In honour of Black Mirror’s tenth anniversary, Redbrick’s writers and editors come together to talk about their favourite episodes of the groundbreaking TV show

Content Warning: mention of child porn

This article contains spoilers.

Shut Up and Dance – Colette Fountain

‘Shut Up and Dance’ is the epitome of everything I love about Black Mirror, capturing one of its most well-executed techniques: the twist ending. Its main character, Kenny, is played by the immensely talented Alex Lawther (who you might know from The End of the Fucking World), and the episode follows a young man whose laptop camera is hacked, leading to him being blackmailed to avoid explicit videos of himself being leaked.

Throughout the episode, the writers build sympathy for the character as we watch his emotional turmoil over the prospect of the video being leaked. He teams up with Hector (Jerome Flynn) as they are forced to commit various criminal activities. The growing pressure the pair are put under serves to generate further sympathy for a character we believe to be being unfairly blackmailed.

While upon rewatching it there are signs early on that everything may not be as it seems, it is not until the end of the episode, after Kenny has murdered someone, that we learn that Kenny was watching child porn; the audience has been duped into feeling sympathy for a despicable character, something that I feel is indicative of exceptional screenwriting.

Black Mirror frequently explores themes around the human experience, and self-preservation is an integral part of that

The performance of the actors, as well as this exploration of the extent we will go to in the fight for self-preservation is unbelievable. Black Mirror frequently explores themes around the human experience, and self-preservation is an integral part of that, making ‘Shut Up and Dance’ a great viewing experience for anyone.


White Christmas – Gwydion Elliott

What springs to mind with the words ‘Christmas Special?’ Snow? Tinsel? Bionic eyes and digital clones? ‘White Christmas’ has all this and more, and it’s easily one of my favourite episodes of the show, both for its disturbing story and brilliant performances.

Staying true to the Black Mirror formula, the episode introduces a couple of sci-fi technologies, and uses these to tell a story that is deeply human. The episode is concerned with two different ideas: digital clones, and bionic eyes which make ‘blocking’ someone a reality.

Does a digital copy of you have rights? Is it conscious? If we could ‘block’ people around us – their face and voice becoming static – how would that affect our relationships? With its extended runtime, ‘White Christmas’ tells a set of shocking and thought-provoking inter-connected stories around these technologies. We explore the inhumanity of these imagined technological futures, which, rather than ‘bringing us together,’ seem to tear us violently apart as relationships, families, and even basic morality are deeply malformed. As ever, it’s fantastic and horrifying to see Charlie Brooker’s vision of the future.

Rafe Spall’s performance as Joe is perfect for a character neck-deep in the moral grey area. Along with Matt’s (Jon Hamm) menacing presence and some subtle but ingenious set design and editing, the episode strikes an unsettling and foreboding tone which runs right until the plot’s surprise twist, which is freaky enough that you’ll be thinking about it for days.

‘White Christmas’ is classic Black Mirror at its best, and I highly recommend it.


Hang the DJ – Josie Scott-Taylor

Black Mirror is famous for its cynicism and bleak depictions of humanity, but ‘Hang the DJ’ stands out for its surprisingly heartwarming nature. The episode explores a world in which the fate of couples is decided for them by the ominously-named ‘System,’ in an elaborate and futuristic version of Tinder that determines a couple’s ‘expiry date’ from their very first meeting. 

The technology behind the episode is innovative and compelling, but what really makes ‘Hang the DJ’ so outstanding is the strength of the connection between Frank and Amy

Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell) meet at the beginning of the episode, and are told that their time together is going to be short but sweet, lasting just twelve hours. Their chemistry is electric right from the get-go, though, and they end up pining for each other after they are forced to go their separate ways. The System pairs them up again, much to the surprise of Frank and Amy, and the episode turns into a story about how love conquers all – the characters fit together like jigsaw pieces, and that is not something they’re willing to let go. The technology behind the episode is innovative and compelling, but what really makes ‘Hang the DJ’ so outstanding is the strength of the connection between Frank and Amy, and the lengths they are willing to go to to preserve that. ‘Hang the DJ’ is my favourite Black Mirror episode, and I cannot recommend it enough.


Be Right Back – Zara Abouharb

‘Be Right Back’ is a Black Mirror episode to watch if you want more than technology destroying society. It is an emotional episode that guarantees introspection and heart cracking as you watch the story unfold. It follows Martha (Hayley Atwell), through the grief of losing her boyfriend Ash (Domhnall Gleeson). Things take a very dark turn when Martha, after talking to her late lover through newly developed software, purchases a material reconstruction of him filled with any data about him that the software could locate online. This really breaks open the question of whether humanity is something we can fabricate or whether it is inherent. 

Gleeson’s incredible acting is captivating as he makes subtle changes between his enactments of Ash, and the AI version of Ash. His walk stiffens, the recognisably human gesticulation is gone, and there is an unsettling monotony to his voice. These understated changes suggest AI can’t quite capture the unpredictability of human motion. This tension culminates when AI Ash ‘increases’ his humanity when told to by Martha, which results in him appearing to express human emotion, but not of his own volition – altogether a hard moment to watch.

There are so many things I would like to mention, but in all honesty, I don’t think it would do this episode justice. Even though I wouldn’t say it was an easy watch (although with Black Mirror, what is?), it is an episode which grounds the series, depicting raw human emotion and the importance of human imperfections. 

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