We rank and review every episode of Season 3 of the cult British hit TV show Black Mirror, including the much-talked about San Junipero, now streaming on Netflix
The latest season of cult TV show Black Mirror dropped October 21 on Netflix, plunging us right back into the depressing not-so-far future world of show creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker. And this time round, we get to be even more lonely and terrified of our digital lives, thanks to six whole new episodes, which is exactly how many episodes season 1 and 2 had combined.
What sets Black Mirror apart from most dystopian works is just how plausible and real it all feels. Most episodes are set in the near future, and there are no alien invasions or such looming and threatening our way of life. In Black Mirror, our greatest enemies are ourselves, and our over-reliance on technology. More than anything, Black Mirror marries the human element and technology so deftly, that it feels like a commentary on both at the same time. This is what makes it so successful and elevates the show to the level of The Twilight Zone or The X-Files. Just take a look at the UI and the gizmos in various episodes – no work of fiction has imagined the near future so successfully as Charlie Brooker.
The effects of Netflix’s larger purse can be seen in Season 3. Black Mirror has gone on to become a highly-revered show since the last episode in Season 2 premiered on Channel 4 in early 2013 (if you discount the Christmas special), lauded by fans as varied as Robert Downey Jr. and horror writer Stephen King. Season 3 looks much sleeker as a whole, with great casting all around and writing talent as well, although Brooker still holds the reins and wrote much of the episodes.
Here’s how the episodes rank in our opinion. Since the show contains a full story in each episode, you can pick up and watch anyone at will, without worrying about continuity. That said, the best way to experience Black Mirror is to dive right in, without reading up anything on it beforehand. And that’s why you will find NO SPOILERS ahead.
6) Men Against Fire
For about 80% of its run time, Men Against Fire plays out like just another conventional zombie survival thriller, this time involving the military, and that makes it the weakest episode of the season, by far. Things rachet up and we are dropped into Brooker’s world view near the end, but it takes a long time to get there, and the ride may not be worth it for some.
While video gamers and virtual reality fans will find a lot to love about in Playtest, this episode may deliver little for others. It is indeed very scary at times, and there are a couple of interesting twists at the end, but Playtest doesn’t serve up the bone-chilling, crawling fear of fear that we’ve come to expect from this series. That said, Wyatt Russell’s acting is very, very good, and Black Mirror, while even below its own lofty standards, is head and shoulders above most things you see on TV, even in this golden age of television.
4) Hated in the Nation
This episode’s prime conceit may be a little far-fetched, but Hated in the Nation tackles a lot of fears we face today with technology. The paranoia over privacy and government surveillance makes it a timely episode, and there are some excellent performances from Kelly Macdonald and the rest of the cast.
Nosedive, like the name says, is a terrifying dive into our obsession with social media and our need to be validated by friends and strangers alike online. It is the most relatable episode in this series, and boasts some great acting from Bryce Dallas Howard, as well as the writing talent of Rashida Jones. Even if you stay away from social media and online communities, Nosedive’s pastel-coloured hues and beautiful world is a joy to behold. When it is not terrifying, that is. If you watch the cult comedy show Community, you will find similarities to the “meowmeowbeanz” episode here.
2) Shut Up and Dance
It can be argued that Shut Up and Dance plays more like a techno-thriller (now where have we heard that before?), but my god, what a brilliant rush of a techno-thriller it is. Brooker hits the ground running with this story about average citizens being held captive by a malicious hacker who directs them to do things according to their bidding. The possibility that this could happen to any one of us right here, right now is what makes this terrifying episode about mistakes and causality so engrossing.
1) San Junipero
This is the Black Mirror episode that doesn’t look like a Black Mirror episode the most. Bleak, beautiful and heartbreaking, San Junipero tells a love story that will stay with you long after the credits have ended. It is also optimistic and hopeful, which makes it kind of a rarity in Charlie Brooker’s universe. With masterful performances from Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, San Junipero is not just the stand-out episode of Season 3, but one of Black Mirror’s very best, right up there with The Entire History of You and Be Right Back.