All Of The Black Mirror Episodes Ranked From Worst to Best

Season 4 of Black Mirror hit Netflix this past Friday, so I viewed it as good a time as any to rank the episodes. The rankings will include episodes from season 4, so skip over those descriptions if you wish to avoid spoilers. For those of you that do not know, Black Mirror is an anthology series revolving around technology. The series is highly dystopic, with many episodes ending quite depressingly. And as you’ll discover in a moment, I love the series.

19. Metalhead

As the penultimate episode of season 4, Metalhead marks the series’ first foray into black and white. Sadly, Metalhead serves as the only episode of Black Mirror in which I don’t consider a good episode. It’s an episode I’d suggest anyone could skip over and lose absolutely nothing. Metalhead doesn’t provide the moral complexity of any other episode of the series and instead, it simply serves as a sci-fi chase film.

While some may enjoy the episode for its relatively short 44min runtime and potentially tense atmosphere, there’s nothing under the surface. Nearly every other episode of the show has a degree of rewatchability, yet I can’t see myself revisiting Metalhead anytime soon. The episode also has some of the worst cinematography of the series, most notably in its car chase sequence. The sub-par CGI for the dog was also surprising considering how good the creatures looked in the season 4 premiere episode, U.S.S. Callister.

18. Men Against Fire

While I love the core idea of creating subservient soldiers, the execution of Men Against Fire brings the episode toward the bottom of my list. Like Metalhead, Men Against Fire is the penultimate episode of its season (season 3), making me question if the creators knowingly put the worst episode of the season second to last. This way, viewers have already seen the majority of the season and would likely continue to the last episode even if they disliked this one.

Conspiracy theories out of the way, Men Against Fire fails to hit as hard as the other episodes of Black Mirror. Perhaps due to a lack of sufficient explanation as to why the normal citizens would still hate the Roaches if they saw them for what they were, human. While I enjoyed the dark parallels to the Nazi regime, the episode failed to completely connect. There were also some more poor instances of shaky cam in the action scene where Stripe kills his second Roach. I found it hard to tell what was happening as he tackled the Roach to the ground and eventually stabbed it. In a series where the filming and execution are typically outstanding, these minor issues become more glaring.

17. Nosedive

Nosedive is just one of those episodes I had a tough time getting through, mainly because of how cringy the world is. While done on purpose, the characters are so over the top they’re hard to watch. The grounding provided by the brother is too few and far between, so instead we’re left with overly perky Lacie. Nosedive becomes one of the episodes where I wonder how the technology became so mainstream in the first place, making the entire thing harder to digest. The episode ends on a great note however, with Lacie reveling in the freedom from the point system.

16. The National Anthem

The first episode of Black Mirror, frankly, just isn’t a very memorable one. What I do remember though, were reassurances from my friends that most episodes are better. That’s not to say the episode is bad, quite the contrary, it’s just that The National Anthem fails to stand out amongst the greatness of later episodes. I’d even go so far as to say the episode feels like it belongs more to a procedural cop show than Black Mirror. We deal largely with the UK’s Parliament as they scramble to come up with a solution to the mystery, and the episode doesn’t contain any futuristic technology. So, while the black comedy of The National Anthem sure is enjoyable, it pales in comparison to the bleak near-futures we glimpse in the rest of the series.

15. Crocodile

Crocodile serves as one of many instances in Black Mirror of a failure to properly communicate. Should Mia and Rob properly discuss the cover-up of their hit and run, Mia’s later murder spree would never have happened. The episode’s cinematography is incredible, largely due to Iceland’s inherent picturesque nature.

But, the base story feels avoidable. I far more enjoyed the character of Shazia and her journey than Mia’s turn toward insanity. I just never fully bought that Mia could turn to killing 3 people and a baby so quickly. Perhaps because we didn’t see much of her personal life or her work as an architect, but Mia never became compelling enough. If the story unfolded from Shazia’s perspective instead, having her end up discovering Mia’s murders alongside the viewer before switching to Mia after her death, I feel the story would have been more engaging. It would have also allowed for a greater look at the memory recorder as Mia interviews subjects during her day to day.

