Now that Game of Thrones has ended with a fizzle, it’s time for me to get overly excited about one of my other favorite shows. I’m talking, of course, about Black Mirror. The new “season” begins June 5th on Netflix with three brand new episodes, which look on-brand and have the potential to be great.
If you’re not familiar with Black Mirror, it’s an anthology show that focuses on the perils of technology. You can truly watch the episodes in any order, as none of them are related (save for a few off-hand references here and there). You can also choose NOT to watch episodes, and there are some that I would highly recommend you skip. Despite the occasional dud, most of them are excellent, and almost all of them are unique pieces of television. The show is not for the pure of heart; if you’re looking for something uplifting, go back to the Hallmark channel.
I have rank-ordered all of the existing episodes based purely off my enjoyment while watching them. So for those who are going to take the plunge, you can start with the best episodes to see if you like the show, and skip out on those near the bottom. For those who love the show like I do, let’s see how our rankings compare. I’ll include a few details about each episode but will avoid any major spoilers. Let’s start with the worst and work our way up to the best:
20) Crocodile – somebody kills a baby, which is a 100% deal-breaker for me.
19) Arkangel – this one focuses on monitoring children, and is good conceptually, but is quite boring.
18) Waldo – most often hailed as the worst episode, it’s a critique of both politics and journalism, and it would be quite a bit better if it were shorter.
17) Metalhead – what this episode lacks in story, it fully makes up for in looks with its monochromatic filming.
16) Hated in the Nation – This one clocks in at 90 minutes and feels like a sci-fi crime procedural. I think that’s my biggest criticism; typically with that kind of show, character development is important, and we simply don’t have enough time to get to know the protagonist (Kelly Macdonald).
15) Bandersnatch – technically this isn’t in a season, but rather a standalone movie. This is the “choose-your-own-adventure” episode that is cool at first, but devolves quickly into a boring chore. It does show the ingenuity of the creators, but it would have been better served to be released with this upcoming season so expectations wouldn’t be so astronomical, and it could be what it is: a novelty.
14) Be RIght Back – this one explores how we cope with grief by showing an A.I. replacement for a lost loved one. It’s very creepy, and Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson absolutely dominate as the leads.
13) National Anthem – oh boy, do I want to spoil this one, but I will not. If you don’t feel as if your boundaries have been tested, watch this episode about how far a politician will go when faced with a life-or-death ultimatum.
12) Shut up and Dance – this one is a morality checker for sure. One thing the creators love to do is make you root for a character, only to pull the rug. This one is dark as hell and also stars Bronn from Game of Thrones as a bonus.
11) Man Against Fire – what happens when the military is outfitted with implants that help them be superior soldiers? This one lays on the social critique pretty heavily, but the payoff at the end is well worth it.
10) Hang the DJ – this is one of the only episodes with a truly happy ending, and while it feels like they would normally take a dark turn, it’s a relief. This one has a unique take on dating apps and “fate,” and while totally predictable, it’s also totally enjoyable.
9) Entire History of You – the episode looks at what it would be like if we could watch recordings of our lives via an implant and cast highlights on screens for all to see.
8) Nosedive – Bryce Dallas Howard kills it in this exploration of how social media likes affect our real lives. This one isn’t as dark as most.
7) 15 Million Merits – this was the first episode I ever saw, and Daniel Kaluuya (of Get Out fame) was so impressive, I was hooked.
6) White Bear – you really have no idea what’s going on until the end, and the twist is spectacular. Other episodes are more entertaining, but the surprise factor puts it up here for me.
5) Black Museum – the only episode to overtly reference the other episodes, it’s comprised of three mini-anthologies, which is a unique approach. Letitia Wright (Black Panther) is truly a star.
4) USS Callister – Jimmi Simpson slapping his memberless fun zone is all I really need to rank this episode this high, but it has so much more.
3) San Junipero – this one is a beautiful love story that crosses generations and has a nice little twist at the end. Great soundtrack and set design help this be more than your run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks story.
2) White Christmas – this could very easily be #1, and it probably should be, but I have my reasons. Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall (who is dynamite in the criminally under-appreciated Roadies) mix it up in this mind-bending thriller. Everything is great about this one.
1) Playtest – you won’t find this on the top of most lists, and there are better overall episodes by most criteria. But to me, this was the most fun and engaging of them all. We’re right on the threshold of groundbreaking VR, and this story just struck me as truly relatable. Plus, Wyatt Russel (son of Snake Plissken) is one of my favorite actors right now, and boy does he deliver.
As for the upcoming season, there are three episodes. I have no idea where they’ll end up in the grand scheme, but based on premise, I have an idea of what I’ll think of them. I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of the trailers, but all three look like they fit the mold and are backed by some intriguing star power in Topher Grace, Anthony Mackie, and Miley Cyrus.
In the meantime, if you have yet to experience Black Mirror, I’ve hopefully given you a starting point.