“Black Mirror” reflects social issues in a technological age


Black Mirror Season Three premiered on Netflix on Oct. 21 with six new episodes that run up to 90 minutes in length. Black Mirror is a British anthology series (like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents) created by Charlie Brooker. Each episode features a new set of characters and explores various angles of social interaction and mankind’s relationship to new technological advancements. The show originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK, but was then picked up by Netflix.

This new season has expanded their cast and crew to include some American talent but never loses that special British flavor. The second episode, Play Test, is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, who directed one of this year’s surprise hit, 10 Cloverfield Lane. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard plays the lead in the first episode, Nosedive, an episode set in a world where people’s place in society is determined by what rating out of five they get from each encounter with friends, family and strangers.

With this new season, some of the episodes feel more like mini-movies with their aspect ratio and blocking. The prime example of this is Hated in the Nation, an episode where basically whoever has the most death threats on social media gets killed.

What makes the show unique is how believable the concepts behind each episode feels. These stories could happen weeks or a couple of years from now. The sci-fi aspects of the show never reach the fantastical scales of Minority Report or Blade Runner. It seems more realistic and almost eerily commercial-like. It’s a series that makes you think about how technology both brings us together, yet sets us further apart. Many of the episodes feel like they could easily be a classic cautionary tale as told in such famous works as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

In episode two, “Playtest,” Cooper (Wyatt Russell) is about to test out a state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator.Netflix
In episode two, “Playtest,” Cooper (Wyatt Russell) is about to test out a state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator.

The hardest part about talking about this series is that there’s so much to talk about, yet you don’t want to spoil anything to those who haven’t watched the show yet. With that said, this season just might be the best one yet.  Even the weaker entries, Men Against Fire and Hated in the Nation, hold up strong in comparison to Season Two’s last couple of episodes.

The highlight of this season is episode four, San Junipero. Since most of the show explores a bleak tone with their narratives, it was nice to see something more upbeat in comparison. This episode follows Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), a shy girl wandering a party beach town in the ‘80s, where she is then befriended by a mysterious woman, Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and develops a relationship with her. Without giving too much away, this episode has a surprising amount of heart that takes a unique spin on the love story formula. Plus, this episode is sure to inspire many to create a Spotify playlist dedicated to the catchy retro pop songs featured, including a very effective use of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth that may cause a couple of tears to roll down your face.

Like every anthology series, some stories aren’t as compelling as others. Episode three, Shut Up and Dance, was the most forgettable entry of this season. This episode follows a teenager tasked with completing random odd jobs for a mysterious hacker who threatens to release an embarrassing video of him watching porn. It’s the most current social phenomenon the show has tackled, so-far. Yet, it feels more like one of those old after-school specials were a cartoon rabbit is about to pop out and tell the audience about how to make smarter choices. To add insult to injury, you don’t find yourself caring that much about the characters, since it’s obvious where they’re going to end up.

But to the show’s benefit, even the bad episodes don’t affect the season as a whole. The creative mind of Brooker and company has, so far, been able to remain strong in creating inventive narratives that will make viewers think twice about the social media apps that have become a part of their life. Hence why the biggest issue with Black Mirror, along with any good show, is that you have to wait a year for the next season.