One of the most unique shows to come out in recent years, Black Mirror has swept people off their feet each season as they tell gripping stories that reflect on our current society, mostly in very scary and thought provoking ways. With season 4 now released on Netflix, I will be looking back on my top five favorite episodes of the modern-day Twilight Zone style series. You can currently find all four seasons on Netflix.
1. San Junipero (Season 3)
While Black Mirror tends to play more on the psychological thriller side in most of their episodes, season 3’s San Juniperowithout a doubt is the most human story of the entire series. Following the story of two women who meet each other and fall in love in the titular beach town in 1987, San Junipero is later revealed to be a simulated reality where conscious minds can live, even after death. It also is revealed that these two young ladies who fall in love are actually in their elder years, as one is set to be euthanized after being in a coma for decades, and the other slowly dying of old age as well.
The performances by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis are top notch, as is Denise Burse as the elder version of Mbatha-Raw’s character. The twist in this episode is handled to perfection as the episode beautifully illustrates a possible life-after-death scenario in a truly eye-opening way. Charlie Booker masterfully blends a love story into a story about human mortality and the afterlife, making San Junipero one of the most well-written television episodes I’ve ever seen.
2. White Christmas (Christmas Special)
In 2014, in between seasons 2 and 3 before the show would move on to Netflix, Black Mirror came out with their special Christmas Episode entitled White Christmas. The special 90-minute feature length episode follows two men as they spend Christmas together in a remote outpost, sharing stories of their pasts as they get to know each other over dinner. The events of these stories, depicted in flashbacks, make up a total of 3 short stories within the episode itself that all lead up to the characters’ current situation. As usual, when everything seems normal is when the show reveals what is really going on with these two characters.
Jon Hamm and Rare Spall turn in excellent work in their performances as Matt and Paul, both of whom share their own horrifying experiences throughout the episode as they recall the events of what happened. The episode also features fun appearances by Game of Thrones vets Oona Chaplin and Natalina Tena. The episode’s twist ending is one of the best but also most frightening reveals of the entire show, sold wonderfully by Hamm and Spall as we watch it unfold for them. This is the episode I tell people to first watch if they are interested in the show, as it combines all the best aspects of Black Mirror in a movie-length form.
3. U.S.S. Callister (Season 4)
Black Mirror’s season 4 opener entitled U.S.S. Callister is the best episode of Star Trek you never got to see. The episode follows Robert Daly, a gifted programmer but also a recluse who is bitter over the lack of recognition he has received from his coworkers as a programmer of a very popular online video game. Daly’s way of taking out his frustrations involves taking DNA samples of his fellow co-workers and inserting them into a simulation of his favorite Star Trek-like TV show. Acting as Captain over his crew, Daly bosses his co-workers around in a God-like manner, using his power to make his crew submit to his will in horrifying ways. When Daly uploads a new employee into the game, she influences the crew to revolt against Daly.
Jesse Plemmons’ performance as Daly is extremely engaging to watch every time he’s on screen. You start off wanting to root for him, but it becomes clear that it is he who is the true villain of the story, while you grow to sympathize with the crew and root for their escape from their tyrant of a captain. As Black Mirror usually does, the episode is a haunting metaphor for our actual society and our addiction to online gaming and what it could mean for us as virtual reality becomes more and more prominent through time.