the radio plays I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday on a continuous loop and Joe is unable to smash it. Outside in the snow, the body of the little girl lies face down, revealing the cottage as her grandfathers.
This felt like such a treat when it came out, getting three stories within one super-long episode. It’s very well thought out and significantly cruel, making the viewer really feel for Joe until the very end (and even then I struggled to hate him). The cookie copies are extremely grim – the consciousness is essentially a slave, but you’re conflicted because it’s ‘not real’. It weirdly kept pulling my mind back to my days of hammering The Sims and wondering if I’d ruined some poor self-thinkers life. I hope not.
11. SHUT UP AND DANCE
(Season 3, Episode 3)
Teenager Kenny comes home from his fast-food job to find his sister has been using his computer, and infected it with malware.
He downloads Shrive, what he thinks to be a an anti-virus software that actually is a tool to give hackers access to users webcams and screens.
Shrive records Kenny masturbating to pornography, and afterwards he receives an email telling him he must do what ‘they’ say or the video will be leaked to everyone he knows.
At work the next day, Kenny receives a text telling him to go to a specified location. He immediately tells his boss he’s feeling poorly and leaves by bike.
On arrival, he’s met by a man with a scooter who hands him a cake box. The man tells Kenny he’s also being blackmailed, and if he just follows his instructions it will all go away.
Kenny then receives a text telling him to deliver a box to a hotel room where he meets Hector, who’s waiting for a prostitute.
Hector also receives a blackmail text, with the hackers threatening to tell his wife what he’s up to unless he does what he’s told. Hector, fearing he’ll lose access to his children, agrees.
Kenny and Hector are supplied with a car and a location, but on pulling in to a gas station to fill up they bump in to a friend of Hector’s wife who asks for a lift home. The pair rush to drop her off, fearing the detour will make them late.
They eventually arrive on a high-street and receive further instructions – one of them must act as a getaway driver and the other, a bank robber. The two argue who has to be the latter and it’s decided it should be Kenny as he can’t drive.
Kenny completes the task sloppily and the two manage to get away undetected by police. Hector asks why Kenny’s in this situation, to which he replies “I just looked at some pictures” – Hector remarks that watching a bit of porn is hardly that bad in the grand scheme of things.
Hector is told to destroy the car and Kenny is given a location to take the stolen cash to – the two part ways.
At the drop off point Kenny meets another blackmail victim who tells him they must fight to the death, with the winner taking the cash as a prize. A drone flies overhead – the hackers watching events unfold.
Kenny refuses to take part, insisting that he only looked at a few pictures, to which the other victim asks “how old were they?”, confirming that they are both being blackmailed due to viewing child pornography.
Kenny takes the gun he used to rob the bank with out of his pocket and attempts to shoot himself in the head, but the gun was never loaded.
The two approach as the drone circles overhead.
Elsewhere, Hector returns home to find out that the hackers have told his wife, despite him completing all of their instructions. He receives a troll-face text to his phone.
Across the city, other blackmail victims receive the same message. All of their secrets have been leaked.
Kenny stumbles away from the woods, bloody and beaten, presumably the victor of the fight and now a murderer.
He receives a call from his mum who is hysterical, she exclaims; “there’s some video of you – they’re saying its kids. That you’ve been looking at kids”.
Kenny ends the call as police approach – he puts up a feeble fight.
Twist and a half. Black mirror has an uncanny knack of making you really feel for and like the character that turns out to be the bad guy, and it’s so hard to change your opinion so starkly of someone after thinking he’s just some poor kid. This episode probably has the most simple primise – hackers DO infect your computer and they CAN watch what you’re doing. What makes this episode so powerful is that it could happen right now.
(Season 3, Episode 1)
In the future, everyone uses an eye-implant and smartphone to document their life through social media.
People are able to rate each others shares and interactions on a star system out of five, with everyone receiving an overall rating that determines their social status. Others can see these ratings and can receive benefits depending how high they are.
Lacie Pound is a respectable 4.2, looking to increase her status so she’s eligible for a discount on a luxury apartment she’s got her heart set on.
She’s currently residing with her brother Ryan, who’s unfazed by society’s point-scoring and chooses to live without putting much stock in it.
Lacie meets with a specialised consultant who gives her tips to improve her score, including getting ‘rated up’ by higher ranking people, which would make her own rating go up faster.
Lacie posts a photo of Mr Rags, a bear that she and her childhood friend Naomi made together when they were young.
Naomi immediately rates the post five stars and calls Lacie, telling her she’s engaged and wants her to be her Maid of Honour. Lacie is thrilled, knowing that the wedding will be filled with other high-rankers like Naomi that are sure to vote her up if she gives a great speech.
Sure this is her way in, the confirms that she’ll take the apartment.
On the day she’s due to fly out to Naomi, she and Ryan row about his slobishness and her fakeness. They both rate eachother down in anger. Due to the argument she misses her taxi – the driver also rates her down.
While rushing out of the house to get to the airport, Lacie bumps into a passer-by, soaking her in coffee. Again, she’s rated down.