14. Arkangel

Marie is just a bad mom addicted to helicopter parenting. The story was good but largely predictable and many of the episode’s plot beats could’ve been resolved with some discussion. I also feel the effort to make season 4 a bit more upbeat than previous seasons is mainly the cause of the episode not resulting in the mom’s death. Arkangel instead becomes a cautionary tale, to let children grow up and make mistakes for themselves.

The most interesting parts of the episode however, come from the notion that Arkangel is being discontinued and Sara’s friends view the technology as crippling. The main reason I find these ideas really interesting is that we don’t often get that in Black Mirror episodes. Instead of technology being under scrutiny, or discontinued, the world seems to fully buy into these horrible and dystopic ways of life. So, I was glad to see that addressed in the failure for Arkangel to launch nationwide. Being able to witness everything a person sees and then censor it is too potentially damaging to a child’s development. Let alone the potential implications of the technology being used to subjugate the populace.

13. Be Right Back

This was another tough one for me to get through, primarily because of how emotionally crippling it is. Be Right Back grants us two incredible performances from Hayley Atwell (who plays Martha) and Domhnall Gleeson (who plays Ash) as the former struggles with the death of her boyfriend. In an attempt to cope, Ash is resurrected via an android using his social media profiles to create a near-copy. The episode is at its highest point as Martha learns the android Ash isn’t the same man she fell in love with. Yet I feel ending on the cliff, with viewers uncertain as to Ash’s fate would’ve been the better option. Instead, the ending we get is a bit confusing– though properly depressing in true Black Mirror fashion.

12. The Waldo Moment

One of the more lighthearted episodes of the series, The Waldo Moment primarily succeeds due to it being topical in hindsight. With parallels able to be drawn to both the Trump election and the running of Lord Buckethead in the UK election, the episode served as a predictor for the diminishing legitimacy of politics. Yet, as with many Black Mirror episodes, they are only as good as their endings. And the ending of The Waldo Moment may take a bit longer to process. My read is that while Waldo failed to win the election, he won in the end– and seemingly turned the world into a totalitarian regime. Coincidence? Perhaps. But when everything is a joke, when can we stop to fight against oppression without ruining the fun?

 

11. Playtest

While Wyatt Russell’s central performance in this episode may be among the weakest in Black Mirror, the surroundings far and away make up for it. Fears of a distressed parent combined with a horror video game simulation make for an intense and intriguing episode. Despite the potentially fatal results of the game, I certainly found myself wanting to try out the horror experience. Only until the Inception-level events at the end of Playtest did I feel the game would probably be too intense.

10. Shut Up and Dance

I can’t help but feel this episode was inspired by Nerve, which received a film adaption the same year. Both the film and this episode seem to have received largely mixed reviews, but I guess I’m a sucker for the concept. Shut Up and Dance does pull off general premise and twists a bit better though, with the forced compliance seemingly only done to criminals. And while I could see the inevitable leak of the information regardless of compliance occurring, the twist that the porn was child porn was indeed unexpected. It was also a fun surprise to see Bronn from Game of Thrones pop up in an episode of Black Mirror.

 

9. The Entire History Of You

The Entire History of You marks one of the shows earliest successes depicting technology mixed with a family drama. The story of a cheating spouse leading to uncertainty as to the parentage of a child is not a new one, but when seen through a technology that allows events to be revisited becomes all the more haunting. But I can’t help but wonder why a paternity test was out of the question. Black Mirror even retreads similar ground in its later episode White Christmas and does it better by adding more layers to the plot. Jealousy continues to remain a driving force in Black Mirror‘s interpersonal relationships all the way up to the season 4 finale.

