As a huge fan of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series Black Mirror – and being the only member of Film Night to have watched the original Channel 4 when first released – I was fascinated when I heard Netflix would be commissioning a third season.
For this reason, I decided not to binge watch season 3 of Black Mirror.
I wanted to take my time, wait for the storm to die down, and give each episode my complete focus without any outside influences or distractions.
However, by the time I’d finished this season, I was left with a rather sour taste in my mouth. Below, I rank each episode from worst to best.
Do you agree with my opinions?
WARNING – SPOILERS WILL BE DISCUSSED
6. Hated in the Nation
Comfortably the worst episode of Black Mirror I have ever seen.
Actually, it was some of the worst television I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen my fair share of dross over the years.
The two unsubtle messages that are shoved down viewers throats (maybe this explains the sour taste) are ‘social media is bad’ and ‘look after the environment’.
At first, two mysterious deaths of celebrities are linked to a social media hashtag.
Whoever gets mentioned the most in this hashtag dies – so far, so simple.
However, matters become barbaric when we find out these deaths are caused by synthetic bees (yes, SYNTHETIC BEES! Designed to help solve the world’s shortage of the insects) who have been weaponised by a hacker who’s actual motive is not to kill the people mentioned in the hashtag, but actually the people who use the hashtag itself, resulting in thousands of deaths.
This episode lacked everything that I love about Black Mirror – its messages were as subtle as Godzilla on cocaine, it had truly shocking acting from Faye Marsay and Jonas Karlsson, with Kelly Macdonald putting in a career-worst performance, while the script was completely laughable.
To back up my point, here’s two of my favourite lines from this episode:
“Yes, the government’s a cunt, we get it.”
“Let’s just shut down the internet and social media – put a North Korea on it.”
Not even an appearance from Film Night favourite Benedict Wong could save this episode from being an utter disaster.
To make matters worse, it was a 90 minute behemoth and left me feeling very unsatisfied with its critique of Twitter trolls and environmental issues.
Whilst this was the most aesthetically pleasing episode of the series, it was ultimately a very weak beginning to the season and had me very apprehensive about what the other five episodes would behold.
It focuses on Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) who lives in a society where everyone has a social media ‘score’.
Lacie is desperate to obtain a higher personal rating in an effort to become more popular.
Now, as our very own Richie Withers has rightly pointed out in numerous of our episodes, this idea was originally done in Community with apt satire.
And having watched the episode myself, the similarities between the app in Nosedive and App Development and Condiments are too close for comfort – the rating system itself, and even the way the MeowMeowBeenz appear on the screen in Community are almost uncanny.
For me, Nosedive’s message of ‘social media is bad’ was – like Hated in the Nation – completely unsubtle.
Apart from the impressive look of this episode, the only other positive was the inclusion of two fine English actors in minor roles – James Norton and Michaela Coel – who deployed perfectly passable American accents.
The appearance of Alan Ritchson also took me by surprise.
I only know Ritchson from his role of Thad Castle in Blue Mountain State, and due to his hilarious performance throughout the aforementioned show, I couldn’t help but smirk everytime Ritchson came on camera in Nosedive.
Party at the goathouse, brobeans!
4. Men Against Fire
Another episode, another unsubtle message.
Men Against Fire had very anti-government and anti-war motives which became jarring after a while.
It focuses on Stripe (Malachi Kirby), a soldier trained to kill ‘roaches’ – humans that have contracted a disease which turns them into flesh-eating monsters.
Stripe and his comrades are fitted with implants which allow them to view virtual 3D maps and lock onto enemy targets through their vision.
These technology aspects look very cool, and when Stripe’s interface begins to malfunction, we find out that maybe the government aren’t telling us the truth about the real identities of roaches.
The ending is rather predictable, and although it was the first time I’ve seen Michael Kelly outside of House of Cards and Madeline Brewer since her untimely passing in Orange is the New Black, the agendas it sets on the military and its dehuminsation of its enemies become quite tiring.
3. Shut Up and Dance
I felt liked I’d seen this idea numerous times before.
That isn’t to say the episode had no originality, it just didn’t stand out for me.
Shut up and Dance felt like a more grittier version of Nerve, and Cyberbully on location.
It focuses on Kenny (Alex Lawther) an introverted teenager who gets blackmailed by online unknowns that force him into performing specific tasks.
It was refreshing to find an episode of season 3 which had no specific agenda attached to it – and watching Kenny and Hector (Jerome Flynn) was tense and exciting.
The episode’s ending is by far its greatest aspect – the twist with our young protagonist not being as innocent as we were led to believe.
However, I just felt it lacked that cutting edge, that spark of originality that Black Mirror is known for.
For me, this was classic Black Mirror.
Playtest stars Cooper (Wyatt Russell), a traveller short on cash who signs up to test a new revolutionary horror gaming system on the recommendation of this partner Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen).
The game is based on augmented reality (AR) that draws on Cooper’s fears and memories.
Cooper is taken to an old house where the sights and scares are all virtual, but feel and look so real.
I loved how you never knew when this episode was going to end.
The twists and turns it threw up along the way kept me very tense and uneasy.
A very clever idea neatly executed.
1. San Junipero
Season 3’s saving grace.
San Junipero was an absolute no-brainer to be my number one pick.
From start to finish, this episode was incredible.
Set in 1987, we meet shy-square Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) who falls in love with Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) when the two meet at a disco.
Just from an aesthetic point of view, San Junipero looked stunning with its 80’s clothing and music, plus the idyllic seaside town setting adding real value.
As the episode goes on, we find out our two protagonists are actually near-death elderly women, and San Junipero is a virtual reality simulation.
Those who have died have their consciousness stored in a system, making San Junipero an afterlife of sorts.
Interestingly, it is the only episode of Black Mirror that has a happy ending, but even then, I was left thinking just how ‘happy’ our two leads actually are – and whether Kelly was actually passed over to seaside utopia.
You don’t have to search around too long to find articles and various different theories about the ending of San Junipero, which are very interesting and thought-provoking.
Anyway, without getting bogged down in conspiracy theory, this episode was the pièce de résistance of season 3, with best-of-season performances coming from Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
What next for Black Mirror?
Overall, I was very disappointed with season 3 after so much anticipation.
This season was originally commissioned as 12 episodes, but then divided into two series of six, which makes me very skeptical for season 4.
Aside from San Junipero, none of the other episodes will stay with me in a similar way to which The Entire History of You, Fifteen Million Merits and White Christmas from the original batch have done so over the years.
The only way is up, I suppose.
So, did you agree with my order? We’d love to hear from you, so please get in-touch with us on Twitter @filmnight_ with your thoughts!