The Netflix Black Mirror TV series is, no doubt, one of the best anthology shows ever. Each episode written by Charlie Brooker is a standalone treatment of people in messed-up scenarios involving future technology. It’s basically the Twilight Zone of the new age.
In total, there are 13 episodes of Netflix Black Mirror TV series spread throughout three seasons (and one Christmas special). It’s hard to pick the best Charlie Brooker creation, since each episode has a special something that can’t be found in the other episodes. However, after going through the whole series twice, I was able to pinpoint the five best Black Mirror episodes.
Watching Black Mirror will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. I suggest you buckle up for the ride.
On the surface, Playtest is a haunted house genre flick. However, since this is Netflix Black Mirror TV series we are talking about, Playtest subverts the tropes of this genre completely, turning the episode into a unique mishmash of horror, virtual reality, and family drama.
The 5th best Black Mirror episode centers on Wyatt Russell, a young, enthusiastic free spirit. After losing his credit card in London and willing to hustle for money, he takes up a job offer at a renowned video game company, Saito Gemu. It turns out that the job requires Wyatt to test out a new virtual reality game which probes his brain to exploit his fears. Needless to say, this does not turn out well for Wyatt in the end.
The main keywords of Playtest are horror, video games, and family drama. The episode is able to intertwine these three concepts in a remarkable fashion. Among all the Black Mirror episodes, Playtest is the only one which attempts straight-up, jump-scare horror. It’s certainly an awesome close-the-blinds, get-your-popcorn kind of episode. Definitely don’t miss this episode.
4. The Entire History of You
The Entire History of You is a relationship drama with a technology twist. The show introduces the grain, a device implanted behind the ear which allows the wearer to record everything that he hears and sees. The grain allows playback of these memories at any moment. Sounds convenient, right? This episode deals with the consequences on relationships and trust that the grain brings with it
The 4th best Black Mirror episode’s lead is a lawyer named Liam Foxwell. Liam just got back from a work appraisal and has to rush to get to a dinner party hosted by a friend and attended by his wife Ffion. Upon arriving at the party, Liam notices that Ffion changes her mood when she catches sight of him. Interestingly, Ffion was talking to a guy, Jonas, before seeing Liam. Liam immediately becomes suspicious.
The episode’s keywords are trust, memory, and past. If you were given the choice to wear a grain, would you take it? It’s a debate worth considering, since it doesn’t seem very far in the future when this technology becomes available.
Unlike the majority of Netflix Black Mirror TV series episodes, The Entire History of You is very low-key. The sphere of influence involved in the episode is very small – just Liam and Ffion and Jonas. However, it is one of the more concerning episodes since what happened to the characters in the story can surely happen to anyone, if given access to the grain technology.
3. White Christmas
White Christmas is the Christmas special of the series. Unlike the other episodes in the series, White Christmas is an anthology episode. So, you can say that White Christmas is an anthology in an anthology. Lovely.
The third best Black Mirror episode is divided into three different arcs, wherein each arc is quite separate story-wise from the others. However, a common thread among these three arcs is the two leads, Matt Trent and Joe Potter. The two are stationed together in a remote outpost in the middle of a snowstorm. They don’t talk much, so Matt suggest that they have a little chat, which open the episode to the three story arcs.
Story arcs I and II revolve around Matt – his previous jobs and the reason why he is at the outpost at the moment. Story arc III shifts the focus to Joe – his relationship with his girlfriend and their eventual falling-out.
The keywords for White Christmas are humanity, regret, and punishment. White Christmas will probably question your own ethics about humanity and artificial intelligence. We will probably reach the time frame, technology-wise, of White Christmas one day, so we better be prepared for it.
White Christmas is quite longer than the typical Netflix Black Mirror TV series episode, since it tries to include three stories at once. However, these three stories meld together well to form one coherent story.
2. San Junipero
In a sea of negativity which is Black Mirror, it is refreshing to see a happy love story shine. San Junipero is an amazing look at how technology could eventually grant us a second chance at life. One unique thing about San Junipero is that it is actually set in the past, 1987 – a confusing thing since Black Mirror is all about future technology.
San Junipero focuses on two leads – Yorkie and Kelly – in the party town of San Junipero. Yorkie is a visitor to the town, whereas Kelly is a resident. Yorkie is an introvert; Kelly is the life of the party. Basically, Yorkie and Kelly are yin and yang. However, an attraction between the two develops almost instantly. The whole movie builds up the relationship between the two, and at the same time dwells deeper into the nature of the town of San Junipero.
The keywords for San Junipero are love, second chance, and afterlife. San Junipero’s uniqueness lies in its optimism. I could almost say that it doesn’t fit in with the other episodes in the series because of this. However, this does not discredit San Junipero at all. It is a mature, introspective look at life and the afterlife.
Watch San Junipero if you want to take a break from all the negativity of the other episodes. Let Yorkie and Kelly take you back to 1987. In the second best Black Mirror episode, heaven truly is a place on earth.
1. White Bear
The reason why White Bear is on top of this list is because of its twist. And, oh boy, what a twist it is. White Bear can be categorized as a chase film – the problem is, you don’t actually know who is chasing the lead and why she is being chased. Interestingly, you don’t really know much about the lead as well, until the final 10 minutes or so.
Victoria Skillane wakes up in a house with signs of amnesia. Looking around, she sees a mob of people outside recording her on their cameras. Eventually, a masked man approaches her, but tries to kill her with his shotgun. The people recording her do not react; a panicked Victoria runs away. We, viewers, are left on the edge of our seats.
The keywords I can associate with White Bear are chase, twist, and punishment. For almost the whole duration of the episode, the viewers’ empathy is with Victoria Skillane, but is this justified, with the little to no information that we have?
Why is she being chased? Why are the people recording her? Saying anything more would spoil the episode. Let me just end this by saying that you should pace yourself before watching the best Black Mirror episode and Charlie Brooker’s finest since it is one of the more disturbing episodes of the show.
What do you think are the best Black Mirror episodes?
For a more objective treatment of the show, check out my other article, wherein I rank the episodes based on negativity using sentiment analysis.