***A spoiler free review***
Black Mirror Review: Technology is only as messed up as the people who use it.
For the past month, the mysterious recommendation algorithms of Netflix have been trying to make me watch Charlie Brooker’s dark anthology series, Black Mirror.
With a new cast of characters and a different world in every episode, the theme of “technology and its repercussions” is the single thread that ties the series together. Based on this premise, I’ve been dismissing it on the assumption that it would be the TV equivalent of an old man shouting “technology is bad, fire is scary, and Thomas Edison was a witch!” as he stubbornly refuses to upgrade his dial-up connection.
Last weekend I was bored enough to give in and watch it anyway. I’ve never been happier to admit that I was wrong.
According to Brooker, the title refers to “the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone,” but it seems that the series itself is a mirror, reflecting humanity’s darker side and forcing us to consider it.
While modern tech is front and center, the true source of conflict in every episode is human weakness—from the media’s treatment of real-world horror as entertainment, to the consequences of recklessness brought on by love. The series uses technological advancement as a lens through which to focus on humanity’s many flaws, and that’s what makes it so binge-worthy.
So it’s sci-fi, right?
Well… sort of.
The dystopian mindf*ck White Bear (S2E2) and the genuinely frightening Playtest (S3E2) fall squarely into the style of fantastical horror, but The National Anthem (S1E1) and Shut Up and Dance (S3E3) are both disturbing in a visceral this-could-happen-tomorrow kind of way.
It’s not all horrifying, though.
Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson are outstanding in the equal-parts poignant and unsettling season two episode Be Right Back, in which an experimental online service allows a grieving woman to speak to a synthesized copy of her recently deceased husband.
Season three’s San Junipero, on the other hand, is a rare and surprisingly heartfelt love story in the otherwise dark series. It follows the shy, awkward Yorkie, who meets and quickly falls for Kelly in the 80’s—but has no idea which decade she’ll find her in next.
Is there more?
There will be! Netflix has commissioned a fourth series consisting of six more episodes, and though a release date has not yet been announced, you’ll catch me in front of the screen the minute it appears.
Should I binge it?
Each of the thirteen episodes run anywhere from 43-89 minutes long, so you’ll probably need to break them up a little in order to continue functioning as a human being. That said, I watched the entire series over a single weekend. I guess I’m just married to my black mirror.
Can I watch it with my kids?
Definitely not. This is not a family friendly show. If cursing, violence, nudity, and sex scenes aren’t enough to convince you to wait until they’re asleep, then be aware of disturbing themes in almost every episode. Your children will not forgive you for the nightmares.
The first episode of season one is an intense, well written, edge-of-your seat hour of television. You should probably skip it. Maybe go back and watch it after you’ve already found an appreciation for the series as whole.
About the Author: Cass is an aspiring Australian screenwriter whose heart is in Los Angeles. She plans to eventually be the person you’re cursing for hurting your favorite TV characters, but until then she’ll settle for cursing the writers who keep hurting hers. Follow @violetmatter on Twitter for fangirling, snark, and existential angst.