A Running List of Ranked Black Mirror Episodes

Now with some notes, while avoiding plot details.

  1. Fifteen Million Merits — Daniel Kaluuya gives the best performance of the series and the gut-punch ending is the gut-punchiest there is, largely because of the performance (and also because it’s early enough in the series run that you’re not yet expecting the gut punch).
  2. Be Right Back — think about how much you care about Domnhall Gleeson by the end and how remarkable it is that you do. He and Hayley Atwell are tied for third-best performance of the series.
  3. The Entire History of You — this is the reason there’s a narrative about this show being about the downsides of technology. That’s far too limiting an idea of what the show is about, I think, but it feels like a testament to how powerfully this episode sticks with us.
  4. San Junipero — I think Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw give the second-best performance of the series: think about how believable the core relationship is despite how quickly it happens, both on screen and in narrative time. It’s not higher for me because you see the show hiding the ball a little bit in the early going; it’s this high because you stop caring pretty quickly and get sucked into the core story.
  5. White Christmas — I like the narrative structure, and Jon Hamm was superbly Jon Hamm.
  6. Black Museum—The anthology of anthologies structure worked for me, and the ending was satisfying, for once.
  7. The National Anthem — benefits from episode order, I think, in that if this were sixth in line, it might not feel daring enough, but it sticks with you because you’ve not really seen anything like it on TV when you first watch it. Rory Kinnear is great, and I want to shout out the cinematography and production design for helping shape the atmosphere and mood as well as they do — it’s not flashy like the future-based episodes, but it’s effective.
  8. USS Callister — Like the next one, a pretty good short feature film, essentially, masquerading as an episode of television. I didn’t get much out of the Star Trek stuff, commentaries on fandom and so forth, but I liked the look at toxic masculinity. I hope the show’s perspective is not that the ending is an unmitigated triumph — let’s not forget that no actual human beings (depending, as one character says, on your view of the nature of sentience) were harmed by the (actually human) bad guy. If he takes all his frustrations out on genuinely fake people online, does he deserve the fate he got? If I thought Charlie Brooker was just like “YEP THAT’S WHAT HE DESERVES” I’d drop this a bunch of slots.
  9. Hated in the Nation— not a bad short-ish feature film as a near-future sci-fi thriller/procedural. The ending was a little … but it was better than the ending I thought they were building to. I ❤ Kelly Macdonald.
  10. Nosedive — this is the other episode from the third season that I think was good, even if it’s more “fine” than “good.” The writers (Michael Schur and Rashida Jones!) didn’t have a lot of surprises up their sleeve, though, so a lot rode on what Bryce Dallas Howard would bring to the table with a pretty predictable arc: and it turned out quite a bit! Also Cherry Jones raises the thing a third of a grade.
  11. Hang the DJ — The ending left me cold. Chop that off and I enjoyed the sweet central story. Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole were great together.
  12. Playtest — I moved this up from last because on reflection, it’s actually pretty good moment to moment; I found it pretty scary even while its character was savvy to how scary the environment was intentionally being, and all that without wink-wink nudge-nudge. The problem is that I was actually angry at how bad the ending was, and how little the episode had to say.
  13. Metalhead— I thought the ending was wildly predictable, but I was pretty compelled in the moment. I don’t know why I should care about anything that happened, though, or what point was made.
  14. Crocodile — I’m not sure I cared at all what would happen, especially since it was entirely clear what was going to happen? The Twilight Zone moment at the end, the little line of dialogue in the bedroom, was ultra dumb. Andrea Riseborough was good, though, and so was Kiran Sonia Sawar.
  15. Arkangel — you’ll never guess what the answer to “is tech-aided helicopter parenting good?” is. I liked the performances, though.
  16. Men Against Fire — predictable. Only this high because of Michael Kelly’s performance as Arquette.
  17. White Bear — not predictable, to me anyway, but needlessly cruel and, to my mind, nowhere near plausible enough to make up for that cruelty.
  18. Shut Up and Dance — and here we have predictable and cruel. Kenny is also a one-note character, so the thing that was supposed to punch me in the gut at the end didn’t; I had some pity for him but not near enough to ever actually care what happened to him. Useful to compare the success of Be Right Back at encouraging investment in the characters.
  19. The Waldo Moment — just dumb and profoundly unprofound. “The agency” guy is maybe the dumbest single element in the series.
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