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Hamster's top 8 Black Mirror episodes (series 1-3)


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With series 4 of Black Mirror just about to be dumped onto Netflix for all to "enjoy", I've been looking back at my favourites out of the 13 we've had so far. I've decided to talk through my eight favourites.


Favourites is a strange word perhaps. Maybe "challenging", "affecting" or the ones that I'm still thinking about as I'm trying to get to sleep that night would be a better measure.

Some of these are generally regarded equally highly, some not so much, I will not think as highly of some as others do.

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8. San Junipero

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The episode is set in 1987 in a beach resort town named San Junipero, where Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), a shy woman visiting the town, meets and falls in love with the more outgoing Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).



So, this episode won awards, praise and was generally regarded as being the most positive Black Mirror story and ending so far.

For me it was nice enough, not too fussed about the love story, the setting, all of that homage really. This only hit me as the credits rolled.


Far from being the happiest ending, I feel this is one of the bleakest Black Mirror concepts.


At its core it is an episode in a society where there is state sanctioned Euthanasia. Where a private company literally hooks the elderly and infirm with a limited demo of an alternate reality "afterlife" in the hope that they will ask to be killed so that they can basically stay in the "game". We see it through the eyes of two sick women, but there is no doubt in my mind that those millions of memory log things at the end contain the remnant of healthier folk.

It asks questions about souls, consciousness, life, corporate power, medical care and so on. As someone who studied medical ethics as part of my university course and overthinks things a lot, I could not see it as a happy ending....and actually, for me, that makes it a better episode.

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7. The Waldo Moment

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The episode tells the story of Jamie (Daniel Rigby), a failed comedian who is the voice actor and digital puppeteer of a blue cartoon bear named Waldo, who comically interviews politicians and other authority figures. Jamie's producer (Jason Flemyng) decides to make Waldo enter the ongoing election to become the town's Member of Parliament, as a way to get public attention; however, the joke takes unexpected proportions. Chloe Pirrie and Tobias Menzies co-star as the candidates representing the Labour and Conservative parties, respectively.


This episode always seems to get slagged off a bit. The fact that it was taken from an idea for the Nathan Barley series probably didn't help as it was seen as recycled. It was also seen as frankly a bit ridiculous.


With local politics stale and with the population fed up with same old-same old politicians, a foul-mouthed cartoon bear wins the "populist" vote for being so un-politician, un-PC and shaking the political picture. He's useless, with no actual policies, no actual depth. He's a CARTOON comic interviewer, but as Flemyng's character takes control and pushes Rigby's character further and further, THEY ACTUALLY ELECT WALDO.

They elect the populist candidate with no actual idea of politics or issues, just soundbites and aggressive attacks on the opposition candidates.

Forget the end scene where Waldo has basically taken over the world, for me the whole core of this episode is where Jamie, having turned against Waldo and his producer, starts shouting against Waldo and Flemyng (now playing Waldo) offers a member of the public money to beat Jamie up....and he does it.



Waldo is Trump. Waldo is populism. As always Brooker saw it before we did.




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6. The National Anthem

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In the episode, the British Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) awakens to be told by the Home Secretary Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan) that Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson), a much-loved member of the Royal Family, has been kidnapped, and will be killed unless the Prime Minister has sexual intercourse with a pig on national television.


David Cameron aside, this is a classic Black Mirror episode of social media power, public discussion and threats towards authority figures.


The Prime Minister, to his credit, shags the pig to save the Princess as 1.3 billion people watch on telly and online with a mix of reactions you'd expect to see in modern media (some disgusted, some amused). He didn't really have too much of a choice ultimately. He was told he'd be despised by the public (political suicide) and that by doing it he'd save the princess's life.

The key to this all is the fallout really. Firstly, it's shown that Princess Susannah was released 30 minutes before the sex act, basically making it that he was having sex with the pig for no reason. Secondly, her captor is a Turner Prize winner, who potentially ran the stunt as a statement on peoples obsession with social media....He then commits suicide immediately after releasing the princess. Thirdly the PM's approval ratings increase because of the stunt....however behind closed doors he's a broken man. His wife letting go of his hand and walking away the second the door closes behind them is heartbreaking.


He didn't really have a choice. The PM was a tool of the system and the figurehead for a statement against something he had nothing to do with.

Unlike Cameron who stuck his willy in a pig's mouth as part of japes and fun in his posh boys club.




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5.Fifteen Million Credits

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In a world where most of society must cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their surroundings and earn currency called "Merits", the episode tells the story of Bing (Daniel Kaluuya), who meets Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) and convinces her to participate in a talent game show to escape the slave-like world around them. The episode is a science-fiction dystopia which features a parallel to reality shows and figures such as The X Factor and Simon Cowell.


It has Jessica Brown Findlay, who I love, but that's not the reason why I like this episode so much.


