We had a fair old debate about whether or not to jump on this bandwagon. After all, while Black Mirror has its darkly comic moments, it’s a world away from the sort of thing we’d usually talk about.
Then we remembered. This is our blog. We make the rules and we can do whatever we want. In this case, what we want is to see where the newest batch of episodes sits alongside the older ones by making a list of our overall favourites.
In the end though, the list is far from unanimous. For example, the omission of The Waldo Moment is either obviously correct, or cause to reevaluate an entire friendship, depending on which armchair you occupy at Cup of Beans Towers.
In fact, you could even say that this list only represents the views of one person. Because it does. It’s got spoilers too, obviously. Let’s go.
7. The National Anthem
“At 4pm this afternoon, Prime Minister Michael Callow must appear on live British television, on all networks, terrestrial and satellite, and have full, unsimulated sexual intercourse with a pig.”
Four minutes into its first episode, Black Mirror makes it pretty clear just how weird and disturbing you can expect it to be.
The absurdity of this bestial twist allows room for some extremely dark comedy, most notably as the Prime Minister walks towards his porcine fate to the sound of sex tips from The Cabinet.
I’ve always found the episodes set in the real world to be the most creepy. Perhaps because they feel closest to reality. In this case, the subsequent ‘Pig-gate’ scandal probably didn’t help.
6. Hang The DJ
Call it San Junipero-lite if you want. I don’t care. After the ceaselessly bleak Crocodile, Hang The DJ was a welcome ray of sunshine in Series Four.
It works largely thanks to the charm of its lead performers, Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole.
The fan-decreed ‘rules’ of Black Mirror dictate that they shouldn’t end up together, but it’s one of the cool things about this show that a happy ending can be considered a surprising twist.
The middle third of Hang The DJ, where both our heroes must endure a series of dates that drag on for months at a time, amusingly captures the soul-eroding experience that online dating can occasionally be.
Let’s also not forget that the title refers to a Smiths song, which despite Morrissey’s best efforts is still allowed to be cool.
5. Hated In The Nation
If you’ve ever read Jon Ronson’s excellent So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (and if you haven’t, you should), you’ll know how quickly a Twitter pile-on can get out of control.
As it does so often, Black Mirror takes an unsavoury concept and ramps things up a few notches. Sadly for the poor saps in Hated In The Nation, you can’t really mute a murderous metal bee.
Charlie Brooker’s earlier work on A Touch of Cloth proved he knew how to structure a detective show, but that was a parody of the genre and I never really warmed to it. Fortunately for me, Hated In The Nation was much more strait-laced.
Cramming in so many ticking clock scenarios makes this a tense, thrilling episode and, with an eventual death count that reaches six figures, it doesn’t muck about with the ending either.
4. USS Callister
While the idea of being trapped in a weirdly vengeful computer simulation is scary enough in itself, it’s Jesse Plemons’ creepy antagonist Robert Daly who is the real terror here. He’s a very interesting villain and the two worlds allow us to see both sides of his personality.
There’s plenty of humour in the succession of sci-fi tropes and the fact that no one seems to agree on whether the ending is actually happy or not leaves plenty of room for discussion.
USS Callister is just a very cool-looking episode, with cameos from the likes of Aaron Paul and Kirsten Dunst adding a touch of showbiz sparkle too.
3. Shut Up And Dance
The second-best twist in the Black Mirror canon. All episode we’re rooting for our boy Kenny, sympathising with his plight as he toils through a succession of grim trials with careless philanderer Hector (hey, it’s Bronn from Game of Thrones!).
Then, right at the end, we’re hit with the classic ‘nah, he’s actually a paedo’ switcheroo. Just when you think Black Mirror has thrown everything at you. Damn.
The trollfaces that close out the episode are as much for us as they are for the broken, guilt-ridden characters.
2. San Junipero
In the context of Black Mirror, San Junipero is inexplicably happy. It lacks the shock and depravity present elsewhere in the series, so why is it so popular?
Well, it’s because Charlie Brooker could easily have given us a stream of unremitting bile and misery. What he did instead was elevate a very good series to a great one, with an episode that could easily have been a standalone film in its own right.
While there’s a morality tale in many Black Mirror episodes, this one leaves you thinking about life and death. Which, y’know, is pretty deep.
1. White Bear
Yep. As far as I’m concerned, White Bear remains peak Black Mirror. Of course, it’s all about that ending, so it’s remarkable to note that this wasn’t in the original script. It’s stunning both in the sense of being brilliant and pinning you to your armchair in shock.
99% of the episode is spent slowly building sympathy for the main character, before the rug is pulled violently from under us in the closing moments. I’d never seen anything like it. It’s still not been bettered.
Why are we wrong?
Come on, we know you think we are. We’d love to hear what would be on your list, and why ours is a load of old shit.