Every episode of Black Mirror ranked!

Trending Topics June 23, 2019 0

When Charlie Brookers series gets it right, its mix of sci-fi and satire is like nothing else on our screens. Heres its 23 episodes so far, from worst to best

23. Crocodile

An hour of television so relentlessly dour that it leaves nothing for anyone to cling to. Andrea Riseborough plays a surly murderer forced to cover her tracks as she goes on another surly murder spree. The scene where she murders a blind baby with a hammer thats still dripping with gore from his fathers skull remains the epitome of Black Mirrors off-putting tendency to be nasty for the sake of it.

22. Black Museum

A compilation of half-thought-out, sub-Saw morality tales that tread so much worn ground (a womans consciousness is transferred into an abandoned toy, a murderer is turned into a hologram that can be repeatedly electrocuted) that it teeters on the edge of self-parody. Plus, and this is rare for Black Mirror, its so pleased with itself that you just want to punch it.

21. Shut Up and Dance

The end of this episode in which hackers blackmail a boy for masturbating to porn is the television equivalent of being beaten over the head with an especially stupid rock. The boy murders a man. The hackers release the masturbation footage anyway. Theres a montage of people crying and screaming to Radioheads most overblown song, and then it turns out that the boy was watching child porn all along. A conveyor belt of Charlie Brookers worst excesses, this is an episode that feels as if it was made by a broken Black Mirror algorithm.

20. Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too

Miley
Miley Cyrus in Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too. Photograph: Netflix

Miley Cyrus plays Britney Spears, had Britney inexplicably decided to download her entire personality into a Furby. Its hard to see what the message of this episode is Fame is hard? Managers are evil? Pop music is bad? and even harder to care.

19. White Christmas

Black Museum, but festive. Every idea here what if you could download someones personality into a thing? What if you could block someone, but with your brain? appears in other Black Mirror episodes in a more satisfying form.

18. The Waldo Moment

The
Poor execution The Waldo Moment. Photograph: Hal Shinnie/Channel 4 picture publicity

Points scored for preempting the rise in populist non-politicians here, a wiseacre cartoon bear becomes an unlikely political figurehead but points lost for execution. Especially the climax, where the man who controlled the bear suddenly finds himself homeless and truncheoned in a dystopian police state, which is a little bit of a leap.

17. Men Against Fire

A soldier stalks the earth, murdering a number of grotesque mutant monsters. But wait, what if those monsters were just normal people disguised by an augmented reality chip in the soldiers head? Bet you didnt see that coming, did you? Except you did, right from the very first frame.

16. Arkangel

Black Mirror isnt exactly a series that shies away from a heavy-handed metaphor, but the climax of this Jodie Foster-directed story where a girl literally beats her mother to death with an iPad is so hilariously on the nose that it has to be self-satire. Because, if it isnt, hoo boy.

15. Smithereens

What
What if acting, but too much? … Smithereens. Photograph: Netflix / Black Mirror

Black Mirror is often written off as: What if phones, but too much? However, in Smithereens, Andrew Scott updates this to: What if acting, but too much? There are moments of scenery chewing in Smithereens that would put locust plagues to shame, but underneath that is a very simple and fairly effective hostage thriller that works right up until you realise that its larger message is literally just: Wow, people look at their phones a lot.

14. Playtest

Another episode about an augmented reality chip, although this fares much better than Men Against Fire because it forgoes any Important Message About the World in favour of flat-out genre silliness. This is a horror story, plain and simple, and Brooker clearly has fun splashing around with all its campy conventions.

13. White Bear

Your tolerance for White Bear will largely depend on your tolerance for unexplained screaming, because thats what most of this episode consists of. There is crying, and then theres screaming and then theres more crying. The late-stage twist our protagonist is a murderer who had her memory wiped so that the public can punish her anew every day is just about clever enough to justify all the preceding noise.