It takes the one moment of actual beauty, of actual human emotion, human outpouring, of the closest thing possible to victory in that world (Bing's speech) and instantly makes it worthless, swallows it back into the system and he sells out to take on a better position in the system. The only hope in this episode is Swift, who doesn't buy into Bing's now-state-sponsored rants (a classic approach of giving the people some rebellion, but controlling it), and switches him off to ride her bike to the generic screen like he used to. Here's hoping that she broke the system eventually.


First up in the episode you think "oooh technology" but ultimately Bing is right in his true rant and it's what we've been sliding into for a long time. Paying for virtual items for virtual avatars that don't even exist. Powering machines to run what we use to power the machines (think corporately, work, society etc). The destruction and perversion of beautiful things. The number of unskippable adverts popping up on Youtube and phone games now, along with cameras on phones means that it won't be long before we're not allowed to look away during them.


It's depressing in a different way to a lot of the other episodes. There's something helpless about it, that anyone who stands up to the machine will be destroyed or sucked in. That the rest of us just long for our fifteen minutes of fame and the lie of choice, hope or dreams.


Sorry about the video, it's the only one I could get of his speech.


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I feel bad for having only seen up through 'History of You'. The series is amazing, every episode is thought provoking in many ways. But I just... don't continue watching. The episodes are too heavy in its vague reality, especially 15 million merits cut deep for me because as a tech-savvy person I see it happen right before our eyes, less insane, but rome wasn't sacked in one day.

The characters are vapid and empty, the stories are about the emptiness, and despite its faux futuristic sight, it's way too real for me to handle.

I'm amazingly glad Charlie Brooker finally got his break.

Like watching the Twilight Zone, but all the insane shit that happens is actually coming through.

Still fucking amazing tho, and I really need to watch more, but i'll probably get depressed even more.

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5 hours ago, Katsuya said:

...San Junipero...not number one...does not compute...

I haven't liked any of these episodes that have been listed so far, but San Junipero is easily my least favorite out of all of them. Maybe it's how hyped up it was, maybe it's because I didn't watch it until just recently, but holy fuck was it boring. I started to do laundry midway through because I was losing interest.

Like, seriously, none of these episodes do anything for me. This might as well be a reverse countdown of all the episodes I hate. :P

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4. White Christmas

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The episode starts with two men, Matt (Jon Hamm) and Joe (Rafe Spall), stationed at a remote outpost in the middle of a snowy wilderness. As they tell each other their respective lives to pass the time, those events are depicted on-screen, forming three mini-stories ultimately relating to the characters' current situation. Oona Chaplin and Natalia Tena co-star as two characters in these stories.


Christmas special! Taking three different story bits and then tying it all together at the end, White Christmas is pretty smart and is well paced. Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall play off eachother well and the twists at the end are rather....well, I'll get there in a minute.


The three mini-stories include the "Oh....sh*t...." of the accidental death pact date being watched over by Hamm and his paying relationship perverts, the "wow Hamm's actually pretty cold-hearted towards that cookie helper" middle story and then the introduction of the concept that most concerned me in the Spall story. They're all linked well with the two actors and the reveal IS big. Hamm's used (for his abilities) to talk to Spall's cookie, which we don't realise is Spall's cookie until the end. Turns out they were never in a remote outpost, rather Spall's had a cookie created and Hamm's been questioning it to get the truth about Spall's actions and guilt (he is responsible for the death of his estranged wife's daughter and the daughter's grandfather).


This then leads to the two horrifying parts of the episode that stayed with me after. Firstly, Spall's cookie, as we learnt earlier in the episode, believes it's human. So when the officers set the "timer" to 1,000 years for every minute in real time, with them all leaving for the weekend that's utterly horrific torture. Incomprehensible. With the unbreakable radio playing "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" and him realising it's the cabin of the grandfather where the deaths took place.....I just can't stomach thinking about the cookie's millions of years trapped in that place.

However perhaps the even more sickening concept is when the police "keep their promise" to release Hamm after he helps them. However they use the blocking device we see earlier in the episode, where you are blurred out and staticy to a person who chooses to block you and, even worse, you can only see the person who blocked you as static (this was what Spall's wife did to him earlier in the episode - you can't speak to them or hear them either). It's the ultimate block, like Facebook but a billion times worse. Even worse, for Hamm, he's classified as a sex offender so his static is red, so everyone can see immediately why he's blocked from them.....and he is blocked from EVERY human. He will never ever see a human form again. He's free, but so far from free that he'd be better off locked away.


The blocking thing really affected me it must be said. That's partly why this episode ranks so highly for me.



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3. White Bear

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The episode follows Victoria (Lenora Crichlow), a woman who does not remember who she is and wakes up in a place where almost everybody is controlled by a television signal. Along with some of the few other unaffected people (Michael Smiley and Tuppence Middleton), she must stop the "White Bear" transmitter while surviving merciless pursuers.



We head deep into Black Mirror bleakness with White Bear. White Bear is horrific, equally as much for the human condition as the punishment.