Eventually reaching the airport, she’s told that her flight has been cancelled, and she’s unable to buy a seat on another flight due to her newly-low rating. Lacie causes a scene and security dock her a whole star as a temporary measure for 24 hours. During this time, all marks down will do double-damage to her overall score.
To make the wedding reception, Lacie tries to hire a car but is only able to use an old model due to her rating, being marked down by the salesman again because of her coldness.
Once in the car Naomi calls her asking where she is and Lacie tells her she won’t be able to make the rehearsal dinner but she’s on her way. Naomi is mad.
Along the way the car is low on juice, but when Lacy tries to recharge it there’s no slots for such an old model. To make the wedding she has to hitch-hike.
Lacie’s picked up by Susan, a 2.4 truck driver. Susan tells her she used to be just like Lacie and had a really good score, until her husband was refused vital cancer treatment for someone 0.1 of a point higher than him. She remarks that she now feels much more free. Lacie finds it hard to believe but takes a liking to Susan all the same.
Susan is travelling in a different direction and eventually has to drop Lacie off to make her own way. She manages to blag a lift in an RV by pretending she’s going to the same concert as the drivers.
While on their way, Lacie revieves a call from Naomi who has seen her new rating. She tells Lacie that she no longer wants her at the wedding due to her low score, telling her to turn around and go home.
Lacie tells the RV drivers that she hates the band they’re going to see and is ejected off the bus, being rated down by all of them.
Lacie, now pissed off, makes her way to the reception on foot, making her bridesmaid dress filthy along with her hair. She eventually arrives and inssits on making her speech anyway.
Picking up a knife and threatening to stab Mr Rags, Lacie’s mental state is erratic and, during her rant, she realises that Naomi was always horrible to her anyway.
Throughout her speech, attendees are marking her down.
Now a critical 0, wedding security seize Lacie and take her to prison, where she has the technology taken away.
In her cell she’s faced with another inmate in a similar state and the two argue aloud, reveling in the realness.
This was a beautiful episode to watch, with the full thing being cast in gorgeous pastel colours. With so many people these days putting a great deal of their self-worth on how many likes we get on Instagram or how many retweets on Twitter, it’s nice that Black Mirror decided to debunk the whole ‘perfect life’ vision everyone tries to project on social media. Although Lacie came across as a bit vapid and naive, she was likable and, as a young (ish) person, you understood her desperation.
9. THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU
(Season 1, Episode 3)
Lawyer Liam Foxwell has a work appraisal that he thinks didn’t go too well.
This is in a time where most people have a ‘grain’ implant in the back of their neck that records everything you do, allowing you to re-watch old memories and recall conversations accurately.
On the way home from work, Liam watches a re-do of the meeting, nit picking over the way bosses said certain phrases and their body language.
Later, he goes to meets his wife Ffion at a friends dinner party, and finds her talking closely with a stranger.
The group discuss Liam’s appraisal and they suggest he shows them for their opinion – he does so via a TV screen. During dinner, a guest admits to the group that she lives without a grain, having been a victim of an attack where criminals cut hers out and sold it on the black market. She recalls that she now feels great about not having it.
Already adjitated, Liam grows more uneasy seeing Ffion and the man, Jonas, get along so well throughout the night.
On their return home he goads her about it and she admits that they used to date. However, information doesn’t add up properly in Liam’s head and he begins to obsesses.
Eventually Liam apologises and the couple have sex, both playing re-do’s during of steamier times.
Afterwards, Liam goes downstairs and continues to drink, replaying the events of the night and getting more suspicious of his wifes behavior and story. When Ffion comes downstairs the next morning, Liam demands answers. Exhausted with him, she goes back to bed.
Remembering a comment Jonas made the previous night about replaying sexual encounters with exes, the intoxicated Liam drives over to Jonas’s house and demands he removes any intimate footage of Ffion from his grain, threatening to remove it from his neck himself.
Reluctantly, Jonas projects his Ffion memories onto the TV so Liam cam watch him remove them. Satisfied, Liam drives home but crashes into a tree.
When he awakes, much more sober, he checks his grain to see what happened in the lead up to the crash and is horrified to notice that one of the clips that Jonas deleted seems to be from a few months ago, near the time his daughter was conceived.
He confronts Ffion who eventually admits that it happened when they had a row and he walked out on her, but insists that they used a condom. Liam demands to see proof and, despite her trying to quickly delete it, the footage shows that they didn’t use protection.
Later, Liam walks through his empty house after Ffion has left him. Through his grain he plays memories of happier times.
Everyone involved in this episode was unbearable and you couldn’t pay me enough to attend a dinner party with any of them. However, it really made me wonder if society would be helped or hindered by the grain. It would surely diminish crime and make sure that the truth always outed, but would people be too distracted by re-watching every little interaction that life would get away from them?
8. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
(Season 1, Episode 1)
British Prime Minister Michael Callow is awoken through the night by a phonecall, bringing news that the beloved Princess Susannah has been kidnapped.
