If you need a Netflix series to binge watch ASAP before finals creep up, look no further than Black Mirror. With a clever title meant to allude to the black screens of technological devices, which are so prevalent in today’s society, the show is centered on illustrating the many ways in which technology can potentially go awry. Delving into themes like artificial intelligence, empathy in punishment and moral issues that tug at the heartstrings, there’s no wonder why Black Mirror has risen in popularity so rapidly. And with all of the mind-boggling episodes independent of each other, it’s way too easy to get hooked on this show. All you need is a few solid episode recommendations to get you started, and I promise you won’t want to turn the screen off. Without further ado and in no particular order, here is a list of some of my all-time favorite Black Mirror gems. Don’t forget to pick your jaw up off the ground once you get through them!
1. “White Bear”
This episode holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first one I ever watched, and I knew instantly that this show was right up my ally. It centers on a single protagonist who wakes up completely unsure of where she is or how she got there, and she soon realizes that she is being hunted by a mob of masked strangers who are controlled by a television signal. All the while, she has no idea how she ended up in this situation, and all she can do is fend for her life in frustrating misery. With a plot twist ending that will have you questioning every second of the episode you just watched, this episode succeeds in toying with your feelings of empathy and fear.
2. “San Junipero”
Emmy award winning episode, “San Junipero” was season three’s standout episode. A seemingly peculiar change of pace from the typical futuristic setting, this episode is set in the 80s. Following a young, shy woman, named Yorkie, looking to come out of her shell, the storyline advances as she settles into a new town with a vivid nightlife. Throughout the episode, you’ll notice something is off about this town, but you won’t quite be able to place your finger on it. Along the way, Yorkie develops a relationship with a woman named Kelly, who seems to be her polar opposite: fun, bold and lively, and who brings out these qualities in Yorkie. When the plot twist finally hits, you’ll see just how important it was that Yorkie met Kelly and the truth behind the eerie town of San Junipero. The technology aspect of this episode comes with the twist so I won’t spoil it, but it will undoubtedly have you questioning reality.
This episode is a classic tale of a lie spiraling so unimaginably far out of control. Mia is a highly successful engineer who has been sitting on a dark secret for over a decade. Years later, and without warning, her past comes back to haunt her. One cover up leads to another, and Mia finds herself in a grave situation with no way left to go but down. Her demise is aided by various new innovations including a memory retracting machine and a video camera operated delivery truck until the Mia at the end of the episode is a mere shell of the woman she once was. Exploring themes like human culpability and the lengths people will go to evade the truth, this episode is truly a more haunting one.
4. “The Entire History of You”
It doesn’t get more classic Black Mirror than this episode. In this society, people have been implanted with a “grain” in their brain that allows them to record their day to day encounters and play them back on command, a phenomenon they refer to as a “re-do”. This is, at a glance, genius, until high stakes are involved. A young couple’s relationship is tested when jealousy arises, and the re-do’s only exacerbate the situation. This episode also demonstrates just how easy it is to detach from reality when living in a happier past is made so easy, which is a terrifying and subversive concept. The reason this episode is particularly unsettling is that it seems as if we are on the verge of a similar innovation in the near future. It’s only a matter of time before someone invents self-recording contact lenses or microchips, and seeing how adversely it could affect society doesn’t make me want to jump at the opportunity to test them for a trial run.
5. “Hang the DJ”
An episode that’s well worth the ending, “Hang the DJ” is entertaining from start to finish. Think Tinder is revolutionary? Imagine a dating app that supposedly sets you up with every person you’ve ever needed to be with before matching you to your soulmate, and with every match, the app tells you exactly how much time you have left in the relationship like a ticking time bomb. Everyone who uses this system complies by the rules, whether you end up having to spend 5 years with someone who you loathe, or only get 48 hours with someone you really like. I’d say you could only imagine how messy this would get, but this is Black Mirror, so naturally they’re going to show you in excruciating detail the mess that unravels when an unlikely pair, Amy and Frank, are matched. Heartache and desire meets rebellion and risk, making for an episode that will surely leave you wanting more.
6. “White Christmas”
I’m pretty sure this episode classifies as a short feature film becasue it’s so long. In my personal opinion, this is hands down one of the trippiest manifestations of what this show is capable of doing to your mind. It literally defies the concepts of time and space, while tying in a classic Black Mirror theme of empathy. Joe and Matt, two men who have been stuck in a cabin in the snow together for five years, decide to finally share the stories of how they got there. Matt has experienced crazy things at his two jobs—one which constitutes helping men who can’t flirt with women and the other in which he trains mini clones of people called “cookies” to cater to the real people’s needs. Joe recalls a long, devastating tale of how his ex wife took off carrying his child. Both of their stories incorporate the concept of “blocking,” where people can literally block people in real life from seeing or speaking to them. The amount of technology that is incorporated into this episode is overwhelming in the best way, leaving you so grateful the block button only exists on screen.
7. “Black Museum”
This chilling episode incorporates a bunch of Black Mirror concepts gone wrong, both from old episodes, as well as topics that are unique to the episode. When a young woman, Nish, wanders into an old criminological museum, the owner, Rolo, tells her the tales of many of the historical technological artifacts and how they failed drastically. Delving into concepts such as shared human consciousness, enhanced sensation and simulated pain, Rolo peaks Nish’s interest. I don’t think anyone expected for this episode to end the way it did, but the twist is shocking and poignant, resonating deeply with viewers.
Picture this: Uber ratings, but for day-to-day life, and everyone has them. Once again, Black Mirror makes us feel like we’re constantly on the verge of disaster in the world we live in. Lacie, a young woman a little overly obsessed with her ratings, learns the hard way just how detrimental these ratings can be. She allows them to overshadow every aspect of her life, losing herself in the process. The episode accumulates at her perfect childhood friend’s wedding, where Lacie feels even more average than usual in comparison to her friend. There’s a really important takeaway message in this storyline that is relevant to our society today: although we don’t have physical ratings, we really shouldn’t allow any quantitative value — not the number of followers or likes or comments — dictate how we live our lives and feel about ourselves.
9. “USS Callister”
Do yourself a favor and watch! This! Episode! It’s such a fun, colorful one that is sure spark the interest of any Star Trek fan. Another Emmy award winner, this episode does not disappoint in the slightest. Robert Daly is the shy, mistreated CTO of Callister Inc., a gaming company he founded with his more outgoing and well-liked partner, James Walton. To compensate for his dull, unfulfilling life, Daly creates a simulated reality based on his video game, Infinity, in which he is the highly respected captain of a spaceship. This episode pushes the limits of how far a person will go when they have access to extremely advanced technology, regardless of morals, ethics and who they hurt in the process.
10. “Shut Up and Dance”
I can sincerely say this particular episode of the series stressed me out the entire time, far more than the others. It follows a young teenager, Kenny, as he is being blackmailed by a computer hacker who has an embarrassing video of him. The blackmailer sends him on ridiculous tasks after tasks, and Kenny continues to comply out of fear for his reputation. The entire time, you are left pondering Kenny as a target with no indication as to why, and unless you pay acute attention to detail, there are no hints either. Make it to the end of this episode, and you genuinely won’t know how to feel, which of course, is the goal of the creators of Black Mirror after all.