Black Mirror is Charlie Brooker’s science fiction television series. Each season is three to six episodes long. Each episode is 45 to 90 minutes long. There is a new season every one or two years since 2011. Black Mirror is currently viewable on Netflix streaming and DVD region 2/PAL.
Black Mirror is The Twilight Zone meets Person of Interest. Each episode is its own story with its own characters, like The Twilight Zone, and has some sort of horrible twist. Like Person of Interest, each world is only a few minutes into the future rather than decades or centuries into the future. The technology is our technology pushed just one logical step forward. And like all good science fiction, Black Mirror shows us how that technology can help mankind’s greatest weaknesses get the best of us.
Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Bing in “Fifteen Million Merits,” was a series regular on Skins, Psychoville, and The Fades. You can also see him in the second Johnny English movie and an episode of Doctor Who.
In these worlds, technology is used to record your memories for convenient playback, bring surrogate dead loved ones back to life, and exploit the Prime Minster having sex with a pig (golly, that really was only a few minutes into the future, wasn’t it?). In one of the better episodes, “Fifteen Million Merits,” Bing tries to rescue a young woman from a life of mind-numbing labor by giving up his fortune to put her on a competition reality show like The X Factor. After singing in front of the judges–played by Rupert Everett, Julia Davis, an Ashley Thomas–we learn what many famous people learn: fame comes at a cost. But here we learn it through slightly advanced technology, which makes her fate so much worse. I wouldn’t say the genre is horror exactly, but it’s scarier than any horror flick because you feel the stomach-turning realization that this is where our society is heading next.
In a similar episode commenting on our viewing habits, “White Bear,” we begin disappointingly in a world that seems far too sci-fi/fantasy to be a few minutes into the future only to discover with a twist that we are practically living this scenario already. This is a terrifying, heart-thumping episode. Also a great role for Michael Smiley.
The show is not littered with stars. You do see the occasional Jon Ham, Domhnall Gleeson, Alex McQueen, Tobias Menzies, Benedict Wong, and Justin Edwards, but these are few and far between compared to the number of unrecognizable faces, which pulls you more in to the nightmare.
The best episode is probably the Christmas special, “White Christmas,” which is extra long and extra spooky. Two separate crime tales splash into each other, holding a mirror up to our inappropriate use of fun, new technology and the judicial system.
Season 3 doubles in size, up to six episodes, and exploits our need for Likes on social media, as well as our thirst to shame people on social. With the virtual reality headsets now made commercially affordable, you knew they were going to do an eXistenZ episode. “Are we still in the game?”
The season also confirms our fear of how far the military will go to brainwash their soldiers. “Shut Up and Dance” will make you tape up every webcam in your house, and “Hated in the Nation” will make you want to delete all your social media accounts. This final episode, at 90 minutes long, takes a page right out of Jon Ronson’s So, You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Book, even in so far as including a Lindsey Stone-like character who takes a silly, disrespectful pose at a war memorial and is shamed by the internet. While the further you go into the season the more loose ends are left frayed, you’ll still come away feeling haunted by the technology around us. If this sounds too scary, check out the episode “San Junipero.” It’s a little less gloom and doom.