In a meeting with his team, he’s told that a ransom video has been uploaded to Youtube, with the kidnappers demanding that, in return for the Princess, he has to have sex with a pig, live on national TV. The kidnappers have also sent a specification list, ensuring that the footage is almost impossible to stage.
Everyone is in agreement that Michael won’t have to do this, confident that they will recover Susannah before the deadline. The video has been taken down from Youtube, but the team advise that it’s already been downloaded thousands of times by users.
While social media is rife with the news, the UK media agree to a D-Notice and don’t report on it. Eventually, news channel UKN are the first to break and others follow suit.
The public is generally sympathic, finding it amusing but not really expecting the PM to go through with it.
Meanwhile, Callow’s team arrange for the broadcast to be faked, bringing in an actor to pretend to be Michael and go through with the act. The kidnappers discover this and send a severed finger and footage of Susannah having the digit removed to a news station.
Public backing quickly shifts, now with most people demanding that he follows through with the act. Michael’s wife, Jane, vehemently begs him not to do it.
Elsewhere, the team think they’ve discovered the base and plan an immediate rescue mission. UKN Journalist Malaika, who has been getting information leaked to her from inside Number 10, finds out about the mission and tries to film it on her mobile.
It’s revealed that the site was a decoy, with armed police finding nothing but a laptop and a dummy tied to a chair. In the heat of the moment, Malaika reveals herself and is shot in the leg as she flees.
Back in the office, Michael’s adviser recommends that he goes through with it, telling him that public opinion will plummet and she can’t guarantee his safety or that of his families if the kidnappers kill Susannah.
Michael has full intercourse with a pig, live on national television, with 1.3 billion people watching on.
It’s then revealed, that 30 minutes before the broadcast even began, Susannah was released and left on a usually busy bridge in town, now completely empty due to everyone staying home to watch the broadcast. Michael’s adviser thinks it’s best to not tell him this, and speaks through a toilet door where he is vomiting to tell him he’s saved Susannah’s life.
Turner prize winner Carlton Bloom is seen hanging from the rafters in his home with his finger missing. Bloom wished to convey a message about the obsession with the media, knowing that everyone would bow to his plan and be elsewhere when the truth came out.
A year later, Susannah is pregnant and Michael’s ratings are soaring. He’s seen playing football with schoolchildren, his wife by his side. The two stop to wave to the camera before going indoors.
Once away from the public, Jane is cold towards Michael as he begs her to talk to him.
I will never forgive creators for putting this bloody episode first. Do they not REALISE how hard it is to convince your friends this is a great show while trying to sell the fact your first experience of it is about watching the PM fucking a pig on TV? That said, when the Pig-gate news came out in 2015, it became a lot easier to just tell people it’s all part of a series that predicts the future. Still not over that.
The episode does fantastic character building and really covers all basis, with the twist at the end being a huge shock, getting you psyched up for just what the other episodes of Black Mirror could bring.
7. WHITE BEAR
(Season 2, Episode 2)
A woman wakes up with amnesia, in a house with all of the screens showing a strange symbol. On the mantel piece, she finds a photograph of herself with a man and a little girl, and she wonders if it’s her family.
Upon leaving the house she sees other people, but nobody will speak to her, instead using their camera phones to film her. She begs for help but nobody will respond.
Across the street, a masked man exits his vehicles and points a rifle at her – she flees.
Coming across a gas station, she meets Jem and Damien who are filling up their car. They respond to her, but the masked man shows up and they take her with them to hide. The gunman smashes his way into their hiding place and kills Damien.
Jem explains that the symbol that the woman seen in the house seems to have brainwashed most of the population, turning them into passive bystanders that film everything. There are some people, like them, that don’t seem effected, but others choose to use the new freedom to terrorise others, like the masked man.
Jem explains she’s on her way to a transmitter, hoping to damage it and lift the spell. The woman pleads with her so she can come along.
While they dodge another attack from the hunters, they’re picked up by Baxter, also unaffected, who drives them some way to a forest. Once there though, Baxter turns on the women and ties them up.
Jem manages to escape and kills Baxter, and together they make their way to the transmitter station, named White Bear.
Upon entering the facility they’re attacked again, with the woman managing to overpower one of the hunters and take his gun. She tries to shoot him, but only confetti comes out.
Walls around her open to reveal an audience clapping, while Jen and the hunters take a bow – one of them revealed to be Baxter, alive.
The woman is strapped to a chair on stage, as the group address the audience – the woman is revealed to be Victoria Skillane, and her police mugshot appears on screens behind them. The photo from the mantel is also shown, the man named as her fiancé Iain, the girl as Jemima, a child that the pair abducted from her family.
Iain tortured and eventually murdered Jemima by burning her in a bonfire, while Victoria filmed it all on her mobile phone.
When Iain commited suicide in his prison cell, Victoria was sentenced to daily punishment in the White Bear Justice Park, named after Jemima’s favourite teddy bear.
