Anthology storytelling is very popular right now in the world of television. While episodic television is still the norm, anthologies have emerged as a way for shows to be freed from those constraints and tell more contained stories with an ever-changing cast of characters. Certainly, one of the shows to help kickstart that trend was Black Mirror.
Black Mirror started as a British series before being picked up by Netflix where its popularity really began to catch on. The series tells individual stories of the potential horrors and pitfalls of society’s increasing reliance on technology. The show may be a bit too dark for some viewers, but with the thought-provoking concepts have helped the show deliver some truly great episodes of television. Here are the best Black Mirror episodes so far.
10 Shut Up And Dance
How far would you go to protect your darkest secret? That is the question posed in Season 3's "Shut Up and Dance". The episode stars Alex Lawther (The End of the F***ing World) and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) as two people paired together and forced to go through a sick scavenger hunt by some unknown puppet master.
The episode is one of the most fast-paced in the series run, playing almost like an action film. The tension continues to rise with the increasingly dangerous tasks that are assigned, all with the threat of some terrible life-ruining secret being exposed to the world.
9 Fifteen Million Merits
World-building is something Black Mirror does exceptionally well. They are particularly successful at creating unique societies their stories take place in. In "Fifteen Million Merits", the show gives us one of their best with an exploration of a slave-like society where one's “merits” can earn their freedom.
Daniel Kaluuya is outstanding in the lead role as a man living in this isolated existence who attempts to give someone a chance at a better life. The visual style and thought-provoking ideas of this early episode helped establish Black Mirror as a truly special show.
8 Hated In The Nation
"Hated in the Nation" felt like Black Mirror stepped up to the next level in terms of their storytelling. Taking ideas like drones, social media shaming, and government surveillance, the Season 3 episode told a murder mystery which evolves into an international thriller.
Kelly MacDonald and Benedict Wong star as law enforcement officials investigating the bizarre deaths of several high-profile figures who have recently been targeted on social media. The mystery of the episode draws you in while the stakes keep getting bigger, eventually showcasing the kind of epic storytelling of which Black Mirror is capable.
7 Black Museum
Season 4’s "Black Museum" is sort of a mini version of Black Mirror inside an episode of Black Mirror. The story centers on a Nish (Black Panther’s Letitia Wright) who visits a unique roadside museum detailing tech-based crimes. The owner of the museum then takes us through several stories that are as compelling and disturbing as anything else on the show.
Featuring some fun callbacks and Easter eggs to the rest of the series, it’s a great episode of superfans. And it all manages to connect and culminate in one of the best payoffs in the entire series.
6 The Entire History Of You
Many of Black Mirror's episodes show how people can harm and abuse others using technology, but where the show becomes most interesting is when it shows how we can sabotage ourselves with the help of technology.
In "The Entire History of You", the story explores technology that allows one to rewind and review specific moments in your life. It could be used to revisit a favorite memory, remember critical details, or in the case of the protagonist (played by Toby Kebbell) obsess over perceived wrongs against him. The frustrating, tense relationship-centered episode was a prime example of how the show can take a seemingly helpful tool and show you the horrors it holds.
5 Hang The DJ
Black Mirror usually operates in the dark thriller genre, and it excels at it. However, every so often the show stretches into other genres which can result in a lot of its best episodes. In "Hang the DJ", Black Mirror does probably the closest thing to a romantic-comedy than it will ever do.
The story imagines a world where a completely immersive program goes to extensive lengths to match people with their ideal partner. But what happens when you find the love of your life and the program disagrees? Though filled with some of the dread Black Mirror is known for, the episode is also funny and sweet in its satire of modern dating.
4 Be Right Back
Things rarely go well for the characters in Black Mirror, but in most cases, it's easy to see how they could have gotten themselves in these situations. The technology offers them something that, while disturbing, provides them with something they desperately want.
If technology could give you back someone you’ve lost, it would be hard to resist that possibility. That is the idea behind "Be Right Back" in which a woman (played by Haley Atwell) loses her husband (Domhall Gleeson) and goes to extremes to have him back. The superb acting and gothic feel to the episode make it a classic "be careful what you wish for" tale.
3 San Junipero
Whenever Black Mirror does a love story, you instinctively fear the worst. The show is not known for its happy endings so when "San Junipero" presented what appeared to be a beautiful burgeoning love between two characters, we were caught off guard.
The story stars McKenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as two unlikely lovers who face difficult decisions and struggles to stay together. Set in a simulated beach town filled with fun-loving partiers, the episode has more so much irresistible energy. The two leads are compelling and sell this beautiful romance. Strange for Black Mirror, it may just leave you with a smile on your face.
2 White Christmas
Even a show like Black Mirror isn’t above having some fun with a Christmas special. But if you’re expecting talking snowmen and gifts being exchanged, look elsewhere.
Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall star as two colleagues working over Christmas in a remote location. Like "Black Museum", the episode tells smaller stories within the larger one with the two men slowly revealing how they got there. The Christmas setting is really secondary to this riveting slow burn reveal between these two characters. Like many of the episodes, it asks difficult and disturbing questions about consciousness and some of the scary places society might be heading.
1 USS Callister
Black Mirror can be a tough show to watch. Despite being on Netflix, the bleak tone and emotionally draining stories make it hard to binge watch. "USS Callister" manages to be as thoughtful and compelling as the best Black Mirror episodes while also being extremely fun.
The show partially takes place in a Star Trek-esque space adventure video game where the game’s programmer has trapped digital copies of his coworkers. With some of the highest production values in the show, irreverent humor and a fantastic cast, "USS Callister" showed Black Mirror could go into exciting new areas.