The season 4 release of Black Mirror is quickly approaching. With a whole new season on it’s way, full of episodes intended to spark your emotions and question your morals, we decided to take a look back at seasons 1 – 3 and find our top 3 episodes.
This show is set in the not-so-distant future, with most of the technology just around the corner. It would seem that most of these episodes are all in the same universe. The theme of the show is the choices and consequences that are made among the characters. The show gives me a “what would you do” feel.
Our #1 is Season 3, Episode 2 – Playtest: After a young man, Cooper, loses his father to Alzheimer’s, he decides to travel across the globe to make as many memories as he can before returning home again. Throughout his entire trip, his mother calls constantly, while Cooper doesn’t answer. When Cooper decides to come home he attempts to buy a plane ticket, but his card is declined. No where to go and no one to call, he still refuses to contact his mother. Instead, he returns to a woman who he had spent the night with, and does an odd job in order to make some cash to get him home. This odd job is for a game creator, who is testing out a new game. We see Cooper play a basic virtual reality demo with ease. He is asked if he wants to try something more advanced, and it taken into the Game Creator’s office to get fitted with the advanced virtual reality gear. After, he is taken to an old house where this new game will take place. It is here that it all goes downhill. The game, which is linked to his brain, digs deep to find what Cooper is afraid of. It starts small, with spiders, then onto an old bully. When the game gets too strong, it takes a turn deeper to create new monsters and even mimics reality, confusing Cooper into being unable to differentiate what is real or not. Eventually the game starts causing Cooper to lose his mind and his memory, like an Alzheimer’s patient. He is awoken to find he is still in the game maker’s office and it was all just an illusion. He goes home to his mother, but all she keeps doing is crying and saying she needs to call her son. She starts to call again, he screams out “mom”. We then flash back to the very first game testing room, where he had never left and is actually having a seizure. The game programmer says that Cooper had only been in the chair for .04 seconds when the phone rang. Cooper dies due to an interference with the game caused by his mom calling him. Again.
The reason this made #1 on our list is due to the fact that Cooper is running away from what he is afraid of, only to be forced to face it. The advanced virtual reality quickly jumps past the basic fears that we all have – spiders, heights, snakes, etc. – and dives deep into Cooper’s mind to find the truth. Cooper was afraid of ending up with the same fate as his father, and even more scared to face his mother. If Cooper had been able to face his fears, instead of running, he might not have died during the game testing.
Another layer to this episode that ranks it #1 is the levels to which is goes. We think we are watching Cooper go from one game, back to reality, and then to another game. We are made to believe this, only to find out that he actually never started the second game, that he imagined the large house. We believe he leaves the Gaming Corporation and goes home to his mother. It is revealed to us, again, that that wasn’t true either. It is a very “Inception” themed episode.
Our #2 is Season 3, Episode 6 – Hated in the Nation: We open on this episode with a woman on trial who begins to tell a story of a case she worked just over a year ago. She starts by telling of a woman who is very clearly hated by a large amount of people. She is a reporter who did a piece of substantial controversy that garnered her hate from a nation. Within hours of her hatred going viral on the internet, she is dead. Two detectives, Karin and Blue, investigate her death, which appears to be a murder from the way in which she has died. Throughout the first day of the investigation, there is another person, a rapper, who attracts the hate of the nation due to a comment he makes about a young boy. Karin, the head detective, believes the husband in responsible for the death of the reporter. Blue is on another hunch that has to do with a few people in a group on the internet who used a hashtag “Deathto” in regards to the reporter. By the end of the first day of investigation into the reporter’s death, the rapper is now dead due to a freak accident. It is when the rapper dies, that Blue and Karin start to see a pattern. The people who are the most hated by the nation seem to die shortly after. Upon further investigation, they discover that artificial intelligence bees, created due to the population of bees throughout the world dying, are both at the scene of the crimes. They go to the source, the company in control of these AI bees. The company who controls the bees is able to track every single one, and is able to confirm that a bee went “offline” around the same time and area that these two victims were. This happened due to a hacker getting into the system and taking control of these bees. During this, the second day, we find that yet another person is hated by the nation and being targeted online. It is at this point that Karin and Blue have to assume the fact that this person could die due to these bees. They take the young lady into custody and to a safe house, while the company in control of the bees tries to kick the hacker. The hacker, however, is smarter than that and is able to control an entire hive of bees in order to kill this young woman, even while under police protection. From this victim, the detectives now know that the hacker is in complete control, that the bees are able to target a specific person without harming others, and that the hashtag “Deathto” is how the bees chose their next victim. Armed with this information, they try to track down the hacker while shutting down the bees. The company shuts down the bees, only to have the hacker take over all of the bees for his own use. The detectives find clues that lead to the whereabouts of the hacker, and go after him. The hacker has left, but not before attempting to burn a system that will manually shut down the bees. They take this information back to the company to shut down the bees. Once again the hacker proves smarter than the rest by planting this information that actually uploads an entire list of people to the bees to target. This new list, comprised of over 130,000 people, is a list of everyone who used the hastag “Deathto”. We flash back to the present, where the woman we know to be Karin, speaking about what happened after the death of all those people. She updates that Blue left the force after all those people died. Months later all her clothes and a note left on the beach were found with no trace of her since. The hacker is still on the loose, his capture seeming impossible. Karin’s statement for the trial is through, she leaves the courtroom and receives a call. It is Blue, deep undercover hunting the hacker. She said only a few words to Karin, “we’ve got him”.
