I recently finished watching the science fiction show Black Mirror. Created by Charlie Brooker, it’s a dark look at what our future could be, focusing mostly on our obsession with technology. Each episode is a self-contained story — so you can watch them in any order without missing a thing — depicting a different version of our current world or near-future.
I’ll admit the first episode was pretty jarring. I mean, (SPOILERS!) it centers on a government official being blackmailed into having carnal relations with a pig, so that’s about as disturbing and don’t-wanna-go-there as it gets. However, the second episode hooked me with its strange conception of the future, and I got my boyfriend to start watching it with me from there. Some people love the first episode, and it’s certainly a wild introduction to the show’s weirdness — but I actually recommend skipping it if that premise is too much for you. The show has such amazing sci-fi later on, I think other episodes make for better viewing.
So, if you’re new to the show, these are the episodes I most recommend watching. This is obviously a bit of personal bias, as I tend to prefer episodes with emotional stories and realistic technology. I believe these episodes are a great place to start watching to see how amazing the show can be. They are also worth watching even if you don’t dive into the entire series, as standalone stories that will get you thinking about life and what our future holds…
With actress Bryce Dallas-Howard taking the lead, “Nosedive” is all about our obsession with “likes” and ratings on social media and apps. In this world, your value as a person is based on your social media rank. Getting lots of likes makes you not only popular, but someone who is trusted. It affects your rates when you try to buy a house, what kind of car you can rent, your flight bookings and loans and everything. When the protagonist tunnel-visions on increasing her rating so she can get a house in a luxury living community, her shallow obsession turns her into a desperate monster. It’s really fun to watch how she reacts to everything. And though it’s over-the-top, this theme certainly feels relevant to our love of “likes” today.
4. Be Right Back
This is one of Black Mirror‘s more moving stories, centering on a young woman who loses her fiance and starts using a software that mimics him to keep in touch. It’s not him, but by mimicking his personality, it’s supposed to help her through the grieving process. This becomes an even bigger idea when she can order a robot in his likeness.
The question is, do we really want to keep someone “alive” that way, for ourselves?
3. San Junipero
This episode reveals itself gradually. I didn’t know what was going on at the beginning, but I loved the shy girl (Mackenzie Davis, who I love from Halt and Catch Fire) meeting a crush in an 80’s club, being afraid to dance, being too timid to go home with the girl she likes. A love story ensues that is much more than it seems — and so is this “party town” the two are living in. Without giving away the whole story, I’ll just say that I loved the unique take on virtual reality, which focuses on its potential to help people live lives they couldn’t in real life. Personally, I enjoyed the idea of this technology more than some of the others presented in the show. But this is also one of the more emotional stories in Black Mirror, so it’s a great choice if you want an episode with real heart.
2. The Entire History of You
One of Black Mirror’s darkest episodes, what I like most about this is that it focuses on a couple, jealousy, and the ability to rewind our memories to review them anytime we want. An implant that records every part of our day seems like something that could become real for us — it doesn’t feel like something far-fetched or too far in the future — which makes this episode even scarier. I don’t know if any of you have a jealous streak, but I think there’s this human part of us that has a tendency to obsess over insecurities. Having the ability to rewind a memory and see if our fears are confirmed seems like a way of bringing out this drive in us, until it could ruin our lives…
1. Fifteen Million Merits
This is the second episode of Black Mirror and the one that made me want to keep watching. It has the most in-depth worldbuilding, depicting a future where people generate power by cycling on exercycles day in, day out. They live in tiny cells, where walls are television screens and watching reality shows and porn is not just everywhere, but required viewing unless you can pay to turn them off.
When the down-to-earth protagonist meets a sweet girl with a beautiful singing voice, he makes incredible sacrifices to help her achieve her dream of singing on a reality show — but things don’t go as planned. I won’t give away the whole story, but it’s a poignant look at how shallow society can be when it puts so much attention on virtual products and mindless entertainment that have no real meaning.
