How Black Mirror turns your reality into dark fantasy

If you remember and were a fan of the Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories you should get a real kick out of Black Mirror. It’s really cool to see this type of television series make a return, and not only that but do it in a way that is fresh and very relevant.

Woman holding a smartphone up behind shattered glass, the effect of the glass contorts her face into a demonic smile

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I have to say though, I found my first attempt at Black Mirror a bit stop-start. Season One Episode one was really captivating but I struggled through the next two, put it down and didn’t pick it back up again—until very recently where I binged all four seasons.

That sounds impressive right? But there’s only nineteen episodes across those four seasons so no big deal, well except that the stories are all really dark and quite frankly, a bit of a head fuck. You really do need to be in the right mood to watch Black Mirror, if you don’t want to think too hard about anything don’t even attempt to watch this show, go tune into GoggleBox and fingerprint with your own crap or something.

What’s it about?

It’s presented as an anthology series which means you really don’t need to watch it in any particular order, you can just pick an episode and go for it. There’s a lot of variety, and while the series as a whole shares a common theme, each standalone episode explores something different under that theme.

What is the theme? Well my take on it is that it’s all about how humans are integrating with technology and it explores the possible effects this integration may have on our natural instincts, desires and emotions, mostly for the negative.

It’s a bit close to home.

Black Mirror is science fiction in the classic sense of the word but it’s also, for the most part, not that much of a stretch from where we are in the present day. Indeed a lot of episodes are just a hop, skip and jump into the future as opposed to a massive leap like what you’d experience from something like Star Trek or some shit.

Writer/Creator Charlie Brooker says the title Black Mirror comes from the effect a screen produces when it’s off, you know how it looks like a black mirror. This was revealed a little while ago and it caused the internet to shit its collective pants… Cool title sure, but I mean big deal. Doesn’t mean anything if it’s not very good.

Thankfully most of it is really good, and that very first episode right back at season one is a cracker. It involves a member of the royal family being kidnapped and the ransom goes out via social media demanding that the only way she will be returned alive is if the Prime Minister broadcasts himself fucking a pig. That synopsis probably doesn’t do it much justice but throughout the episode it explores the idea that social media is pretty much a Pandora’s box in that once the lid is taken off then not even the government, with all its power, can put it back on. It also explores the themes of public perception in that it’s all very funny until it all becomes quite graphically real and begs the question how much is too much.

But wait, there’s more!

There’s episodes about how reality is augmented for soldiers via implants in their brains to make them more efficient killing machines, people uploading their consciousness into a matrix style program before they die so that they can virtually live forever and one about how the bereaved can build an almost exact replica of their loved one (including their personality) based on every single piece of content they have uploaded to the internet as if they were never gone.

There is so much to get into with this show, every episode is a think piece and while some ideas may seem far fetched at first, the more you think about them the more you wonder if some of the scenarios in Black Mirror are that far off.

We’re already merging with technology so much in this day and age, you’re probably watching this on your phone right now, you might be a gamer and have played in VR and experienced immersion that brings. Your body is in the room with that shit, but your brain goes wherever the program takes you, it’s pretty intense.

It’s really hard to pinpoint a favourite episode, I really enjoyed season four episode one which was about a virtual reality game, where one developer was able to take someone’s dna from a coffee cup or hair brush or whatever and scan it into his computer to recreate a virtual version of that person, who just so happens to have their own consciousness and are basically living in this virtual hell, where they are used and abused by the operator. And that hell is this case is a a parody of the original Star Trek series. It’s brilliant.

Who’s in it?

Theres a few other people on board worth noting Rashida Jones co-wrote an episode called nosedive, all about a society governed by people’s social media rating. Jodie Foster directed an episode called ArkAngel which is basically about baby monitoring going to the extreme, where not only can you track your child’s every move but you can control what they see and filter out parts of the world you want to protect them from.

There’s some really good performances in there too. A couple that stand out are Andea Riseborough is an episode called Crocodile, Wyatt Russell in Test and Kelly MacDonald in Hated in the Nation.

There’s also some bigger names that pop up throughout like Domhnall Gleeson from Star Wars, Bryce Dallas Howard from Jurassic Park, Rupert Everett who has been in a hell of a lot of movies but maintains that he should have died to stay famous and heaps more. My favourite though is Madmen’s John Hamm in the Christmas special.

What’s the verdict?

Overall it’s immaculately presented, it’s got a nice British touch which grounds it and removes the Hollywood taint, and while it is a very, very dark show it is also some of the best science fiction drama I have seen in a long time. And the coolest thing is, while they are very much standalone episodes, there’s little Easter eggs from other stories scattered throughout implying that some episodes are part of the same universe. It makes you feel a bit special when you find them.

The weaker episodes are lifted up by the stronger ones and while you will definitely prefer some over others every single one is thought provoking and will keep that brain churning long after the credits roll.

Thank you Charlie Brooker! Black Mirror is a rock solid five out of five.


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