This episode made #2 due to the extreme situations introduced into this episode. Each victim made a small error in judgment and died due to it. It took only a moment for an entire nation to hate these victims and turn on them, unknowingly causing their deaths. What is worse, after the public knew that the hashtag could be responsible for people’s deaths, they still continued to use it. The public had taken a mob mentality quickly, with no thought as to the consequences. The police and government were helpless to save any of the victims, just simply spectators as it unfolded before them. The final moment that cemented this episode’s place on our list was when the public was punished for their participation in the victims’ deaths. This episode makes you think about all the choices you make, no matter their scale, and how it can effect others.
Our #3 is Season 2, Episode 4 – White Christmas: We start with two men being held up in an old house in the middle of a cold winter. It is Christmas day, they decide to sit and chat having never talked to each other in the 5 years that they have been living together. We soon find out that the man who is initiating the conversation, Matt, was witness to a murder, but did nothing to help. We also find out that Matt worked for a company that would take copies of us, put them into an AI, and have them run a house, similar to a smart house. After this the second man, Potter, finally opens up about his past. Potter proceeds to talk about how him and his girlfriend, Greta, had been fine together, then one day Greta found out she was pregnant and completely shut him out of her life. Greta had “blocked” Potter, which in this universe, is where you can literally block someone from seeing or hearing you. Potter found out Greta had the baby, and he proceeded to try and make a connection with his daughter. In a turn of events, Greta was killed in a train wreck, breaking the block. Potter would now be able to see his daughter, May. When Potter does find May, he quickly sees that she isn’t his daughter at all, but a child of an affair Greta had had. In a flash of rage, Potter kills Greta’s father and leaves the house. May, who is only 5, is left all by herself. She tries to go out, seeking help, only to die in the cold outside. Once Potter confesses all of this, Matt suddenly rejoices with his achievement and vanishes from the house. We find out that Matt was only there to seek a confession in order to be released from prison. Matt is released due to his assistance with this case, but is “blocked” by the entire world. He has to live his life, in the world, without being able to have any interactions with anyone.
Rounding out our top 3 list with this episode due to all the different aspects of it. Matt, being witness to a murder and didn’t help in any way in order to save himself begs the question “would you do the same?” The technology in which Matt works with, where an implant is placed inside your brain to learn who you are, in order to become an AI to run your household is very interesting. The part that makes it questionable is the fact that these AIs do not realize they are computers. They are under the impression that they are humans that have somehow been trapped inside some box, forced to be slaves. Learning about what Potter did to his ex’s father and daughter is absolutely heart wrenching. This episode truly shows the potential for twisted minds. Finally, the technology in this episode that allows people to “block” others. Living in a world where you can literally be cut off from a person, or multiple people, is a scary notion.
One episode that did not make our list, but would have been our first choice is San Junipero. This episode was a change from the overall theme to this series, an episode all on it’s own. We felt that due to the fact that it does break from the norm, it should not be lumped into the rest of the series. The only commonality between this one episode and the rest of the series is the futuristic aspect of it. San Junipero takes place in the future, where once you die you have an opportunity to live on in a virtual reality. It is in this virtual reality that we find our two main characters, Rose and Yorkie. These two just happen to meet and quickly fall in love. It is during this that we find out that they are both older and dying, spending their last moments in San Junipero to “test it out” before committing. Rose says she will not be staying, but passing on when it is her time. Rose’s husband decided to not stay behind in San Junipero and Rose feels she should do the same. It is Yorkie who changes her mind, and convinces her to stay with Yorkie in San Junipero.
This episode is so different because it ends on a happy note, a true love story. It is also beautiful because it isn’t just about love, but hope and starting new again. If the series isn’t your cup of tea, at least watch this one episode. You won’t regret it!
There it is, our top 3 plus a bonus! Have a different opinion? Leave a comment below!