16 thoughts on “5 Episodes of “Black Mirror” to Get You Started”
Some fun facts:
1. Charlie Brooker started as a games journalist way back in the day.
2. “it centers on a government official being blackmailed into having carnal relations with a pig, so that’s about as disturbing and don’t-wanna-go-there as it gets.”
See, I don’t know how much of this news you got in the US, but the government official in BM was the Prime Minister, and it later turned out that our (then) Prime Minister did, in fact, have carnal relations with a pig. Or at least a dead pig’s head. When the news broke, Charlie Brooker suddenly found himself having to clarify that the weirdest, sickest thing he could imagine wasn’t in any way inspired by the actions of our real life Prime Minister.
Which was, all things considered, pretty freakin’ hilarious!
Wait, what?! I’ve never heard about that, that’s real? That is really crazy. Anyway, I did not know that Brooker was a games journalist, that’s pretty cool! Which reminds me of the gaming episode, it almost made this list of my favorite episodes too…
I recall my father telling me about this aways back. He was sufficiently grossed out by the first episode he didn’t proceed (it may be worth noting he and step-mom have a pet pig), and I decided the whole thing was probably too intense for me. A thought I’m having a lot lately, come to think of it.
I ought to be tougher, I suppose.
Haha yes, if you can handle a dark show, I recommend you just skip that first episode! But hey, it’s not for everyone. I do not blame your dad for being too grossed out by the first episode, as I was also thoroughly disturbed!
Funnily enough, Fifteen Million Merits was my least favourite of the series. My personal favourites were the horror themed episode from season 3 and the Christmas special (I forget the episode titles) as their endings are so unbelievably dark.
Oh yeah, the Christmas special was really interesting. That’s the one with Jon Hamm right? I liked some of the technology they were showing throughout the episode, but I wasn’t crazy about the blocking of people and the ending actually. Anyway, it’s funny everybody has their own favorite episodes of this show, they’re all so different.
Yes! The entire history of you is by far my favorite episode, great list.
I love this show. Though it goes to some VERY scary places.
I recently started watching the series and while I’ve been told I can jump around, my craziness won’t let me do it out of order. Anyway, what I’ve seen (S1 and 1 ep of S2) of it has been quite good. It is very dark and cynical, although all of it seems believable.
Haha yeah I also watched it in order! If you want to watch the while series you might as well anyway. I’m glad you’re enjoying the show too, and I agree that it is often very believable!
San Junipero was really the most hopeful and least depressing of the bunch, which really surprised me when I saw the episode. I really liked it though and I would consider it my favorite along with The Entire History of You. I certainly had episodes I didn’t really like, but it did make me ponder the scenario each one presented. It’s really hard not to think about an episode after watching it!
That’s true! That’s how I got my boyfriend into it. I watched the first two episodes and they were so interesting, I told him their stories because I was still processing or something! Then we decided to watch the rest together.
You nailed it with your “5 Episodes”, totally nailed it! It didn’t hurt at all having my favorite episode of the entire series on the list with “Nosedive” or that with “San Junipero” you also had easily my 2nd favorite. But then the show is just so good that even episodes that maybe creep you out in more uncomfortable ways can’t run you off. The show is an instant classic in that episodes tend to hit so close to home.
Yeah I agree, even the episodes that are hard to watch at times are so well-done, and they do hit close to home! It’s a great idea for a show, and their delivery is perfect. I like that the episodes don’t have happy endings; they’re dark, which is the point. I’m glad to hear we share a couple of favorite episodes! Everybody I’ve talked to seems to have different favorites. It’s a very subjective show that way I guess!
I love this TV show. All of these episodes were amazing, although I wasn’t particularly enamored by 15 million merits. San Junipero is one of the best things I’ve ever seen! I just reviewed it over on my blog too :)
Thanks for the comment, I just read your review of the episode too! The LGBT aspect is very cool, I agree. This show is really amazing, and I’m looking forward to a new season of it!