Black Mirror – Seasons 1-4

 

This is a show that is dark, depressing, thoughtful, and totally addictive. For a show that is focussed so ardently on the human psyche, it maintains a level of ‘entertainment’ that will make you want to keep watching to figure out what the genius of Charlie Brooker can conjure next.

 

Black Mirror is a series of standalone episodes, from the creative mind of Charlie Brooker, that delves in to the complexities of the human psyche and the impact modern society and technology has on the way we behave. This may not seem like a compelling appraisal that will draw you in to the show, but, believe me, the originality and story telling behind each episode is without parallel. I am not going to go too in depth with my review because to do so would mean addressing each episode individually and, considering each episode is thesis-worthy in themselves, I simply don’t have the time to do this.

 

As each episode is based within its own cocoon of existence, there is very little, if anything connecting them. Some episodes are based in the future, others in an alternative present, and some, ostensibly, in the past. The only true tendon that connects them is that each episode is not afraid to show a complexity to humanity that is rarely ever seen. They are rife with dark satire and are all ambitious and shocking in their execution. One common trait throughout the majority of episodes is the warning that advancements in technology can have a wholly detrimental effect on both society and the individuals within it.

 

Episodes vary in theme, concept, and tone. Some episodes are so dark and haunting that they will leave you depressed at the end. Depressed, but somewhat enlightened by the message. Others are quirky, flowing with a deep sentimentality that will almost bring you to tears. The very concept of a protagonist is flipped on its head. There are very rarely heroes. What we are given are intrinsically and irreversibly flawed characters put in situations that bring out their true natures, stripping them down to their bare bones until, by the end of the episode, there is nothing left of them to hide from the viewer. None of this would work if they were not brought to life by some excellent acting. Different actors lend their talents to different episodes, and everyone of them gives a performance that shows they truly believe in the material.

 

There are no bad episodes. Not one. There are some that may struggle to stand against the sheer acclaim of others, but even these are better than nearly anything you will see elsewhere on TV. The series starts in a ballsy manner. By this point the majority of the population are aware of the infamous ‘The National Anthem’ episode. It may not be recognisable by name, but surely the Prime Minister and the Pig will ring a bell. What is incredible is the way this episode predicted a future event, but besides that it is an excellent introduction to what the series represents, and the nihilism at its very centre. While many may be put off by this rather gross prologue, what follows is completely different.

 

There are standout episodes such as White Bear, USS Callister, Hang the DJ, and White Christmas. These are truly phenomenal, and each is completely different to the other, even on the verge of becoming very different genres. Yet, one of the greatest surprises for me was San Junipero. After watching so many episodes, full of nihilism, shock, brutality, twists, it was this one that gave me something welcome and new. For once we are seeing an emotive love story with such an engaging chemistry between the two leads that you may even shed a tear by the end. That episode proved to me that the series is something more than just misery and darkness.

 

Speaking of misery and darkness, there are three episodes that were so dark that by the end of each one I felt quite hollow. It wasn’t just the sadness that got to me, but the way it crushed my will. I would often watch Black Mirror in batches. But these episodes always ceased any marathon I had started. Not because I had run out of time, but because I simply could not bare to watch anymore after them. Never have I felt such an emotive connection to a programme that it had such a defining effect on me. I loved it because of this. I hated it because of this. But at no point did I regret watching those episodes. Each of the three are great episodes. One especially just for the soul crushing twist that is revealed at the end. As all this preamble could be considered a spoiler in itself, you can only see the names of the episodes if you truly want to, by clicking below.

The darkest episodes - be warned

Playtest, Shut up and Dance, Crocodile.

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I think the only way to sum this up is to encourage you to watch it. If you have Netflix, jump in and watch it from the start. Every episode needs to be admired and respected. But I will warn you, do not binge watch this show. If you watch an episode that is too dark, call it quite there for the time being because you are guaranteed you will need the time to recover.