Netflix has become known for reviving the life of TV shows that seemed to have seen their expiration. They have always been recognised for presenting a series so that it can once again captivate audiences. As of late, when they are becoming a much bigger (if not one of the biggest) name in original television content. “Original” is a tricky term because three times now they have resurrected a film to bring it new life. In 2013, Netflix unconventionally brought back FOX’s hit Arrested Development; then the renaissance stroked again when they made a Fuller House, “sequel” to the 90’s hit, Full House.
Their newest purchase and revival came in the form of an episodic anthology series (think The Twilight Zone) who’s first two seasons were on BBC. Black Mirror had always been a hit in Britain and had become a cult classic thanks to its ability to be seen on the streaming service. Every episode is a different story, with different characters, in a different world; all of which show the negative effects that technology can produce.
Netflix’s newest season has six episodes, the same amount as the first two seasons combined. After watching all six, then taking some time to ponder the universe and everything in it (as one always does after watching Black Mirror) I now deem myself fit to rank all six episodes. This is going to be a SPOILER HEAVY article, only intended for those who have seen all six episodes. If you haven’t seen any of the new or prior seasons, do yourself a favour: stop reading, and go be amazed before you continue to scroll.
Please enjoy my complete subjective rank of the six episodes of the Black Mirror’s newest season.
- Men Against Fire
This episode has a great essential idea but fails to give any type of substance to the story. How much easier genocide would be if the enemy doesn’t look human is such a good pitch but when the other episodes aren’t just thought-provoking but also entertaining. The end, when the psychiatrist is finally revealing to Stripe just what the technology is able to accomplish is one of the only entertaining sequences of this film. Even finding the Roaches at the beginning was bland; just because you have guns this episode doesn’t mean your writing is allowed to slack.
Being the worst episode in a season of Black Mirror is still an accomplishment; this is not a bad episode, it’s just not on par with what show-helmer Charlie Brooker has continuously brought.
There are two very big players who are connected to this episode: star Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, Lady in the Water) and director by Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina). This episode was meant to be annoying and rage-generating but the fakeness and public-awareness of all but a few characters were TOO abundant. A very surreal look at where our culture is heading was a nice touch but the ending was almost relieving. Howard’s character was so insufferable I couldn’t wait for her to get her “comeuppings”.
This episode felt more like a PSA of the world to come rather than a means of entertainment. Not surprising that this was the season premiere (if you can even call it that since Netflix drops them all on the same day) because “Nosedive” is the exact type of show Black Mirror wants to be. Hopefully, soon they’ll realise that plot drives an episode, not an ideal.
- Shut Up and Dance
I’m going to be honest, this was a very good, very intriguing, very entertaining episode; but I could not get past how much I despised the main kid. He acted exactly as anyone would in his situation, but his constant sobbing and lack of ability in stressful situations really distanced me from him. So much to me didn’t make sense either: why rob the bank? Why fight the guy? Who is the person texting everyone? I guess when it comes down to it, none of it really mattered.
When people refer to the end of a show, or the end of the film, it’s hard to distinguish what they truly mean: are they talking about the final act, or are they talking about the final frames? To differentiate, the last minute of this episode allows it to be in the number 4 spot (as opposed to last, where I would have put it.) That troll face still haunts me. The philosophy it leaves you with; not just what you can get people to do with the threat of exposing their fears, but how they will do it, regardless of a promise you’ll fulfil. The loose end not tying up will disappoint many viewers, but the episode is what it is, and made sure to omit any information they wished to omit.
- San Junipero
Today I heard someone refer to this episode as “the gay episode,” which is infuriating; not just because the lesbian aspect had little to do with the plot, but mostly because it was the least interesting facet of the experience. Lesbians exist, that’s a pretty well-known fact, but freaking coma-educed-alternate-realities, that’s way more interesting. Other than the first episode of the second season, “Be Right Back,” it’s rare to see a love story as the centre for a Black Mirror episode. World building is a large part, yet is usually summed up in the first ten or fifteen minutes; that’s not the case with this episode. The main two actresses really pulled off the personalities they were supposed to. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Free State of Jones) has already established her acting abilities, but kudos must be given to Mackenzie Davis who breaks through with an unorthodox and nostalgic performance.
Not till the final seconds of the episode did I really decide whether it was a success or not. The blaring of “Heaven is a Place on Earth” really gave me a warm feeling as the two of them strolled happily along the coast, not a normal sensation to have after finishing a Black Mirror episode. This entry shows us that this series isn’t about the horrors of technology, but exhibiting significant, entertaining, and meaningful stories.
- Hated in the Nation
I have seen around fifty films so far in theatres this year, and more than 60% don’t hold a candle up to how cinematic this episode was. This is why Black Mirror was created. Other than the autonomous bees there is very little to differentiate this world from our own. Who doesn’t love a goddamn buddy cop movie? Who doesn’t love looking at people’s hate tweets? Lastly and most importantly, who doesn’t love seeing those same people being executed by fucking sentient bees? Not to bring up ending music twice in a row, but words cannot fully emit the shiver that went down my spine when that soft song played as we waited for the murderous bees to carry out their attack. I have always been a huge Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Boardwalk Empire) fan and this performance solidified that love for her even more.
In case anyone assumed this is an easy job, there were hours of disciplined consideration put in when it finally came time to make the decision to place “Hated in the Nation” at the number two or number one spot. At first, I thought to myself, “No way they’re going to kill over 300,000 people.” Then I remembered, “Oh, yeah. This is a Black Mirror episode.”
I may be in the minority here, hopefully not, but I found this entry to be relentlessly horrifying. I’m worried that mind-fuckingly-exhausted isn’t a strong enough adjective to describe how I felt after the sixty minutes ended. The beginning was unhurried and had my mind wondering a bit, but once the protagonist got to the game developers, I couldn’t look away. Wyatt Russel (Cold in July, 22 Jump Street) has been on my radar for years and brought the slight comedic relief to this that escalated it even more. Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) guest directed and had his fingerprints all over it: “There’s going to be something behind this cupboard, isn’t there.”
The world of “Playtest” is reasonably easy to follow but the twists and turns that ensue are sure to keep you invested throughout. When the credits roll and the only thing you can think to do is pour yourself a drink, sit outside, and say “fuck” to yourself, you know you watched something worthwhile.
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