If you haven’t watched Black Mirror yet, chances are you’ve heard friends (i.e. me) chattering on about why the show is worth watching. However, I’ve found it difficult to convince people to watch a show that’s notorious for a (startlingly predictive) storyline that includes compelling the UK prime minister to have sex with a pig on live TV.
Nevertheless, it is worth watching. So to avoid rambling on and on about it, I’ve finally written down my advice for newcomers taking the first step into the world of Black Mirror.
First things first. Black Mirror is an anthology series, originally produced by Channel 4 (seasons 1 and 2) and then picked up by Netflix, is basically a modernized version of The Twilight Show, but with futuristic technology built into each story.
There are four seasons live on Netflix, a total of 19 episodes, each one of them clocking in at about an hour on average. Now, each episode fits largely into one of three categories*:
- Thinkers: Makes you question your search history, your data trail, and whether or not you trust the technology in your home
- Emotional: Makes you rethink your decisions, your relationships, and the last time you called your parents
- WTF: Makes you text the friend who recommended you watch Black Mirror saying “What the f*ck is wrong with you?”
That in mind, as we have to start somewhere, below are my five “first watch” episode recommendations for people interested in watching Black Mirror.
NOTE: Do yourself a favor, and do not Google these episodes before you watch them. No one likes a spoiler. You were warned.
EMOTIONAL: S1E3 (“The Entire History of You”)
Imagine if Google Glass was still a thing, but instead of glasses, it was a chip inserted into the back of your head that records your life. Pro? No more arguments about who really ate your leftovers from the fridge. Con? No more excuses to forget anniversaries, birthdays, or that one thing you said that one time.
THINKER: S3E1 (“Nosedive”)
Can you imagine a world where people would give anything for a higher social media score, more followers, or more likes? Can you imagine if your ranking was not only tied to your social status, but to your job performance and discounts on your rent? Nothing could possibly go wrong…right?
EMOTIONAL: S3E4 (“San Junipero”)
Two women meet for the first time at a beach resort town and form a powerful connection — but nothing is exactly as it seems. “San Junipero” received immediate critical acclaim, won two Emmy awards, and is routinely referred to as “one of the best episodes of TV, ever”.
THINKER: S3E6 (“Hated in the Nation”)
The procedural police drama centers around a series of mysterious deaths that seem linked to no one and everyone at the same time. This episode is smart, thought-provoking, and features a rather realistic (i.e. not too far off) use of futuristic technology. It’s also a full 90 minutes long. Buckle in.
THINKER: S2E4 (“White Christmas”)
This episode was a Christmas special that aired over one year after season 2 premiered. Two men are living stranded together in a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere and, after years of silence, the two start to exchange stories from their past. This episode contains Easter eggs from earlier episodes, so while they don’t impact the plot, it’s worth a re-watch once you make it through all of the first and second seasons.
*Yes, I know there are crossovers between the categories. I debated on cross-labeling some episodes, but, then again, isn’t the whole point of this article to keep it simple?
ps. If you a) have seen all of the Black Mirror episodes and want to discuss or challenge my recommendations/categorizations or b) have followed my suggestions, and are now looking for which episodes to watch next, here’s my breakdown of episodes by category — with my personal favorite episodes in bold.
- Thinkers: S1E2 (“Fifteen Million Merits”); S2E3 (“The Waldo Moment”); S2E4 (“White Christmas”); S3E1 (“Nosedive”); S3E5 (“Men Against Fire”); S3E6 (“Hated in the Nation”); S4E1 (“USS Callister”); S4E2 (“Arkangel”); S4E6 (“Black Museum”)
- Emotional: S1E3 (“The Entire History of You”); S2E1 (“Be Right Back”); S3E4 (“San Junipero”); S4E4 (“Hang the DJ")
- WTF: S1E1 (“The National Anthem”); S2E2 (“White Bear”); S3E2 (“Playtest”); S3E3 (“Shut Up and Dance”); S4E3 (“Crocodile”); S4E5 (“Metalhead”)