We start by thinking that something has gone horribly wrong, the world has gone feral and half the population has become zombified mobile-phone wielding voyeurs. Through a fast-paced, unnerving half hour we draw closer to the truth which is that our protagonist is actually a child abducter (her boyfriend killed the child while she recorded it). This doesn't make her fate any less horrible though. After her boyfriend committed suicide in his cell, Victoria is sentenced to this same horror EVERY DAY with her mind being painfully wiped of the memories each night. Every morning she wakes, not knowing who she was, being chased, attacked and terrified before finally having the pain of realisation of what she has done, and being paraded back before a braying mob each evening before waking up and doing it all over again.


It's torture for Sun, Express and Daily Mail readers to salivate over. "THAT F*CKIN' BITCH DESERVES IT!" says Len (53) of Braintree, Essex, before applying to be one of those who get to come on set and follow the action on his phone. "CHILD KILLERS SHOULD SUFFER EVERY DAY!" says Katie (27) of Gravesend, Kent, happily throwing rotten vegetables at a truly hopeless, husk of Victoria as she is wheeled back to the block of flats where she awakes every day to go through it all again.


The episode digs right down into the very consciousness of the national heart - crime and punishment, rehabilitation, torture, reality TV. It's a bleak Truman Show with no happy ending and a country where it's ok to payback an, admittedly horrible crime, a thousand times over. Only a psychopath would really think that her punishment is fair...and yet there would be millions in this country who would sign their name to support such a punishment tomorrow.



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2. Shut Up and Dance

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The episode tells the story of a teenage boy (Alex Lawther) who is blackmailed into committing bizarre and criminal acts by a mysterious hacker possessing a video of him masturbating. The boy is joined by a middle-aged man (Jerome Flynn), whom the same hacker is blackmailing over infidelity.




I don't watch Black Mirror to enjoy myself. Shut Up and Dance is incredible television.


Shut Up and Dance is horrible. Horrible. Horrible. But amazing.


It could happen right now. It happens. Recordings and blackmail happens. Vigilantes taking the law into their own hands for their entertainment no doubt happens. People get pictures and videos held to ransom. The reveal utterly makes it. Radiohead playing with the ending is utterly, utterly perfect and utterly, utterly heartbreaking for all involved. Despite them all doing wrong, the journey we've been on makes it feel so unfair, which jerks at our emotions and sense of right and wrong and it's genius.

It got hate in some of its reviews but those reviews are wrong because it is horribly, painfully, brutally brilliant. I can't enjoy it, but I can't deny it.




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Not really agreeing with the list so far. San Junipero, White Christmas and The Entire History of You are comfortably my top episodes (so I hope the latter is your #1 >_>), National Anthem and Waldo moment aren't bad but aren't that special and White Bear is my least favourite Black Mirror by several country miles. It's forty minutes of people shambling through some trees next to some houses then a twist and once you know the twist it has no rewatch value.

But good to see some love for Shut Up and Dance; I always felt like it was an underappreciated episode :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Aaaaaaand to the gnashing of teeth from three readers, here is what I think is the best Black Mirror episode from the first three series:


1. Nosedive

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The episode is set in a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have, and which can impact their socioeconomic status. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young woman overly obsessed with her ratings and is chosen by her popular childhood friend (Alice Eve) as the maid of honour for her wedding. On her journey, several mishaps with different people begin a rapid reduction in her ratings.


Look, I was a little drunk the first time I watched it. I also think I've skirted around being depressed and stressed the last couple of years too, but I blubbed like a total baby with the ending. It was beautiful. It was cathartic. It was so so good....But then the whole episode was.

Yeah I use my phone and the internet plenty, but I've never been a big one for likes, upvotes and the like. I don't live my life by it. What I DO find important though is the freedom for people to say and feel what they think and...feel. Nosedive, despite all it's saccharine, happy colours is SO SO SO SO BLEAK and yet is wrapped up in a soft focus lens osfalse laughter and lilac-coated middle class school friends. A tale of Icarus, of flying too close to the sun, of reaching too far, of pride before a fall.

Bryce Dallas Howard is just amazing. She builds and builds and builds as her character arc progresses from wannabe, to "almost-got-it", to desperation, to total meltdown, to a final true freedom that comes with her arrest. While there is a LOT of good stuff in the episode, her speech at her friend's wedding and the final scene in the jail are mesmerising. She's amazing. The story it tells is amazing and chilling to the bone.

Your livelihood, your opportunities, even your rental options and travel choices decided by the ratings of others. It's horrific. It's false. It builds a world of fake, changing-by-the-minute, fickle people. Of hyper-peer pressure and of total bullying. Of living on the edge and of fear. Of paying people to tell you how to get higher "ratings".

But there are nuggets of hope. The old trucker woman. The man in the jail. Lost everything. Totally broken and yet free from the system. 

Glorious. Best episode for me.



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17 minutes ago, Ollie said:

Be Right Back didn't even make it?

You're dead to me, Morris.


You ever seen Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina? Lad's a fantastic actor.


Truth is, there's only a few episodes that have left me cold. Be Right Back and Entire History of You were both good episodes.

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