8. Black Museum

As a huge fan of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Black Museum was always going to be a favorite of mine. The best decision the episode made was to not have it purely serve as a nostalgia archive of the previous seasons. Instead, the artifacts we spend the most time on in the museum are entirely new. And the three stories we’re told aren’t merely connected as objects in the museum, as we later discover. The first of the three sub-stories is definitely my favorite however, and I feel the Pain Addict could make a great Batman villain.

7. Hated in the Nation

Hated in the Nation may contain the most practical technology in all of Black Mirror. Should extinction truly face bees, I can very clearly see a drone replacement being created– which makes the episode all the more troubling. And the sheer death count by the end of the episode may be a new high for the series.

In terms of the characters, I’d be totally down for a spin-off or recurring role for Blue, Karin, and Shaun as they solve high-tech crimes– almost like a Sherlock for cybercriminals.

6. White Bear

White Bear successfully employs both paranoia and complacency to create one of the better episodes of the series. The episode thrives on the carnivalesque, exacerbated by the incredible twist ending. Yet to imagine we’d go so far as to use torture as an amusement park is a disturbing thought. I can only imagine how many other similar parks exist in that world.

5. Fifteen Million Merits

In Black Mirror’s earliest foray into complete dystopia’s, Fifteen Million Merits truly makes me fear advertisements. A world which forces us to watch ads is a world I never want to live in. Let alone that most of humanity or at least the lower class is purely farmed for energy. In both a world and episode filled with so much despair, it’s nice to see that selfless still exists– I can’t say I would’ve done the same.

The end of the episode creates large parallels to Network, where the possibility of death becomes the biggest rating motivator. Bing’s cries for a change in the system only result in him conforming and becoming apart of it.

4. Hang the DJ

The Matrix for dating. Hang the DJ‘s virtual world has Black Mirror continuing to question the humanity of torturing virtual consciousness. While no time has passed for the real Frank and Amy, a thousand simulations have been conducted spanning who knows how many virtual years. But aside from the question of what can a virtual consciousness be subjected to, Hang the DJ has us question dating on numerous levels.

As sweet as the episode’s final moments are, dating is presented as mindnumbing. Drifting from one relationship to another hoping to find the one, Hang the DJ‘s dating app looks to solve that– for the real user.

3. U.S.S. Callister

U.S.S. Callister marks the third time we’ve revisted an iteration the technology introduced in White Christmas. And I guess it works because the three episodes the tech is used in are my three favorites. After starting out with a hilarious Star Trek riff, like Robert Daly, U.S.S. Callister slowly begins to show its true colors– surprise, it’s another screwed up episode of Black Mirror.

The commentary here is incredible. Whereas most shows would likely depict Daly as the hero, finally able to live out his dreams in a simulated world, Black Mirror rightly presents him as the villain. Torturing the conscious copies of his co-workers, Daly has created a hell instead of a personal heaven. Nanette is the true hero, able to contact her real self and free them into the virtual playground. Only now they must deal with the endless expanse of internet trolls.

2. San Junipero

Black Mirror‘s first happy ending, San Junipero provides a heartwarming tale of love transcending all boundaries. With the first half of the episode seemingly almost free of any technology as it’s set in the 80’s, the episode spends time developing its characters and their relationship first. It’s not until Yorkie loses Kelly that we discover the time traveling digital world that is San Junipero. Yet the world is not a haven for young adults like we’re first led to believe, but instead a literal heaven for the dying. The people are avatars of the elderly.

With Yorkie able to find her happy ending, we truly believe Heaven Is A Place On Earth. Let’s just hope the server farm doesn’t get hacked.

 1. White Christmas

White Christmas kept me gripped for its entire hour and thirteen-minute runtime, providing interesting story after interesting story until they all connect in a beautifully twisted ending. Only Black Mirror could get so dark so quickly. White Christmas presents possibly the most terrifying technology yet, the block. The ability to literally block an entire person should never exist, and Matt’s (Jon Hamm’s) punishment is basically a life sentence to solitary confinement.