Victoria’s transferred into a transparent car-box and driven down a stretch of road, where attendees of the park throw rotten fruit and bay for her blood.
When the car returns to the house where she started the day, she’s once again strapped down to a chair and forced to watch the murderous footage she filmed, while park workers use electrodes to wipe her memory once again, ready for tomorrows performance.
The park is shown being set up once again, with visitors arriving and being briefed. They’re warned not to directly approach Victoria, but urged to film as much as possible. Children wonder along in awe, this apparently considered a fun day out for them.
I remember being delighted to see Annie from Being Human starring in this episode, and was impressed with her helpless-annoynce act. Although this episode is probably one of the most outlandish, it was interested to experience this form of justice and it makes you wonder what the ‘right’ way to deal with a situation like this is.
6. HANG THE DJ
(Season 4, Episode 4)
Dating has advanced. Single people have a small, circular tablet called Coach – an artificial intelligence designed to set them up on dates and find their true match.
Frank is instructed by Coach to go to the restaurant in ‘The Hub’, a mall-like place that daters can visit within their confines.
The system, which creates matches using trial and error, gives couples a certain amount of time with eachother, presumably to determine preferences and chemistry.
On arrival he meets his match, Amy, who admits that this is her first time using the dating software too. The pair immediately hit it off and check their Coach app to see their expiration date – only to find out it’s a mere 12 hours.
After dinner they’re shuttled to a numbered house, among with others that are encircled by a huge wall.
Once alone they decide to not have sex, spending the night cuddling and talking. They both marvel at how complicated dating must have been before Coach’s existance.
The next morning, Frank and Amy wait outside the house as their Coach ticks down to 0, they then part ways.
Separately they both speak with Coach, feeling confused at how the date went so well only for them to be separated, to which Coach ensures them this is all part of the journey of finding their ultimate match on their ‘Pairing Day’, with those matches having a 99.8% success rate.
Next, Amy’s assigned to nine months with the handsome Lenny, who admits he’s an ‘old hand’ at the dating game. Lenny suggests it’s better to have sex immediately and get the awkwardness out of the way, and Amy agrees.
Frank is matched for one year but the straight-laced, joke-hating Nicola. They immediately do not get on.
When attending a mutual friend’s Pairing Day (like a wedding), Amy and Frank meet once again and get along.
Afterwards, Amy finds herself thinking about Frank more and distancing herself from Lenny. When their six months is up, Amy waits outside of the house as the clock ticks down, immediately darting the other way once their relationship has expired.
She’s then assigned a string of short-term relationships which become increasingly meaningless. Meanwhile, Frank is still suffering through the relationship with Nicola.
When that expires, he’s once again matched with Amy who, after her experiences over the last few months, makes Frank promise not to check their expiry and just enjoy it.
Their relationship progresses blissfully for a while, but eventually Frank can no longer take the wondering and checks it – they have five years left together.
Suddenly, Coach begins re-calibrating, with their time together getting less and less, eventually landing on 20 hours. Coach advises this happened due to Frank’s one-sided observation.
The next day, Amy and Frank are wondering around The Hub when she confronts him on his odd behavior, and he admits to what he’s done. Amy’s furious with Frank, not only for breaking her promise but for effectively ruining their relationship. Frank suggests that they escape together, scaling the wall and seeing what else is out there for them. Thinking he’s ridiculous, Amy storms away from him before their relationship expires.
After more short-term relationships, Amy receives a notification that her ultimate match has been found, and that her pairing day will be tomorrow. Coach gives her the opportunity to say goodbye to one other person and, after being assured she’s not being paired with Frank, chooses him. She throws her Coach tablet in the pool and leaves.
On meeting up with Frank in The Hub’s restaurant, she hurriedly tells him he was right and that she believes this is all a test. She urges him to try and remember a time before he was following Coach and he can’t remember anything else. He agrees to run with her and they make their way to the bottom of the wall and begin climbing.
Halfway up the ladder, the world around them starts disappearing, revealing that this has all been a simulation. Frank and Amy arrive in a sort of virtual plaza, surrounded by other versions of the couple, all with marks above their head. Theirs is 998.
They fade away along with the others, and the digital counter announces 1000 simulations complete, with 988 rebellions.
Flip to the ‘real world’, the system is in fact a dating apps algorithm, matching the real Amy and Frank at 99.8% certainty. She approaches Frank from across the bar.
This was a really lovely story – a bit of a change from usual Black Mirror trends. I was constantly on edge, waiting for one of them to bash the others head in or accidentally die in a horrific accident. It’s nice to throw something different in the mix, and I enjoyed the clever storyline and twist.
5. BLACK MUSEUM
Nish is driving home across a sandy highway when she stops at a remote charging station for her car.
With the car taking a while to charge, Nish visits the building next door labelled Black Museum – claiming to display ‘authentic criminological artifacts’.
At reception, Nish is greeted by museum curator Rolo Haynes, who she tells that she’s on her way to surprise her father on the recommendation of her mother. He offers her a guided tour of the museums most notable artifacts.
