“Black Mirror” offers horror-focused look at future of technology

Connor Burke November 3, 2016 0

In today’s reboot-filled entertainment world, it is surprising that one legendary show has not received a “dark and gritty” reboot: “The Twilight Zone.” With its individual stories and recognizable brand name, it would be a sure-fire hit with audiences.

Maybe it has not happened yet because CBS does not want to tarnish its former legacy, or maybe they are wary of its reception because of how the 1980s film reboot was received by audiences. But I think the main reason is because we already have the perfect modern-day “Twilight Zone,” and that’s Netflix’s “Black Mirror.”

“Black Mirror” is an anthology series (meaning every episode is different with little to no continuity) that mainly focuses on not-too-distant futures and alternate realities and their relationships with technology.

It began on BBC’s “Channel 4” and was exclusively a British show for its first two seasons, premiering on Netflix without much fanfare in the United States in 2014.

Then, last year it was announced that it would become a Netflix-only series, with a double length season (6 episodes instead of the usual 3) and guest directors/writers like “Parks and Recreation” writer Michael Schur and star Rashida Jones, “10 Cloverfield Lane” director Dan Trachtenberg, along with the usual writer/director of “Black Mirror” episodes, Charlie Booker.

The third season premiered with all episodes streaming on Oct. 21. These new episodes, along with the previous ones, are incredibly gripping, strong and make it one of the best shows on Netflix, along with becoming one of my favorite shows of all time.

Episodes of “Black Mirror”can be split into a few basic categories: “lighter” episodes, uncomfortable and cringe-worthy or full-on horror. Each category is full of endlessly entertaining episodes, with some huge highlights and very few duds.

The “lighter” category contains, unfortunately, the series’ worst episode, “The Waldo Moment,” which has a foulmouthed animated reality show teddy bear getting into politics. It may be the least scary or gripping episode, but given the current presidential election…it might have been on to something when it premiered in 2014.

Other lighter episodes include the great “Nosedive,” which has Bryce Dallas Howard living in a society where your amount of likes on a Facebook/Instagram-esque website determines someone’s quality of life, and my personal favorite episode of season three so far, “San Juneripo.”

Without giving too much away, “San Juneripo” follows the story of a woman named Yorkie who chases a woman she is in love with through time, and their trials and tribulations of how the two women hop decades. It’s a beautiful love story with some genuinely sweet twists and a happy ending (which is rare for the series) that almost made me tear up with joy.

Full-on horror episodes of “Black Mirror” usually hit hard and linger with you for a while. Season two’s “White Bear,” a story of a woman being tortured and haunted by something in her past, always generates a loud and passionate response from those who have watched the show, with some naming it as one of their favorite episodes of the entire series.

Season three continued the horror trend with the freaky “Men Against Fire,” with a war against mutated cockroaches, and the videogame-centric, personally terrifying “Playtest,” in which a man tests a new virtual reality horror videogame only to find that at some points the game gets too real…and even stops becoming a game.

“Playtest” goes at a pace that starts out slow and haunting, and then begins to speed through a huge series of twists and turns that made the entire room I was watching with scream and cheer at the same time.

Most episodes of the series fall into the “unsettling and cringe-worthy” category. From the very first episode, “The National Anthem,” which sees a British Prime Minister having to do unprintable things to a pig on live television in order to save a duchess, to a slower but still slightly uncomfortable season two episode “Be Right Back” (starring Domhnall Gleeson, which, if you read any of my reviews last year, is someone who I’m constantly proud of every time I see him in a high-profile production), to the genuinely unsettling and upsetting season three episode “Shut Up and Dance,” which sees advanced stalking and manipulation through webcams, text messages and even drones.

The best episode of the entire series, in my opinion, also fits into the unsettling category. It’s an episode known as “The Entire History of You.” Without giving away too much, it involves a not-too-distant future in which eyes can record everything that someone sees and hears with 100 percent accuracy.

It is usually used for fun and nostalgia, but when a couple (played by Toby Kebbell and Jodie Whittaker) begins to have intense arguments and question each others’ loyalty to the marriage, the recordings and memories begin to play a larger, more sinister part in their lives. It’s beautifully shot, acted very well, and had me on the edge of my seat the entire hour, it was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a completely perfect piece of television.

“Black Mirror” is one of the best television shows currently airing. Its anthology structure leads to episodes alternating from being happy and light, to dark and depressing, to scary, to oddly uncomfortable.

It is a journey that is sometimes perilous to take, but absolutely worth it. Even the weakest episodes are entertaining and gripping tales to warn about our futures and the technology that we depend on so much.


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