The episode not only makes you feel for the two main characters, who could have easily been painted as villains, but the entire cast as well. Harry’s and Beth’s Daughter’s deaths are perhaps the most tragic, but no one makes it out of the episode unscathed. You even feel bad for Greta’s cookie mind, despite Matt’s lack of remorse. White Christmas just perfectly demonstrates both the usefulness and perversions of technology while creating empathy for its characters.

 

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Sylvio Review: A Heartwarming Journey Into The Mind Of A Gorilla

Sylvio ReviewSylvio is a warm hug, yet one that goes on a little too long. Based on a popular series of Vines, the film premiered earlier this year at SXSW and is now finally screening publically.

The film, like the shorts within it, is a quiet contemplative journey into ambition and isolation. Sylvio Bernardi leads an unfulfilling desk job until he becomes an overnight sensation. Yet what garners him fame goes against his nature, leading to the central conflict of the film. Whereas the world wants Sylvio to destroy and give in to his animalistic nature, he wants peace. The amount of heart a silent gorilla can convey here is astounding, helped by his human friend Alan.

The silent nature of our main character causes issues, however. With an 80 minute runtime, you’d expect the film to move along at a brisk pace– instead, the film is a peaceful journey. Scenes linger, the score soothes, and the film feels meditative. The slow nature of the film permeates the visual landscape as well. Sets are sparse, colors are muted. The film, like Sylvio, clashes with the forceful actions he must partake in. And while slow films certainly have their place, they aren’t my genre of choice.

The quiet nature of the film also clashes slightly with its status as a comedy. Because while there are certainly laughs and funny moments, the comedy results more in warmth and smiles. Laughing too hard would disturb the peace, so the audience doesn’t know where to stand.

While the rules of the world never make entire sense, as Sylvio appears to be the only animal-human hybrid, that’s the point– he feels isolated from the world. Whether we’re truly supposed to believe he’s a gorilla or a man in a suit becomes irrelevant. Thematically, the film provides a strong look into isolation and the pursuit one’s dreams. As a film, however, Sylvio meanders for far too long–failing to keep viewers engaged.

Score: 6.4/10 – Okay

 

Marvel’s Runaways Episode 1 Spoiler Free Review

At New York Comic Con this past weekend, fans were shown the first episode of Hulu’s and Marvel’s Runaways. Since its announcement over a year ago, I’ve been incredibly hyped for Runaways to hit the small screen. Runaways ranks among my favorite comic series and after the initial excitement about its announcement wore off, I proceeded with cautious optimism. I wondered how the various powers would be adapted for live action. As someone who wanted a near exact retelling of the first graphic novel volume, I am pleased to say the show does it right.

Sure there are some changes, one big change even comes during the cold open. Yet the changes make sense. Concerns that the show wouldn’t be able to adapt some of the powers are thrown out the window with the first episode (but maybe the Leapfrog won’t be making the jump). With a series willing to bring a telekinetic Velociraptor to the screen, you know you’re in for a fun ride.

Concerns about superhero fatigue won’t fly for Runaways. Because, one thing’s for sure, Runaways feels different. The show touches upon themes of puberty, masturbation, drugs, and rape, all within the first episode. The show handles these concepts well and without feeling like a soap opera. Character tropes are acknowledged and played off as comedy, instead of feeling cringe-worthy. From the first episode, it’s obvious that the show knows what it’s doing.

The show also feels incredibly well-shot. Instead of the film grain we’ve come to expect from the Marvel/Netflix side of things, Runaways offers us bright colors. The bright colors of the the show don’t feel cheap however, as many shows can. Instead, we’re presented with a film-like quality more akin to Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Episode one was all I could have hoped for, complete with hard hitting teenage themes, incredible super powers, and shady parents. I’m very happy that the show doesn’t shy away from what made the graphic novel so great and I can’t wait to see the rest of the series. Marvel may have another hit on their hands.

Runaways comes to Hulu on November 21st.