The first object that the pair come across is a sort of LED hairnet, which Rolo says he was able to acquire through his work.
Working as a neurological research recruiter, Rolo convinces Dr Peter Dawson to take part in one of their latest technologies – the hairnet that allows doctors to feel the symptoms of their patients. Dawson has a chip installed into his head, where his patients wear the hairnet to show him what’s wrong.
Over time, he’s well on his way to becoming renowned – his sex life also improving by having his partner wear the net during, increasing his pleasure by double.
One night on shift, a senator is brought in writing in pain, and nobody is able to figure out what’s happening to him. Giving him the hairnet, Dawson’s sure he can crack it and insists for just one more minute to try. During that time, the senator dies, having been poisoned by a rival. Dawson passes out, having essentially experienced the senator’s death himself. He wakes up changed, suddenly garnering pleasure from pain.
Dawson starts to use patients pain for his sexual gratification, eventually being released from the hospital due to his worrying behaviour.
At home with nobody to use the net on, Dawson starts to hack away at himself, revelling in the pain it brings him. However, he knows there’s something missing – the fear.
He tazers, tortures and kills a homeless man with a drill in the middle of the street and sinks into a black hole of euphoria, essentially becoming a vegetable as the police take him away.
Back in the museum, Nish doesn’t seem fazed by the story. The aircon in the building is faulty and it’s a hot day, so Nish shares her bottle of water with Rolo.
Keen to move on, he takes her to a soft-toy monkey, beginning to tell her Carrie’s story.
Carrie and Jack meet and sleep together at a house party, and an unexpected pregnancy really brings them together. The two seem to flourish throughout the pregnancy and in parenthood, but Carrie is one day hit by a car and falls into a deep coma.
Jack visits her regularly in the hospital where Rolo works, but she makes no progress at all. One day, Rolo corners Jack and asks if he’d be interested in installing a button in Carrie’s consciousness – she wouldn’t be able to speak to him, but could communicate via yes/no buttons on her bedside. Jack decides to give it a try.
The buttons work well, allowing Carrie to tell Jack which room freshener she wants etc.
Eventually, Rolo broaches to Jack the possibilities of their latest invention – a way to install Carrie’s consciousness into Jack’s head. This would allow her to see what he’s seeing, feel what he’s feeling and, most importantly, allow her to feel the touch of their young son.
While Jack is hesitant, Carrie is adamant she wants to do it, so he agrees.
After the procedure, the new way of life works well for a few weeks, until the couple start to bicker over everything from Jack’s wondering eye to his love of certain foods that play havoc with Carrie’s stomach. Eventually Jack has enough and ‘switches her off’ for three weeks (no time at all has passed for Carrie).
As time goes on they disagree and argue relentlessly, eventually with Jackie only activating Carrie as a weekend mum so she’s able to spend time with her son. His new girlfriend is aware of the situation but finds Carrie disrespectful and interfering.
Eventually the couple go to Rolo for help who reveals that they could potentially transfer Carrie’s consciousness into something else, for example a stuffed monkey that they could give to her son.
They decide to do this, not telling Carrie until the procedure is complete. Carrie is heartbroken, but only able to communicate via the monkey’s two built-in phrases: “monkey needs a hug” (sad/no) and “monkey loves you” (happy/yes).
The son initially spends a lot of time with the toy but eventually grows bored of it.
In the present, Rolo tells Nish that the process they used is now illegal and inevitably lead to his firing. Unfortunately, it would also be illegal to delete her, meaning she has to spend eternity in a stuffed monkey.
Nish seems more shocked this time, and the two move on to the ‘main attraction’ of the museum – a hologram projection of Clayton Leigh – a convicted murderer who signed over the rights to his consciousness to Rolo after his execution on death row, rationalizing that the money generated will help his family after he’s gone.
After death, Clayton was reborn as a conscious hologram with thoughts and feelings like the real man, who’s used for an electric-chair simulation. Visitors to the museum can pull the lever to electrocute Clayton and receive a token of his eternal suffering; a holographic key-ring containing another consciousness of Clayton forever in agony.
Throughout Rolo telling Nish the story, he’s becoming increasingly hot and bothered and begins to choke. Nish reveals herself to be the daughter of the actually innocent Clayton. She’s hacked the museums air-con and poisoned the water the shared with Rolo.
Nish comments on how, once the buzz died down and business wasn’t doing so well, Rolo allowed wealthy sadistics and racists to come and pull Clayton’s electrocution lever for longer, causing long-term damage in the hologram’s consciousness and rendering him a vegetable.
After seeing her husband reduced to this state, Nish’s mother killed herself.
Rolo passes out and Nish transfers his consciousness to inside Clayton’s hologram, pushing the lever to its max, putting her father to rest and receiving a keyring of Rolo’s agony.
Nish takes the stuffed monkey and trips the electrics on her way out, setting fire to the museum.
Back in her car she positions her new key-ring, straps Carrie in and talks to her mum, revealed to be living inside her head as Carrie did with Jack.
