TV Critic Sophie Woodley counts down her Top 5 gripping episodes from Black Mirror

Final Year English Literature Student ~ News Editor ~
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Do you know why Black Mirror is called Black Mirror? It is said that when our screens turn black at the moment of suspense, before the episode begins, we are left staring into our own reflection. This is exactly how we can surmise Black Mirror; self-reflective and thought-provoking. Amongst the wide ranging episodes across all four series, here are a few of my favourites (which, believe me, was difficult to narrow down).

5. Crocodile

At fifth place is ‘Crocodile’. This is the third episode of the newly released season 4. Although this episode has received a lot of dissatisfaction, one of the main reasons why it appeals to me is the way the plot comes together. The plot has two aspects to it – on one hand, the main character Mia, tries her best to forget her darkest secret from many years before, involving a murder. On the other hand, viewers follow the life of an investigator who is testing a new system which harvests people’s memories, and is used in crime investigations. As expected, Mia’s ability to cope with her regrettable actions from the past, crumbles. The shocking and quite frankly jaw-dropping turn of events which this leads to, is what makes ‘Crocodile’ so gripping. The eventual connection which is made between both plots also adds to the greatness of this episode. Ultimately, the techno-paranoia which defines Black Mirror, comes to light in ‘Crocodile’, as Mia’s fate is determined by the memory based scientific system. The suspenseful yet slightly disturbing element to this episode is what makes it a personal favourite.

4. Playtest

Season 3, episode 2, is the episode of plot twists. If I’m honest, most Black Mirror episodes leave me stunned and shocked. This is something you can assure. However, ‘Playtest’ has to be one of the top episodes which did this for me. The episode entails a traveller accepting a one-time job offer for a video gaming company SaitoGemu. It is known for its horror games, and newly acclaimed scientific technologies. Of course, as soon as we see Cooper accept the job offer, we anticipate trouble on the horizon. As the episode progresses, we learn about Cooper’s long distance and out-of-touch relationship with his mother, which becomes a crucial part of the episode’s ending. Cooper takes part in a number of relatively easy going, holographic video games. The game is taken to another level when Cooper is transported to a mansion, where he faces his greatest fears from gigantic spiders to losing his memory. The twist in the episode lies in the question as to whether Cooper is still in the game, or reality; both distinctions are blurred throughout the episode, confusing viewers to the extent where the end reveal leaves a mark in its shocking and truly mind blowing essence.

3. Hated in the Nation

This is Black Mirror’s longest episode, and revolves around a number of murder mysteries. For those of you who like crime drama, this episode is for you. After a number of victims are targeted on social media platforms, which lead to their death, it is uncovered that these deaths have derived instead from Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs). These devices are mechanical replacements for bees, which in this futuristic setting, have gone extinct. Personally, it is the underlying moral messages which make this episode one of my favourites. Not only does it criticise our society’s obsession with social media platforms, such as twitter (this being the main platform in the episode, as people use the ‘#DeathTo’ hashtag as a means of targeting and killing people), the episode also comments on surveillance and the extent to which the government invade our private lives. After all, the bees turn out to be a mechanism the government use to spy on their citizens. ‘Hated in the Nation’ is the epitome of a Black Mirror episode, adopting a futuristic, societal critique and merely nail-biting approach to its storyline.

2. White Bear

As someone who isn’t a fan of horror films, ‘White Bear’ certainly stands out as the most ‘hide yourself behind the pillow’ episode. However, like ‘Playtest’, ‘White Bear’ has one of the biggest plot twists, which I’m a sucker for. The synopsis Netflix provides is, “Victoria wakes up and cannot remember anything about her life. Everyone she encounters refuses to communicate with her”. But this just scratches the surface. We are left baffled as to what path the plot will take, when we learn that people in the bleak, barren neighbourhood are filming her every move. This is another uncomfortably relevant comment on our society’s obsession and indulgence with technology in the 21st Century. As the episode progresses, Victoria finds herself with another supposed victim, with whom she plots to stop the “White Bear Transmitter”, and escape. Yet, knowing Black Mirror, things do not end so smoothly, and as the plot twist is revealed and the curtains are dropped (quite literally), you are left on the edge of your seat questioning the whole episode from start to finish.

1. San Junipero

Finally, we arrive at number one. My top-pick Black Mirror episode is the widely renowned ‘San Junipero’ (which for a fact, is also McFly member Tom Fletcher’s favourite). ‘San Junipero’ is episode 4 in season 3, and portrays “a powerful bond that seems to defy the laws of space and time”, between its central characters Yorkie and Kelly. Positive portrayals of homosexual relationships, or in fact any at all, are rare to find in TV. Therefore ‘San Junipero’ is a breath of fresh air, as it portrays the most loving, heart warming relationship between two young women. Both find themselves ensconced in the wondrous, stimulated reality world that is ‘San Junipero’. The episode starts off with Yorkie – a timid, shy, and new girl to the town, who is very quickly welcomed with open arms into the care-free society that is ‘San Junipero’. This is all made possible by the out-going, confident and charming, Kelly. Their contrast in personalities is what makes this love story so charming, and is what renders them one of the best fictional couples out there. ‘San Junipero’ essentially provides elderly people, who are coming to the end of their life, the chance for a new life in another reality – it is somewhat a representation of the afterlife/heaven. This is arguably the most light-hearted, easy going Black Mirror episode out there, thus understandably winning two PrimeTime Emmy Awards. As the episode closes with Belinda Carlisle’s feel-good ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’, we are left teary, heart-warmed, and desirous of such a freelance and accepting place that is ‘San Junipero’.