Black Mirror is a television show created by Charlie Brooker, each episode comprising of a standalone story usually highlighting the perils of technology. The show is full of twist, turns and usually a depressing ending. The show has been going on for 4 seasons with a 5th in the pipeline. Black Mirror has become one of the greatest shows on TV at the moment so we decided to rank the top 8 Black Mirror episodes so far. (Season 1 -Season 4)
8 – Shut Up And Dance
After a teenage boy’s laptop gets infected by a virus and takes a video of him masturbating, he is then blackmailed by a mysterious hacker to do whatever they say or they’ll leak the video. This escalates from meeting someone at a car park to committing armed robbery. This has everything a Black Mirror episode should have. The dark use of technology, the expectation of a twist and bleak undertones. The escalations of the events is very interesting to watch, as the events escalates you start to second guess what the hacker has on this teenage boy. The audience is kept in question of why this boy would go so far for just a video of him masturbating.
It is bleak, dark and sometimes goes quite far even by the standards of Black Mirror but that is why I enjoy this episode. The twist is brutal, the lengths of how far someone will go is thrilling to watch. and the performances by Alex Lawther and Jerome Flynn are brilliant. Shut up and Dance is not an episode that has fared well with critics but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
7- USS Callister
Robert Daly is a technical officer of Callister Inc., a company that focuses on virtual reality technology. He has taken the DNA of his co-workers and put their virtual identities in his own virtual created world, a Star Trek inspired universe. He has full control of the virtual avatars and acts like a dictator to the full cast. This creates conflict between Daly and the avatars but they are unable to resist due to Daly’s control over the program.
This is the most divisive episode of Black Mirror. It is a big budget, special effects laden episode that is colourful and comical. As a fan of Star Trek, it is a great to see a homage to the show in the style of Black Mirror. It still has the theme of the danger of technology but to include cheesy acting and questionable special effects makes this episode fun. If you ever try and binge watch Black Mirror you will need a milkshake and a rest in the sun because it can be heavy and bleak to watch so it is nice to have a change of tone from time to time.
There is a lot of love and passion put into this episode and that translates into a very fun and hilarious episode. The pastiche of the 60’s Star Trek original series is fantastic and perfectly showcases the versatility of the show and how far it can and will go to entertain.
6 – White Christmas
A Christmas special, Joe Potter and Matt Trent played by Rafe Spall and Jon Hamm are sat in a remote cabin in the woods, we find out that they have been stuck here for at least 5 years and both characters explain how they ended up there.
This is one episode that the less you know the better. Like most Black Mirror episodes, it starts with a situation that is not really explained. Two random men stuck in a cabin that seem like they hardly know each other but have been there for five years. The unravelling of information of why they ended up there is brilliant. The intricacy of how their paths crossed is interesting and compelling. As the plot goes deeper and you start to realise what is going on it becomes very fulfilling. This episode twists, turns and spins, everything you think you know, changes in a heartbeat and the journey of this Christmas special is very engaging.
Rafe Spall is fantastic in this episode, his performance tip toes on whether this guy is actually good or bad. The twist is satisfying and the ending is the most un-christmassy ending that has ever been shown on TV in the history of Christmas specials but that is the Black Mirror way.
5 – Playtest
Cooper decides to travel the world and almost at his end of travels he is asked by a gaming corporation to test their new augmented reality technology. Cooper must test the technology in a survival horror styled scenario in a country mansion in the middle of nowhere.
This episode plays homage to games such as Bioshock and Resident Evil. This doesn’t just have the psychological horror that Black Mirror is known for, it also has physical body horror and jumpscare styled horror. Cooper being stuck in the house at first laughs at attempts to scare him with obvious scare tactics of ghosts and mutated beings. However the true terror of this episode is when the lines between the virtual and reality are blurred. The constant questioning of what is real and fake places you in the shoes of the main character. This is a very thoughtful conversation of the dangers of virtual reality about trying to seperate the virtual and the real.
The plunder into madness and confusion is a terrifying experience but it leads to one of the greatest twists in the show and leaves you breathless. The best Black Mirror episodes leaves you with gasps and Wows! At the end of this episode I turned to my partner and was completely speechless. As someone who has written dissertations of the dangers of virtual reality in popular culture this is a personal favourite of mine.
4 – Hated in the Nation
The longest episode to date at 89 minutes, Hated in the Nation is about a social media campaign that utilises the power of Twitter. Any person that tweets #Deathto then the name of any person, after 24 hours, the person who was tweeted about the most will be hunted down and killed.