She drives away as the museum burns in the distance.
The best part of this episode was seeing the Easter eggs from other episodes. Victoria’s Skillane’s mugshot, mechanical bees, DNA from USS Callister and the Arkangel tablet were all featured very coolly, so off-handed that you wouldn’t even notice them if you weren’t looking. Another interesting link is TCKR, the company that Rolo worked for, are also the creators of a certain place that I can’t mention without spoiling a story-line. It all fitted so seamlessly, and was nice to have confirmation that all of these stories are probably happening in the same universe. Plus – three story-lines for the price of one!
4. FIFTEEN MILLION MERITS
(Season 1, Episode 2)
Society live, sectioned off, in an enclosed, technology-ran space, where your self-worth and income is generated by the amount of time you put into riding a mechanical bike, generating power for the world in exchange for ‘merits’.
Merits can be used to buy food, goods and entertainment. Their world is ran by technology, with most surfaces being a screen. Viewing of any television is constantly interrupted by advertisements, with people having to spend merits to skip them.
The overweight are shunned, having to work as janitorial staff or be the victims of cruel game-shows.
Bing lives as comfy a life as one can in this universe, having inherited over fifteen million merits from his brother when he died. He eats well, skips advertisements and generally goes through the motions of every day life enjoying small privileges due to his status.
One day after a biking session, Bing overhears the beautiful Abi singing in the bathroom. The two strike up a flirtationship and he encourages her to use her singing talents to enter Hotshot, an X-Factor type game-show that takes winners out of their mundane lives, live in luxury and leave the bike behind.
Abi is doubtful of her talents and tells Bing she couldn’t anyway, having nowhere near enough merit’s to pay for her audition ticket. Bing offers to transfer his merits to her which she tells him is ridiculous, but Bing insists, commenting on how it’s all pointless anyway, and what else could he spend it on except stupid shows or another t-shirt for his avatar.
Abi agrees to take the merits and, together, they go along to the audition.
Before going onstage, Abi’s given a drink to calm her nerves called Cupliance, which actually makes Abi more compliant and passive once on stage.
Abi performs a song for judges Hope, Charity and Wraith. They like her, but remark that she’s nothing special. Wraith, however, takes a special liking to her and offers her a slot on his pornography channel, WraithBabes. The subdued Abi blindly agrees – Bing has to be restrained in the wings.
He returns home feeling dejected, his frustration hitting its peak when an advert for WraithBabes, featuring Abi, interrupts his programming and he’s unable to skip it due to lack of merits. He smashes up his cell-like room and, upon finding a large shard of glass in the wreckage, he attempts to cut off his stamp from the audition but decides against it, stashing the shard under his mattress along with Abi’s empty Cupliance cup.
Bing gets to work earning mertis, living frugally by eating scraps and limiting his expenditure while hammering the bike. He’s eventually able to save up the required fifteen million and buys another ticket for an audition.
On the day, he’s shown to the stage and shows the stage-hand the empty Cupliance carton, telling her that someone else already given him it.
On stage, Bing starts a bizarre dance routine, suddenly whipping out the glass shard and holding it to his neck, telling judges if anyone approaches he will slit his own throat. The judges tell him to go ahead, and Bing launches into a rant on the unfairness of the system, calling it artificial and unemotional.
After some discussion, the tables turn as Hope offers him his own segment where he’s able to do similar rants to audiences.
Later, Bing’s shown addressing a virtual adoring crowd, holding the shard to his neck. After the broadcast, he puts the shard into a protective box and moves about his new apartment, enjoying a green virtual landscape and a richer lifestyle.
Back in the bike room, Bing’s show is an ironic novelty, with others buying a shard for their avatar.
The design and production of this episode is easily one of the best in all of the seasons of Black Mirror; it’s bleak yet beautiful, and hopeless but hopeful all at once. Bing and Abi’s brief relationship is tender and poignant, and other biker insights have great character building despite their limited screen time. The only thing I think this episode is missing is a bit of backstory on how life ended up like this.
3. SAN JUNIPERO
(Season 3, Episode 4)
In the year 1987, shy young woman Yorkie visits the idyllic party town of San Junipero. While hanging out in bars and clubs, she comes across Kelly, an outgoing party girl, who uses Yorkie as an alibi to get rid of an admirer.
The two get to talking but, when Kelly asks her to dance, Yorkie gets nervous and leaves. Kelly peruses her and the pair flirt, with Kelly telling inviting her back to her beach house for sex. Yorkie rebuffs her, explaining that she’s due to be married in a few weeks to a man named Greg.
The next week, Yorkie is keen to meet up again with Kelly but finds her in a bar flirting with a man – Yorkie confronts her about her actions and they row, make up and retreat to Kelly’s beach house where they have sex.
Yorkie reveals that this is her first time – not just with a woman but with anyone, and Kelly tells her that she’s bisexual and was once married to a man.
