What to Watch and When to Watch It
I reached a certain point of entertainment oblivion where I had no idea the synopsis of even the most popular shows. I knew Games of Thrones was about kings and blood and stuff. And The Walking Dead was about zombies. I was pretty out of touch and stayed that way for quite some time.
And then I reached a point where I realized I not only wanted something beyond “family entertainment” but I needed it. I needed something to stimulate my brain and I went searching.
It was at this point that I realized just how incredible Netflix is. I spent plenty of years catching up on movies and TV shows that I had never seen but it took me a while to really value the Netflix Originals. Now, it’s typically my starting point for great content.
Black Mirror is one such show – touted as a Global Original on Netflix. I’d heard a few things about it but didn’t know if I had the time to invest in a show. And honestly, the name blended with Orphan Black, Black Swan, and a variety of other entertainment options. I could keep them all straight.
Luckily, I’m much more invested in my entertainment these days. And when I find a show that I absolutely love, I feel the need to tell everyone about it. That’s how I feel about Black Mirror but I find that I typically get two reactions from people when talking about this show.
- I love that show! Did you know that season 4 is coming out soon?
- I tried watching it and couldn’t get into it.
If you fall into that second category, I totally get it. Especially if you started with season 1, episode 1 (the one with the British Prime Minister and a pig – if you saw it, that’s all it will take to jog your memory). I didn’t love that episode either. Luckily, I pressed on and watched another that I thought was okay. And then another that I thought was FANTASTIC.
And that’s how it seems to go. But the great thing is that the episodes aren’t related to one another. You can watch any episode from any season (there are 3 seasons so far) in any order. And you can skip the not so great episodes.
Think of Black Mirror as a not-too-distant future where we’ve come to rely heavily on technology. Sometimes, it provides remarkable advances for society and sometimes, well, not so much. It reminds me an awful lot of Twilight Zone where nothing is ever truly as it seems.
The episodes that are good are really good and I can guarantee you’ll be thinking about them long after the show is over. So, to help you out and to make sure you give this incredibly original, well-written, well-acted series a chance, I’m ranking all of the episodes so you know what to watch and what to skip (if you want).
Black Mirror Episode Guide
1. Season 3, Episode 6: Hated in the Nation
Synopsis: The death of a journalist at the center of a social media firestorm leads a veteran detective and her tech-savvy apprentice to a chilling discovery
Why: Maybe it’s because I’m so close to social media and I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive and negative outcomes of our interactions that this one impacted me so much. And like so many other episodes, this one showcases technology that doesn’t exist but doesn’t seem that far off. The ending is chilling and will stay with you.
2. Season 1, Episode 3: The Entire History of You
Synopsis: In the near future, everyone has access to a memory implant that records everything humans do, see, and hear.
Why: This is the first episode that really hooked me. Again, it’s technology that doesn’t exist but doesn’t seem that far-fetched. And what would we do if we could replay our memories over and over again? You’ll find out that it can be maddening.
3. Season 3, Episode 1: Nosedive
Synopsis: A woman desperate to boost her social media score hits the jackpot when she’s invited to a swanky wedding. But the trip doesn’t go as planned.
Why: What if everyone around you had the ability to constantly rate you? Your personality, your appearance, your interactions. And the resulting rating gave or took away your privileges. If you’re on social media, you’ll be surprised at how this resembles a possible eerie future. Also, I love Bryce Dallas Howard in this one!
4. Season 2, Episode 1: Be Right Back
Synopsis: After learning about a new service that lets people stay in touch with the deceased, a lonely, grieving Martha reconnects with her lover.
Why: This was a more emotional episode that dug into how our social footprint leaves traces of us behind, even after we die. What if someone could use that footprint to emulate you? You’ll definitely find an ethical quandary here.
5. Season 3, Episode 2: Playtest
Synopsis: An American traveler short on cash signs up to test a revolutionary new gaming system, only to discover the thrills are a little too real.
Why: This episode will have you questioning everything you just saw by the end of the episode. I watched it alone but this is a great one to watch with someone so you can have someone to say, “wait a minute, what just happened…”
6. Season 2, Episode 4: White Christmas
Synopsis: Three interconnected tales of technology run amok during the Christmas season are told by two men at a remote outpost in a frozen wilderness.
Why: You’ll definitely start out confused with this episode but stick with it. This is another episode where you think you know what’s going on only to find out you didn’t – several times in a row. Worth it for the shocking twists – yes, there are several of them!
7. Season 2, Episode 2: White Bear
Synopsis: Victoria wakes up and cannot remember anything about her life. Everyone she encounters refuses to communicate with her.
Why: Ever think the punishment should fit the crime? This shocking ending will have you wondering what cruel and unusual really means.
8. Season 3, Episode 4: San Junipero
Synopsis: In a seaside town in 1987, a shy young woman and an outgoing party girl strike up a powerful bond that seems to defy the laws of space and time.
Why: I was very confused through about half of this episode, although I enjoyed the nostalgia of the 80s. But once it clicked, it clicked and all of the pieces fell into place and left me with the question, what would I do?
9. Season 3, Episode 5: Men Against Fire
Synopsis: After his first battle with an elusive enemy, a soldier begins experiencing unfamiliar sensations and strange technical glitches.
Why: Most episodes explore civilian use of technology. The episode questions what the military could do with it. I figured this one out pretty early on but it does make you ask the question, who really is the enemy?
10. Season 3, Episode 3: Shut Up and Dance
Synopsis: After a virus infects his laptop, a teen faces a daunting choice: carry out orders delivered by text message , or risk having intimate secrets exposed.
Why: If our technology uses were closely monitored (and maybe they are), what could be exploited from our personal lives? And what lengths would you go to hide it? I found this episode a bit disturbing and left feeling a bit unsatisfied at the end. But maybe that was the point.
11. Season 1, Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits
Synopsis: After failing to impress the judges on a singing competition show, a woman must either perform regarding acts or return to a slave-like existence.
Why: There were a couple of things that I didn’t love about this. First, I had a hard time understanding the accent of the main character. And second, I could never really understand why they were living a slave-like existence. You’ll still get a satisfying twist at the end.
12. Season 1, Episode 1: The National Anthem
Synopsis: Prime Minister Michael Callow faces a shocking dilemma when Princess Susannah, a much-loved member of the Royal Family, is kidnapped.
Why: Although many people don’t like this episode, it sets the stage for the moral dilemmas that are faced on so many episodes to come. This just happens to be a dark and disturbing episode with a hint of absurdity that left me questioning if I should watch more of this show (I’m glad I did).
13. Season 2, Episode 3: The Waldo Moment
Synopsis: A failed comedian who voices a popular cartoon bear named Waldo finds himself mixing in politics when TV executives want Waldo to run for office.
Why: This one just didn’t work for me. The storyline wasn’t as compelling or, frankly, interesting. Definitely my least favorite of the bunch.
What’s Next for Black Mirror?
Season 4 of Black Mirror is set to release any day now on Netflix bringing six new episodes into the fray. Here’s a glimpse at what’s to come.
This post is part of my role on the Netflix StreamTeam.