Black Mirror Series 4: Episode Ranking

     Black Mirror has been compared to the Twilight Zone for obvious reasons for people who have watched both shows.  They each have a new story every episode involving new characters and settings.  Both tend to have a dark and bleak tone that intrigues the viewer with its commentary.  Finally let us not forget the shocking twists the stories possess that continue to shock and excite at the same time.  Black Mirror has not only earned praise from critics but also from some of our modern storytellers.  Stephen King tweeted in 2014 on his admiration for the show. 

     Before I get to my own personal ranking of each episode from Series 4, I have to say I recommend every episode on the list.  They all have something worth talking about, and are all enjoyable in their own way.  This list just reflects which ones resonate with me the most.  I’ll be as spoiler-free as possible for those who haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.  If you haven’t watched Black Mirror, what are you waiting for?!

 

No. 6: Black Museum

     It’s a shame that the finale of the fourth series seems to be the least enjoyable one not only from my point of view but others as well.  It starts off with a woman going through a museum of abandoned technology manufactured by the owner’s old company he used to work for.  Each attraction comes with a story of regret and macabre.  This episode unfortunately starts to drag right from the very beginning.  It’s in the last twenty minutes where the story really begins to catch fire.  I wish that they took the idea of the last attraction and spread that throughout the entire episode.  It has the most involvement with all the characters and connects them all in a way that you don’t see coming.  I’m not mad I watched this episode at all, it’s just strange they chose it as the finale.  That being said the first half isn’t terrible, it just seems out of place when you get to the third act. Still worth a watch though in my opinion.

No. 5: Metalhead

     Out of all the episodes in Series 4 this one probably has the most elements you would see from a standard horror film.  What this has to its advantage is its quality.  Some of the scares are genuinely surprising and the “killer” is something you rarely see.  The setting takes place sometime in the future where civilization has fallen or is about to, but that isn’t the focus, refreshingly.  The entirety of the episode mostly follows the protagonist as she and two others try and retrieve something from somewhere dangerous in order to fulfil a promise.

     For decades, our horror movie icons are usually masked killers that have some sort of supernatural ability which warrants them coming back from the dead for sequels, remakes, and reboots.  I have to admit though that is a big guilty pleasure of mine.  The monster of this episode is actually a robotic dog-like weapon equipped with advance weapons and detection methods.  What makes this palatable for the viewer is how believable it is because of the recent advancement of artificial intelligence in modern society.

     This episode is shot in black and white, which hopefully doesn’t turn off some viewers because I thought it was the right decision.  It reflects how dark the tone is, which in turn enhances the experience.  It gives it that noir feel while also being as nail-bitingly tense in the areas it counts.  While not the best, still a great episode.

No. 4: Arkangel

     Okay, here is where the series really gets the attention it deserves.  While the commentary in this episode might be a little on the obvious side, that doesn’t take away from how well it is executed.  The idea here is child monitoring, but to an unhealthy and frightening degree.  Where this episode shines, is that there isn’t a clear villain here, every action has some sort of understanding behind it, and the justifications are debatable.  After a woman nearly loses her daughter at a playground she signs up for a free trial run called Arkangel.  Not only can she monitor her child’s whereabouts, but she can also view what she sees and censor what she deems inappropriate via tablet computer.

     What we witness throughout the story is a healthy and trusting mother-daughter relationship that becomes one of distrust and fear.  What I love about how this plays out is the different perspectives one can have.  You really feel for both characters here and makes you question family moral.  Is it okay for parents to hover over all their children’s actions?  Does letting your child make mistakes make you a lesser or better parent?  Perhaps there isn’t a single answer, but the strain the mother’s decisions has on a once viable household is something that is hard to ignore.  I won’t go into more detail because that’ll just spoil what should come as a surprise.  It’s also worth noting that this episode was directed by Jodie Foster.  It’s clear she has an understanding on family relationships and what can affect them negatively.  Definitely an eye opener.

No. 3: Crocodile

     Crocodile is a classic story of the past returning in a big and overwhelming way.  The episode starts off with two people coming home from a club together after night of partying.  During their drive home, they hit an innocent pedestrian and kill him instantly.  Rob (the driver) convinces Mia (the passenger) to hide the body so they aren’t caught and convicted.  Cut forward fifteen years later Mia is married with a child and successful in her career.  Rob wants to write an anonymous letter to the wife of the dead pedestrian who believes him to still be alive.  Mia obviously disagrees because she thinks it can be traced and she could lose everything she has worked for.

     As much as I want to gush over how the story plays out, and the twists and turns that ensue, it would be an injustice for you to be spoiled.  I will say this, no matter how much you want to bury the past it will always haunt and catch up to you.  As despicable as Mia becomes you understand why she does what she does, even if you hate her for it.  She has a life she feels is worth keeping, no matter what.  A must see for people looking for something fresh.

No. 2: USS Callister

     USS Callister has been described as one of the best episodes out of the entire series and not just this one, and for good reason.  It blends internet culture, real life unhappiness manifested, misogyny, and geek fandom.  It is a clear parody of Star Trek, and borrows from it heavily.  Robert Daly is the CTO of his company Callister Inc. and he is one of its two founders along with James Walton. Their company develops a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called Infinity.  Within the game, Daly has developed his own version that only he can access, which mimics his favorite television show Space Fleet.

     When a fellow programmer Nanette appears, she praises Daly for his programming abilities.  This is abnormal due to the nature his fellow co-workers treat him.  He soon extracts her DNA from a coffee cup and a copy of herself wakes up in Daly’s version of Infinite.  From within, other copies of his co-workers take orders from him against their will in order to please his fantasy.  Daly routinely takes out his real-life misery out on the crew when they disobey him.  This leads to a series of events that you’ll just have to tune in and witness for yourself.  All the praise this episode is well deserved, it has some of the best cinematic qualities out of the rest of the series.  If you’re unsure about Black Mirror, give this episode a watch and I guarantee you will be hooked from the start.

No. 1: Hang the DJ

     I don’t know where to begin honestly. I was enthralled from the very beginning.  If I seem vague here it’s for a purpose, this is where you have to take my word for how well this episode came out.  In a society where everyone is paired up buy a circular device that holds an AI known as Coach.  It determines who pairs them and how much time they’ll spend with each other.

     This episode has everything you need to keep your interest, love, despair, neglect, resent, and a daring conclusion.  This is one of the few times I’ve watched a television show and didn’t see the twist coming at all.  When the twist came I not only felt completely satisfied, it gives you a feeling of hope.  That is something the series isn’t known for doing that often, and it does it so well.  This was a perfect episode for me and hopefully others as well.  Like I described in Crocodile, I wish I could go in more detail but that would only be a disservice for those who haven’t watched it.  If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be brilliant.  I absolutely loved every second.  The acting, pacing, and execution.  This is a definite must watch.

        Connor Hesnan

       Connor Hesnan