12. Fifteen Million Merits

In a dystopian future, the only way out of poverty is to debase yourself on television. The protagonist, when given his shot on TV, breaks down and embarks on a Howard Beale rant about how vapid and awful television is. The rant connects with audiences, and hes rewarded with a sanitised television show of his own. Brooker and his co-writer wife Konnie Huq call this The Screenwipe story, for good reason.

11. Hated in the Nation

Black Mirrors first feature-length episode is about a swarm of robot bees that murder people who unknowingly use certain hashtags. However, hokey premise aside, this is a smart and well-executed police procedural that is much more gripping than youd expect.

10. Metalhead

The robot dog one. Shot in black and white and just 41 minutes long, Metalhead is a model of gleaming propulsion. All you need to know and all youre told is that the dogs are out to kill the humans. The rest of the episode is taut and dread-filled and benefits hugely from any lack of real explanation. Metalhead is the Terminator version of White Bear, and all the better for it.

9. The National Anthem

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A high watermark … The National Anthem. Photograph: Ed Miller/Channel 4 Picture Publicity

The episode that started it all is still a very good beginners guide to Black Mirror. Theres an outlandish premise (the prime minster must have sex with a pig on TV) with an overcooked message (its a stunt masterminded to draw attention to societys obsession with the media) that has moments of true transcendence (the waves of glee and horror and pity that pass through the audience in real time). A high watermark.

8. Striking Vipers

Easily the best of the newest Black Mirror batch, Striking Vipers uses its cast of Marvel stars to tell a sweetly unexpected story. Two old friends discover that a VR videogame allows them to explore their feelings for one another in a new and interesting way. Despite its tendency to go dark, Black Mirrors best episodes have a core of pure humanity. This is one of the most human stories yet.

7. Hang The DJ

And this is another. At its worst (see the ending of The Waldo Moment), Black Mirror suffers from a berserk desire for catastrophe. Here, though, the opposite is true. Were introduced to a hellish dating app, which tells the daters exactly how long their relationship will last as soon as they meet. Our heroes try to escape their fate, but find themselves trapped in a miserable labyrinth of stern authoritarianism. Then, just when all hope is lost, the episode pulls out and reveals that rarest of things: a happy Black Mirror ending. Wonders may never cease.

6. USS Callister

Gripping
Gripping and timely … USS Callister. Photograph: Netflix

Black Mirrors fourth season introduced itself in a Technicolor blast; a big-budget, all-star reimagining of Star Trek that quickly descends into a very necessary deconstruction of toxic fandom. Its not only one of the best arguments for Black Mirror upping and leaving for Netflix honestly, try to imagine this on a Channel 4 budget but one of the best episodes altogether. Its gripping and timely, but its also very funny and doesnt end on an abject bummer. Amazing.

5. The Entire History of You

Written by Peep Shows Jesse Armstrong, this is possibly the most agonising Black Mirror yet. Set in a world where everyone is basically fitted with a cerebral dashcam, it revolves around a single suspicion of infidelity that balloons into all-consuming terror. By the conclusion, when years of secrets and betrayals have been permanently smashed to pieces in unsparing detail, you feel as if youve been beaten to a pulp.

4. Bandersnatch

Even if you hated this episode I didnt, but others did you cannot fault its ambition. A Choose Your Own Adventure-style interactive story about the creation of a video game, the simple existence of Bandersnatch is the result of herculean toil from a team as big as an army. Credit must go to Brooker for deploying it with such verve, too. Not many writers could get away with debuting a new type of storytelling by direct critiquing its limitations as brazenly as he did. The moment where Netflix appears as an interactive option, for example, is just sublime.

3. San Junipero

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A triumph … San Junipero. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

Everyone loves San Junipero. Its won Baftas and Emmys and GLAAD awards, and appeared at the top of several lists like this. And for good reason, too. Its absolutely beautiful. Its futuristic and nostalgic. Its bleak and hopeful. It features characters who arent just empty cyphers for techno-misery. San Junipero was arguably the episode that pushed Black Mirror over the top for many viewers. Its a triumph.

2. Nosedive

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jun/06/every-episode-of-black-mirror-ranked-charlie-brooker

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