Black Mirror: a rundown of the best episodes so far
Charlie Brooker's 'techno-paranoia' series, Black Mirror, has pioneered a completely new genre of TV in the past few years.
This unconventional sci-fi anthology poses many questions about how technological advancements meant to aid us could, in fact, be our downfall.
Following the recent release of 'Bandersnatch' on Netflix—Black Mirror's first attempt at a 'choose your own adventure' episode—it is a good time to look back over all four seasons to reflect on the very best of this hard-hitting show.
Just a warning, there are big spoilers ahead.
1. 'San Junipero'
Starting with what is arguably the most uplifting and light-hearted episode of the entire anthology, 'San Junipero' is a love story through the ages—quite literally. Both protagonists Yorkie and Kelly embark on a turbulent struggle with self-acceptance and coming to terms with life after death.
It's interesting in how it also explores nostalgia therapy in a futuristic sense, allowing people to hop into a hypothetical time machine to get back to a better time. In the case of Yorkie and Kelly, it's the year 1987.
As the episode progresses it becomes clear that not all is as it seems. Finally, the audience is made privy to the fact that 'San Junipero' is nothing more than an augmented reality programme for people looking to avoid death, or at least the finality of it.
This episode does well to avoid revealing the 'crack in the mirror' until at least halfway through. Therefore, the audience has a chance to really connect with the characters and the endearing world they live in. The soundtrack is stellar too.
2. 'White Christmas'
Swiftly moving from the bittersweet straight to the plain concerning is 'White Christmas'. This episode has a spot here for its amazing storytelling, compelling characters and use of futuristic technology.
It tells the stories of Matt and Potter. Matt previously working as a dating guru via 'Z-Eyes', an eye implant functioning like a webcam, or what would be Google Glass in 30 years.
Matt's day job, however, is integrating 'Cookies'. These are replicas of a human conscious copied from the host and placed into a console. It sounds complicated, but the show makes this fascinating technology seem like a part of our own reality, although there are plenty of ethical questions that come with it.
Potter's story, on the other hand, introduces the audience to the more questionable features of 'Z-Eyes'. Potter is later blocked by his pregnant partner Beth, essentially leaving him with no visible access to her, including offspring. This reduces him to stalking Beth and his child, only for him to later discover a very harrowing truth.
The narrative takes a lot of twists and turns resulting in an exciting episode that leaves the audience questioning the ethical implications when faced with such advanced forms of technological control over ourselves and our conscience.
Today the majority of people have more than one social media account and the growing obsession with 'likes' seems to leave people vying for attention and conforming in the ways people expect them to.
'Nosedive' explores this in the most extreme sense. Through a rating system, every single interaction, post and movement can be scaled. Depending on the number one has, they have access to greater rewards like houses, cars and are generally treated better.
The episode revolves around Lacie, a woman who has a relatively average rating until her distant friend Naomi asks Lacie to come to her wedding. Thus, Lacie acts up to her expectations, practices laughing, dresses accordingly and presents herself as fake on the hope that the wedding will increase her own rating.
Ultimately, a series of incidents and bad interactions leaves Lacie shunned by society. The irony is that despite this, she finds she is freer than ever.
The beauty of this episode is that it shows the stark reality of the way society could potentially head if we allow social media to influence our lives so much that we can't escape it.
4. 'White Bear'
'White Bear' can only be described as a slap in the face to our perception of justice and morality. It starts with many questions revolving around the episodes protagonist, Victoria, and the situation she finds herself in.
She awakens in a seemingly empty house suffering from severe amnesia. She navigates her way around the neighbourhood, only to discover people filming her despite her cries for help.
After plenty of action, near deaths and a growing 'mind control' conspiracy, all is very abruptly revealed. Victoria is, in fact, a criminal who is mindwiped each day to relive the psychological and physical torture once again. The clock is reset on her punishment.
This takes place within a Justice Park, set up by the government and ran by a select team of actors to create tortuous scenarios for criminals. The filmers are simply visitors coming to watch the spectacle as they would with animals in a zoo.
The entire episode is packaged into a 40 minute, well-paced bombardment of action and tension with audiences left to decide who the real antagonist of this bleak story is.
5. 'The Entire History Of You'
If Black Mirror's first episode, The National Anthem, didn't entirely grip audiences, then 'The Entire History of You' certainly will.
This is where we see the very first incarnation of 'Z-Eyes', or in this case, Grains. Perhaps a little less evolved in season one, but the device is certainly proven just as sinister.
The audience are introduced to Liam and Ffion, both of which use the implant device to replay their memories at any time.
The story unfolds as the couple attend a dinner party wherein Ffion's ex appears to be getting too friendly. This is all in Liam's perception. He begins to obsess and replay each part of the interaction to the detriment of his mental health and relationships.
Liam finally attacks the ex, simply to find from his Grain that Ffion was actually having an affair, thus proving his paranoia.
It might have been the last episode of the first season, but it was definitely the one to persuade viewers to think about the impact of technology and the serious paranoia surrounding it. The story is not especially horrific. It deals with an overdone plot, but the Grains add a much darker, harrowing side to it.