The amount of time this episode has is a real positive. The length allows characters to be developed and be fleshed out. The standalone nature of the series does create interesting characters, but characters that does not need a follow up. In Hated in the Nation, it is left open ended and leaves it possible for a sequel. At the time of writing, this is the most relevant episode of Black Mirror. With James Gunn being fired because of the backlash of 10 year old tweets, this shows the power of people using social media. James Gunn’s career has been destroyed because of some tweets and people bringing them forward and in the attention of Disney.
This episode would of worked being released in the cinema, the performances by the cast are amazing. The mystery of the killer is engaging and this episode truly feels cinematic. Brooker has said that they could revisit this story and I really hope they do because they can do more with this story. Full of tense and rare action set pieces, Hated in the Nation is a great example of the open boundaries of the show, it has the budget, the crew and actors to creates some of the greatest episodes to be produced on TV. This episode ended with me wanting more and hopefully they’ll do that in season 5.
3 – Hang The DJ
Amy and John are two people that have signed up for a dating program that matches two people up and tells each other how long the relationship will last. In the first meetup they are in a relationship for just 12 hours but this episode follows Amy and John other attempts at love and their realisation that they should be together while being stuck with other people that are a part of the program
Season 4 was very mixed with critics and some episodes were very poorly received, however the bright star of the season was Hang The DJ. This is a fantastic critique of Tinder and Siri. This is a great love story that centres round the perfect casting of Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole. This is a rare uplifting love story that fulfills the fight against the odds story trope. It is full of laughs and joy but there is some emotional moments that remind you that this is a Black Mirror episode.
There is an overarching mystery that surround this episode, the more the episode goes deeper into the world and environment, the more you find out and realise what is going on. This episode has another great and confusing twist that again leaves you speechless. The unravelling of what is going on is so fulfilling. I have this episode to thank for making me listen to Panic by The Smiths as well. An unusually uplifting episode that is fun and compelling with magnificent performances by the cast.
2 – San Junipero
Set in an 80’s style beach resort called San Junipero, Yorkie is a shy, timid girl that meets an the extroverted flashy, Kelly. The episode follows the two constantly meeting at this resort and as the episode goes on there is something uncanny about the time and the environment of San Junipero.
Whatever I write here will not do this episode any justice. This is another example of the less you know the better. You as the audience are introduced to a world with no context. There is something uncanny about San Junipero which hints at some sort of virtual reality but there is more to the world of which I will not reveal. This is an example of just watching the episode because this is up there with some of the greatest episodes not just in the show but ever written. I always seem to fall into hyperbole when writing these sort of lists but I truly mean it with this episode. The actors that play Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) have amazing chemistry and their relationship tugs at your heart strings. It is colourful, nostalgic and some of the most beautiful scenery in the show.
There is a twist and the usual bleak tone of Black Mirror but overall this is uplifting and the most positive episode in Black Mirror. This deserved all the awards and probably is the best episode in the show but not my personal favourite hence the placing on this list. Even writing about this episode is putting a smile on my face. This episode puts you on an emotional rollercoaster that is well written, brilliantly acted and fantastically shot. San Junipero is a utopia that I wish we could revisit because the whole episode was so fun to immersive yourself within the nostalgic utopia.
1- Fifteen Million Merits
Fifteen Million Merits is about a world that people must earn merits by exercising on bikes to generate power. People can use these merits to skip lude adverts and buy food. Bing, played by the brilliant Daniel Kaluuya, tries to persuade Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) to compete in an X-Factor styled show so she can become a celebrity and escape the slave like world.
This is the episode that got me hooked onto this show. San Junipero has the best universe to explore when it comes to a utopia but as a fan of bleakness and pessimism (hence being a fan of this show) Fifteen Million Merits has the best universe when it comes to a dystopia. The brilliant dark world of constant adverts and forced commercialism is so fun to explore. The explicit critique on capitalism, reality TV and flash in the pan celebrities is eye-opening. This creates a perfect conversation on the current state of society. Black Mirror works best when it runs parallel with today’s issues. Fifteen Million Merits is a perfect example of that. A culture that sells sex, forces adverts and full of reality celebrities sounds familiar when comparing to today’s society.
It is full of amazing performances by some of the greatest actors around today, Fifteen Million Merits is a stark metaphor of today’s use of technology and consumption of media. This is a perfect encapsulation of what Black Mirror is about and even after some truly wonderful episodes with massive American budgets, this early episode is still by far my favourite.