Next week, Yorkie looks for Kelly again but she’s nowhere to be found. She asks a mutual friend who tells her to ‘try a different time’ – Yorkie then looks in the years 1980 and 1996, eventually finding Kelly in 2002, but she rebuffs her as if she’s no longer interested.
After another row, Kelly tells Yorkie that she’s dying and has been avoiding her because she knew she could fall for her. They have sex again and Kelly asks if she can meet her in ‘real life’. Yorkie is hesitant but eventually agrees.
San Junipero is revealed to be a virtual reality where peoples consciousness can be uploaded to to ‘live’ as their younger selves forever – the elderly are permitted to weekly visits to test it out before passing.
In San Junipero, residents can’t die or feel pain unless they choose to.
In the real world, an elderly and frail Kelly leaves her care home to visit Yorkie in hospital. On arrival she bumps into Greg, a young nurse that has been looking after Yorkie. Greg tells Kelly that, after coming out as gay and being rejected by her parents as a young woman, Yorkie ran her car off the road and was permanently paralyzed, unable to move any of her body or speak. She has spent over 40 years trapped in her ageing body, as her family are religious and don’t agree with ending her life. She’s only recently been allowed to visit San Junipero.
Greg has agreed to marry Yorkie, giving him the ability to sign off on her euthanasia, allowing her to live an active-bodied life in San Junipero for all eternity.
Kelly offers to take Greg’s place and marry her herself, which on a quick visit to San Junipero, Yorkie confirms she’s on board with. The pair are married at the hospital bed.
On the next visit, Yorkie, who now lives permanently in SJ, urges Kelly to stay with her when she passes. However, Kelly refuses.
Yorkie, hurt, asks why not. Kelly explains that when she was married to her husband, their daughter died. This was before the time of San Junipero, and her husband said he wouldn’t ever want to be uploaded if his daughter couldn’t, and chose to die the traditional way. Kelly says that, despite not believing in heaven, she was going to do the same.
The pair row, with Kelly telling Yorkie she could never understand the love she had with her husband. Kelly leaves in her jeep and gets into a violent crash – Yorkie chases her to apologise, but by the time she reaches Kelly, her time for the week is up and she disappears.
Back in the real world, time passes and Kelly’s health further deteriorates – she tells her nurse she’s decided it’s time to go.
Kelly’s body is buried with her husband and daughter, but she chose to have her consciousness uploaded to San Junipero to be with Yorkie.
The couple, both in wedding attire, drive off into the sunset.
This is another case where a happy ending prevailed in Black Mirror, and it was easily one of the most heartwarming of the show. What a lovely premise, that our elderly loved ones had something like this to look forward to. Creating heaven as literally a place on earth was a genius concept, though believers of the afterlife could argue the point. I do something find myself thinking about Kelly’s poor husband, waiting at heaven’s gates for her…
2. USS CALLISTER
(Season 4, Episode 1)
Aboard a spaceship, Captain Robert Daily and his team destroy an enemy ship. The bad guy gets away in an escape pod, but the team are happy with the result, praising their fearless leader on his tactics.
Cut to the ‘real’ Robert Daily arriving at work, where he’s rebuffed by the pretty receptionist and treat indifferently by other staff, despite the company being half of his brainchild.
Daily is the Cheif Technical Officer of Callister Inc., a virtual video-game company with an immensely popular following, allowing users to immerse themselves in a VR experience in which they control a star ship and complete missions. The company was set up on Robert’s skills and ideas, with his partner James Walton being ‘the face’ of the company.
Throughout the office are lookalikes of the team on Daily’s virtual spaceship, including the receptionist and Walton.
It’s revealed that Daily possesses a secret mod of the game on his home computer, modeled on his favourite show, Space Fleet, where his coworkers play as his adoring subordinates and he’s the hero. Daily uses the mod to release his daily frustrations and stress on his crew.
Young and eager Nanette joins the Callister Inc. team, revealing that a big part of her interest in the company stems from her admiration of Daily. While he’s thrilled at this, he’s unhappy to see her making friends with others in the office, in particular James who he suspects has romantic intentions.
When he overhears Shania, a colleague and member of his virtual crew, warning Nanette off getting to close to him, he uses her old coffee cup to collect her DNA and clone her into his modded game.
When her consciousness wakes up she’s hysterical, thinking that she’s the real Nanette. The crew explain to her that she’s merely a copy of the original, with the same memories and feelings, but the true Nanette is still living her normal life outside of the game.
She fruitlessly attempts to escape the ship until Daily arrives, who introduces her to the rest as his new science officer, Lieutenant Cole.
First Nanette refuses to cooperate, but Daily uses the mod to remove her facial features, giving her the sensation that she’s being constantly suffocated. He explains that none of them can die unless Daily wills it so, telling Nanette that she will be left in this constant state unless she complies. She has no choice but to go along with his game.
After a gaming session where Daily once again defeats the enemy, Nanette tries to coerce the team to revolt, saying that the game can connect to the internet and she can figure out a way to send a message to the outside world.
