Charlie Brooker's dystopian drama is returning for a sixth season...
words Jack Ramage
It’s been almost three long years since Black Mirror’s fifth season made its Netflix premiere – and I think it’s safe to say the world back then is almost unrecognisable to today. Luckily, the binge-worthy show is back, with season six in the making by creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.
The chilling drama first started on Channel 4 back in 2011, where it ran for two seasons before moving to Netflix. In a nutshell, each episode places the viewer into a dystopian storyline, largely centred around the way we interact with technology. The name ‘black mirror’ is actually inspired by the dark reflection we see ourselves in when our phone screens are turned off – creepy, right?
Each plot within the dread-inducing dystopian series – which blends horror, sci-fi and comedy – is built upon “extrapolations of whatever was already happening,” Brooker told The Guardian. In another interview with The Independent, Brooker went further to argue that the stories weren't “warnings” at all and instead based on technological progress which is “completely inevitable.”
And so, on that bright note, here’s our pick for the top five Black Mirror episodes to binge while we wait for season six to be released:
San Junipero (Season 3, Episode 4)
Season 3 marked serious changes for the Black Mirror series, as it moved from the lower-budget but classic aesthetic with Channel 4 to Netflix’s American dream sheen (with a sizeable budget to match). Out of all episodes in this series, San Junipero embodies this change the most.
The story follows two characters, Yorkie and Kelly, who visit San Junipero, a fun-loving beach town full of surf, sun and sex. Yet the town isn't what it first appears and is actually part of a simulated reality the elderly can inhabit, even after death.
Beyond the plot, however, is what makes this episode a top choice for us… It symbolises a moment where the show ditched its trademark grisly charm for something deeper – more authentic, emotional and human. Grab the tissues because this episode is a sad one.
Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)
In keeping with this sad story theme, we’re ranking “Be Right Back” as number two. The episode tells the story of Martha, a woman who has been devastated after her boyfriend dies in a car crash. In an effort to console herself – and come to terms with her grief – she interacts with AI that mimics her lost lover based on their previous social media activity.
This episode in particular hits hard because it forces you to reflect on how you interact with others online – how social media posts are, essentially, permanently etched in digital space and how we can become emotionally hooked on to our devices.
This is something the Domhnall Gleeson, who played the boyfriend in the episode, told Vulture. “There’s one moment where my character’s desperately searching for his phone. He just stands in the hallway and looks around blankly. I forget what the stage direction was, but it was really good. That’s when I realized I had done the same thing so many times, looking for my phone and feeling lost without it. So, yeah, I’ve tried to use my phone less since then. Sometimes, I fail. But at least I’m mindful of it.”
“Bandersnatch” (Interactive Episode)
This episode is a little different and if you fancy diving straight first into an interactive Black Mirror episode, then this might be for you… At its core, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure episode; it feels kind of like you’re playing a video game – or even, at a stretch, the metaverse. The episode allows viewers to make choices that impact the story, as well as the actions of each character, which gives it an added level of depth – giving you control over how the story goes.
USS Callister (Episode 1, Season 4)
Coming in at number four is USS Callister, from Season 4 – an episode more grounded to the real world, as opposed to Black Mirror’s usual freaky through-provoking storylines of technology running wild. The story follows a man who creates a virtual world in which he imprisons and abuses avatars of colleagues who’ve wronged him – which, granted, is far from reality. However, what the story really encapsulates is a man who’s angry at the world and takes his grievance to a virtual space because he’s incapable of confronting them in the real world. This is an issue we sadly see paralleled in reality.
The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1)
We couldn’t make this list without including the very episode which started it all – The National Anthem. This iconic episode undoubtedly set the tone for the Black Mirror universe and walked so that episodes (like those listed above) could run. Watching this back you can see how far the series has come in recent years, from humble – and farcical – beggings on Channel 4, to the critically-acclaimed Netflix-funded episodes we see today.
This is summed it pretty well in just the first five minutes of this debut episode when the British Prime Minister is ordered to have sex on live TV or face the execution of a kidnapped princess. Believe it or not, this aired four years before David Cameron’s alleged University love affair with a pig’s head came into public knowledge. To this day, Brooker insists he had no knowledge of this when writing the script.
Coincidence? Perhaps – but Brooker has a knack for predicting the future in his years of dystopian script writing. You can find out more about the making of season six here, as well as watch all previous episodes on Netflix now.
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