Black Mirror was a show I started watching at the behest of a lady whose opinion I can’t help but trust. I’d never really heard anything about the show other than that it was “like The Twilight Zone for a new generation”…which, as a massive fan of The Twilight Zone, I have to tell you it’s not. It’s a series of non-episodic vignettes, but The Twilight Zone set out to be moral tales or interesting twists to weird sci-fi. Black Mirror is a reflection of how technology may is effecting society, culture and our relationships. It’s holding a mirror (pun intended) to our current state of affairs…a “black” mirror, because that’s essentially what computer or phone screen actually is.
It’s similar to The Twilight Zone in format, but almost nothing else. But that’s not a bad thing!
By the time the 3rd season began on Netflix, I was most of the way through Season 2 and hearing rave reviews of the upcoming episodes.The show’s creator and primary writer, Charlie Brooker had said that the theme and feel of the show will not change at all in the new season, even though it was making the switch from Britain’s Channel 4 to Netflix. But he was wrong. And anyone who has watched the episodes from the first two seasons would be able to see that.
Black Mirror winds up being interesting satire, an emotional rollercoaster, and at times a furious punch in the gut. The episodes that keep you up at night wind up being the most effective…not due to fear or paranoia, but almost inexplicable mental unease. Of these types of episodes, there are only several, but they’re big.
Going into the show, I was confused. The first episode is about the Prime Minister being forced to fuck a pig. I had no idea what I was watching or what I was in for…and that was perhaps the most exciting part. I had a vague idea of the popularity of the show; but what I wasn’t prepared for was how people were watching…and what episodes they enjoyed the most. The most common viewpoints were almost polar opposites of my own. And then I realized the issue: The Netflix series is slightly dialed in to an American audience; an audience the show never particularly showed any interest in coddling or cooperating with before. And there is no clearer example of this dramatic change than the American audience’s infatuation with the episode: San Junipero.
San Junipero was written by creator Charlie Brooker and directed by Owen Harris, and paired with the first and second episodes of Season 3 (The Netflix Season) are almost complete departures from the 7 episodes that precede it. It also feeds every desire Americans traditionally look for in visual media…catchy soundtrack, love story, and most out of character for the series…a happy ending. There are certainly more issues that make this episode fall flat, despite its notes of joy and sadness. But much like the very first Netflix Season episode, Nosedive, there are no stakes in what ends up being the endgame.
At the risk of spoiling any more, I’ll save my complete reviews for a future article.
Every episode in this series is a feature-length movie…either in running time…or in the range of discussion. Each of these stories could potentially be the subject of an entire sociology or psychology class curriculum. And I’d be surprised if they aren’t eventually (or currently) used as such. It’s difficult to go into detail about every episode without being ruining it. As I’ve said before, one of the most enjoyable things about the show is not knowing what to expect, not in trying to guess what possible “twist” is coming up. The show isn’t about “twists” as much as bloggers want to boil it down to the content of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
It’s about revelations, both within the show, and within yourself. And if the show doesn’t change the way you look at anything, it’s either not doing its job, or you’re watching it wrong.