She sends the real her an SOS message, to which she immediately shows Daily who dismisses it as spam, telling her to be careful. By now, he already knows what the crew are up to and logs on to the game.
Shania takes full responsibility for the message and Daily transforms her into a hideous space creature as punishment. She’s dropped off the ship.
After he leaves, Nanette notices a wormhole out of the window and recognises it as the way the game would deal with an impending update, due to land on Christmas Eve. She believes that if they fly the ship into the wormhole they will be deleted.
Most of the crew ultimately agree that they should give it a try, but James is the most hesitant. He reveals that for a long time, it was only he and Daily in the spacecraft. Daily treated him horribly, it all coming to a head when he took the DNA of James’s real life son and put him into the game, only to kill him. James doesn’t want to revolt, knowing that Daily could make him watch over and over again as he murders his child.
Nannette convinces him that it must be better than being at Daily’s mercy forever.
On a mission the next day, Nanette is able to seduce Daily into stripping and joining her for a swim. While he’s distracted, the crew still in the ship beam his PDA controller back up and use it to access real Nannette’s nudes. They then send her a blackmail message, threatening to leak them unless she complies with their instructions.
The worried Nanette orders a pizza to Daily’s apartment, meaning he has to leave the game unattended for a few minutes. She sneaks into his apartment and takes the crews DNA from a mini-fridge and disables his chip, which allows him to immerse himself in the game.
This also gives the virtual crew ample time to start their descent into the wormhole.
Eventually, Daily returns to the game to find the crew have almost succeeded. He follows and damages their ship.
James decides to sacrifice himself in order to fix it, despite this meaning, if they survive, he’ll spend the rest of eternity in agony due to the explosion that will occur.
The crew are able to blast through the wormhole, and instead of deleting they’re implanted into a separate server away from Daily’s reach.
Virtual Daily is trapped in the modded universe with everything deleting around him, trapping him in the game.
In real life, Daily has had a seizure due to the game complications and dies.
I did not want to watch this episode at all. The advert for USS Callister surprised me as it was so different to the rest of them, and after watching a preview I decided I wanted to get this one out of the way as quickly as possible. Jesus, watch me eat my words. This episode was magnificent – the characters were well rounded, witty, colourful and relatable, and the game/real life story-line was stunning to watch unfold. I was absolutely stunned by it.
1. BE RIGHT BACK
(Season 2, Episode 1)
Young couple Martha and Ash move into an old and remote country house.
They day after they move in, Ash goes out to run errands and is killed in a car crash.
At Ash’s funeral, Martha’s accosted by an acquaintance who tells her she knows what she’s going through and can help, speaking about knowing a way she can still communicate with Ash. Angered, Martha tells her she’s not interested.
Later, Martha discovers that she is pregnant. Desperately sad and lonely, Martha contacts the woman from the funeral, asking for more information. She tells her that there’s a service available for people like her where, by using the deceased’s online presence, they’re able to create a virtual ‘Ash’ that Martha can chat with via IM.
Although she finds it weird, Martha is relieved to have a way to speak with Ash and share the news of her pregnancy. The virtual Ash tells her there’s a way she can physically speak to him, so Martha uploads all videos of Ash to the system which uses his voice in the same way it used his phrases through IM.
Martha and ‘Ash’ are in constant contact through phonecalls, with Martha not returning anyone else’s calls and becoming inclusive.
When Martha gets overexcited at showing Ash the baby’s heartbeat, she drops her phone and loses contact with Ash. She’s hysterical and extremely relieved when she gets home and realises that he hasn’t disappeared.
Ash tells her that there’s another level to the communication, and Martha agrees to give it a shot.
A few days later she receives a blank synthetic body that she’s told to put in the bath and add some chemicals to. After a while, the body morphs into an almost identical Ash that also has his voice.
Martha’s uncomfortable with it, noting that it doesn’t ‘act’ how Ash would in certain situations. She becomes easily irritated by the andrioid and tries to coherce him into snapping at her, wanting it to display human emotion.
Martha drives the andrioid to a cliff edge and tells him to jump – when he seems that he’s about to do it immediately she expresses that the real Ash would be scared and would beg her not to make him do it. The android immediately starts begging for its life. Martha screams.
Several years later, Martha has raised their daughter, also named Ash.
On her birthday they cut a cake, and she asks if she can take a slice ‘up’. Martha’s hesitant but relents.
Little Ash goes up to the loft where the android has been kept ever since, with his ‘daughter’ allowed to visit only on weekends.
This episode absolutely shook me to my core. I was so conflicted, knowing that what was happening wasn’t right or healthy, but also knowing that in Martha’s position I could never turn down what she was offered. I cringed, laughed and cried throughout their interactions, . Martha and Ash have magnetic chemistry that can’t be switched off once the actor turns into an android, and the heartbreak that you feel for the both of them at the wasted opportunity truly hurts. This episode stayed with me for a long time, and although there’s not as much shockers, twists or turns in this one, I think it’s the best out of the lot.
What was your favourite episode of Black Mirror? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @dimmickhead!