All of ‘Black Mirror’ (including series four!) ranked
Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has been a smash hit for streaming giant Netflix. Starting out as an experimental show on Channel 4, it’s now morphed into a pop culture phenomenon. Boasting Emmys to its name, Black Mirror is an unnerving take on the Twilight Zone formula, with a terrifying technological twist.
We’ve binged the fourth series and can now definitively say we’ve got our list of all-time eps. All nineteen stories are still well worth your time, each a real treat of genre-pushing television, so lean back and enjoy our roundup of how every Black Mirror episode lines up on our list.
We’ll try to avoid spoiling the guts out of season four, but feel free to scan past if you want to go in fresh come December 29th
19. “Men Against Fire”
Season three was pretty stellar, aside from this complete misstep of an ep. “Men Against Fire” has a groovy techno-fuelled score, but unfortunately it manages to create a hackneyed story. “War is bad! War is bad! War is bad!”, goes the message. We agree wholeheartedly, but it’s hammered into you through a three-hour long monologue from Michael Kelly’s character, coming across as a lecture – always a major weakness in television.
We’ll try not to spoil this season four story. Suffice to say “Crocodile” is a bit too much of a retread for our liking, striking all too close to “The Entire History of You” in a failed attempt to make the same magic happen.
17. “The Waldo Moment”
“The Waldo Moment” is about as politically charged that Black Mirror has ever been, other than “Black Museum”, but it’s wrapped up in a meandering story with stuff just happening sans logic.
Unfortunately, this episode featuring Wyatt Russell (Cold in July) is crammed with a bit too many video game references for our liking, and the tonal whiplash isn’t entirely welcome. Still, some stellar horror beats are crammed into this story about virtual reality games.
15. “The National Anthem”
The very first Black Mirror episode is actually a half-decent drama, though overly long. Some of the casting doesn’t work, sure. There’s beastiality in it – yuck. On the whole, though, as an introduction to immoral taste, black comedy, and technological terror, “The National Anthem” ain’t all bad.
Another season four ep that doesn’t quite hit the mark, Charlie Brooker’s take on technologically infused helicopter parenting might just discomfit the parents forming its main subject. The parental fears are blown up a bit too much into hyperbole to be a truly effective drama but the direction by the masterful Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) still makes for a thrillride of paranoid proportions.
13. “Be Right Back”
Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger) stars in this story about making her boyfriend come back to life by having a bath. Actually, not really. This story about loss, grief, and android lovers is crammed full of dark poignant moments. It’s a chamber piece with two characters lumped together, and whilst it’s actually quite hard to buy into the drama, and some ancillary characters just show up and go away without effect, it’s still pretty solid with its uniquely ambiguous ending.
Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) stars in this episode from The Good Place showrunner Michael Schur and Parks and Recreation alum Rashida Jones. With its clean production design of warm pastels, this twisted take on social media approval and our modern Instagramming life is one of the more resonating predictions of our future society. There’s no pig intercourse or troll-faces, sure, but the star rating system and the effects upon mental health wrought by social media are all covered in depth.
11. “White Bear”
The concept of “White Bear” gets a real facelift with “Shut Up and Dance”, but there’s still a clever structure and enough play with audience sympathy to make this a dark delight. Well worth a revisit, and the final montage is a bit of a stomach churner too.
A black & white thirty-eight-minute cat-and-mouse horror flick with Maxine Peake (The Theory of Everything) in the lead – we won’t spoil more than that. Suffice to say, “Metalhead” is a tension-rich thriller that is going to hit a lot of people’s top-ten lists.
9. “Hang the DJ”
Another season four hit we would be saddened to spoil for you. Charlie Brooker’s twisted dystopian take on modern relationships and the Tinder generation is warm-hearted and reminiscent of “San Junipero”. “Hang the DJ” falters a little in not setting up some world logic until the last minute, but still well worth your time.
8. “Hated in the Nation”
Bees! Robot bees! A feature-length thrillride complete with a detective story about killer bees – or killer robot bees, controlled by hashtags and a madman programmer – “Hated in the Nation” takes all of our social media rage and adds a blistering volume of consequence to our daily word vomit. This one makes you think once or twice about the disturbing reality of online hate culture.
7. “Fifteen Million Merits”
Set in a dystopian hellhole in which people mindlessly watch fodder while accomplishing nothing, the protagonist, played wonderfully by Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, embarks on a quest of personal revenge against an insipid toxic system. The ending has him becoming a part of it, commercializing his rants about awful boob tube fare and the brainwashing nature of media – Charlie Brooker at his most autobiographical.
6. “The Entire History of You”
Written by Peep Show scribe Jesse Armstrong, this story of mayhem with memory is the real knockout of the first season. Dealing with a past that can be watched over & over again, “History of You” tackles themes of guilt and dark secrets. There’s a point beneath it all: sometimes you don’t actually want to know everything for sure. This was the episode that truly showed off where Black Mirror could head.
5. “USS Callister”
From the fourth season, this retro-Star Trek adventure infused with dark existential questions ends up spinning simulated stories into a whole new horrifying yarn. “Callister” belongs in the top five because it manages to weaponize the best parts of the genre it’s parodying alongside pot-shots at toxic fandom culture and explorations of the nature of artificial intelligence.
Jesse Plemons (The Master) has a wonderfully skittish William Shatner accent, but Cristin Milioti (The Wolf of Wall Street) is a revelation as the desperate, determined, and sometimes hilarious young woman battling against the greatest of forces.
4. “White Christmas”
A real stocking filler of an anthology within an anthology, there’s a clear intention to package together all the best bits of some Black Mirror stories and run a neat thread through them all. Underneath each and every one, there’s a dark exploration about desperate men and how we twist reality to serve our darkest impulses. The ending of “White Christmas”, for our money at least, is just about as dark as it gets. And Jon Hamm (Mad Men) is a damn handsome nugget!
3. “Black Museum”
A highly politicized trip through an anthology of stories set within a dark museum. It’s hard to give the game of this one away, but the raw anger beating beneath the script is replicated well on-screen in all its disturbing glory. There’s a message and target in mind, but I think everyone can get along with this story of injustice both human & existential.
2. “San Junipero”
The sweetest story in Black Mirror’s canon, this fusion of decades past along with a truly weepy love story ends up weaving a grandiose romance into a narrative about building a virtual afterlife. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t in fits of tears by this story that manages to pull off an emotional heist of the heart. The experienced Black Mirror watcher waits for the glum ending to take it all away – and then, at the end, there isn’t any, but just a warm fuzzy feeling.
This complete reversal of Black Mirror’s trademark infliction of total discomfort is performed beautifully and earnestly to create a sweet love story with a greater message about living in heaven with the love of your life. No wonder it won the Emmy for Brooker and co.
1. “Shut Up and Dance”
Yup. Yup. We adore “San Junipero”, of course we do. But “Shut Up and Dance” is Black Mirror at its most, well, Black Mirrory. A seriously disgusting tale that doesn’t just twist the knife, but repeatedly stabs instead. This twisted tale of hackers forcing a young lad to do their bidding, or else they’ll release footage of him self-pleasuring himself, ends up taking a nosedive into the absolute most decrepit corners of the human soul.
“Dance” is Brooker at his most anti-narrative: there’s no hand-holding, just a brutal and complete total reversal of a story, one that juggles audience sympathy and plays around with it until the Radiohead song blares you into the credits. “Shut Up and Dance” is an assault of the senses, a true emotional gut punch. This masterpiece of the medium had us reaching for our puppies and going off to eat ice cream for a few hours.