Binge Watchin' TV Review: Black Mirror
Welcome to Binge Watchin,’ where we take a look at some of the best TV shows available on streaming or disc that have a great catalogue of seasons to jump into and get sucked into the beautiful bliss of binge watching! From crime, action, comedy, drama, animation, etc., we’ll be evaluating an assortment of shows that will hopefully serve as a gateway to your next binge experience.
Series: Black Mirror
Number of Seasons: 2 + 1 Christmas Special
Where to watch: Channel 4 (in the UK), Netflix (U.S), iTunes
What’s the show about?:
BLACK MIRROR is an anthology series that casts a critical eye on the role technology plays in our everyday lives through a series of self-contained sci-fi cautionary tales. These stories warn of a future where social media and technology have run amuck, resulting in a world where privacy is a thing of the past and mankind’s humanity is slowly but surely being stripped away with each technological breakthrough.
Why should I watch?:
BLACK MIRROR is a throwback to the great sci-fi anthology series of yesteryear. Imagine if THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS was brought back to TV, boasting the same caliber of writing, directing, and acting that has defined what is quickly becoming a new Golden Age of television. The brainchild of English satirist Charlie Brooker, BLACK MIRROR’s seasons are quick and concise, with each running only three episodes. The three episode structure was even maintained in the recent feature-length Christmas special, which seamlessly tied together three separate (but ultimately linked) stories.
The show is often blackly humorous, but more often than that it’s tremendously disturbing, with many episodes having a kind of bleakly ironic twist that will stay with you for days to come. I was so disturbed by the ending of the Christmas episode that I wasn’t able to sleep that night, and a friend of mine told me that it shook him up so badly that it made him physically sick.
BLACK MIRROR kicks off with an absolutely incredible episode – “The National Anthem” – where the UK Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) is told that a member of the Royal Family has been kidnapped and that they’ll be killed unless he has sex – live on TV – with a pig. Sounds crazy, right? It’s a stunning piece of satire, but while it could have easily lent itself to a kind of gross-out comedy, BLACK MIRROR aims much higher, and viewers will be confounded by the way they’re made to empathize with the not entirely likable PM, and be disgusted at the very believable way the public would be fascinated by such a bizarre turn of events (if something similar happened it real life, who wouldn’t watch it?). That’s really BLACK MIRROR’s stock-in-trade, the way you’ll start to see yourself in all the characters, making it one of the most uncomfortably empathetic shows on TV.
Being an anthology show, it’s tough to say which season is the best. It really varies episode-to-episode, with some being better than others (although each is at least good). As far as favorites go, I’m pretty keen on “White Christmas”, although “The National Anthem” comes close. Most fans of BLACK MIRROR say the Toby Kebbell-episode, “The Entire History of You” is the best, with the remake rights having been bought by Robert Downey Jr’s production shingle, who hope to expand the premise to feature length. The Hayley Atwell-Domhnall Gleeson episode, “Be Right Back” is also a fan favorite, with it having quite a bit in common with the film HER, albeit with a gender swap and a starkly different second half.
BLACK MIRROR really is one of the best shows on TV, and it’s steadily picking up a strong following in the U.S thanks to its availability on Netflix. Brooker seems to be a stickler for quality, so we may not get a full third series for a while. With fans like the well-connected Jon Hamm, you can reasonably assume that when it comes back it’ll be chockfull of A-list talent, and BLACK MIRROR really shows just how well the anthology format fits with this new era of TV (or streamed TV). You can literally choose any episode at random and be assured of a mind-bending, sophisticated mini-movie that will dig its way into your brain and freak you out for weeks to come.