Episode Score: 8.5/10 – Great

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Season 2 Premiere Review

dirk gently season 2The best show you’re probably not watching. Season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency quickly established it as one of my favorite television shows, and the season two premiere aims to keep it that way. After a somehow grounded in comparison season filled with time travel and soul swapping, season two immediately thrusts us into the realm of fantasy. There are scissor-swords, flying trains, and a lot more psychics to be had this season, and I’m here for it.

Yeah, Dirk Gently is weird, and that’s one of the best things about it.

Insanity aside, the characters are what really make the show. Showrunner Max Landis has managed to create some of the most eccentric, lovable, and fun characters out there. While some may find the characters annoying at times, they’re supposed to be. And despite being a detective show, a lot of the characters are actually really stupid. The idiocy makes for a fun ride, you’ll never know where the show will end up. On that note, perhaps the most idiotic character is Freidkin and I’m happy we get to spend more time with him this season. Putting him in control of Blackwing allows for some hilarious moments, particularly between him and Ken. I can’t wait to see how he sinks or swims as the leader of a secret government organization.

The show also introduces a lot of new characters this episode. And a whole new world in fact. Some of these characters, like police officers Sherlock Hobbs and Tina Tevetino are immediate standouts while others may take some getting used to. Though, I must say, my biggest gripe with the episode is Farah’s brother, he seems a bit too normal for a show that thrives on chaos.

I’ve seen the first four episodes of season 2 and know the fun to be had but I have to admit, the season premiere is the weakest of the bunch. I chalk this up to the fact that for the entire episode, our main characters are separated. Ken’s without Bart, Dirk is without Farah and Todd, and the Rowdy 3 are also scattered. Maybe I just love the pre-established dynamics a little too much but the characters are just better together. Couple that with a focus on introducing new characters and you have an episode that’s good but not as great as what we’ve come to expect.

The season 2 premiere of Dirk Gently has a lot to do and does it all well enough. Introducing us to the magical world of Wendimoor and several new characters was never an easy task. But with a standout appearance from Bart and a great scissor-sword fight, there’s plenty to like here. Furthermore, Dirk’s disappearance at the hands of a shapeshifter will certainly make viewers want to return for episode two.

Episode Score: 7.5/10 – Good

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is on BBC America Saturdays at 9pm EST. The first season is available to watch on Hulu.

Fan Critic Review Scale: Tendency for Low Scores?

review scaleIn our desire for transparency, we’re going to be breaking down our review scale for you all. This post will likely be updated from time to time to reflect each writer’s individual scale but let’s first breakdown our Editor-in-Chief’s review scale. Please note all reviews are of course subjective and will likely contain (as per our site’s name) a mix of the fan perspective and the critic perspective.

As of late, review scores under an 8 have been seen as less than ideal, some may even say bad. I hope to rid the site of this stigma, so we don’t prescribe the same A to F grading scale to our reviews as other sites do. Instead, our review scores are purely numerical, with the majority of films likely falling at a 6 or 7 on the scale.  To help you understand what this means, the number breakdown is as follows:

10- Perfect. 9-  Amazing. 8- Great. 7- Good. 6- Okay (worth seeing). 5- Meh (may or may not be worth seeing). 4- Not good (not worth seeing). 3- Bad. 2- Very bad. 1- Horrible. 0- Complete garbage.

With this scale, films at an eight or higher are the cream of the crop and potentially worth multiple viewings. Any film at a six or above is still worth seeing in some capacity (ie. I still feel comfortable enough recommending people see the film). At a five, I cannot fully recommend the film but perhaps the film simply did not appeal to my tastes. The film wasn’t necessarily bad, just not for me. So should you find your tastes line up with mine, you’ll likely want to skip out on any films rated a five but should your tastes differ, you could end up liking films I rate a five quite a bit. Once we get to the four’s, however, you’ll probably want to avoid seeing the films altogether unless you enjoy watching bad movies.

I hope this helps clear up our rating system. If you have any further questions, feel free to comment down below.