It’s series 3 of Black Mirror! Charlie Brooker’s bleak sci-fi anthology series leaves UK Channel 4 and washes up on the Stateside shores of Netflix! You can literally see the American influence throughout S3. The show has a bigger budget, some episodes are far more flashy/nicer sets. It also features it’s first American lead actress (Bryce Dallas Howard in Nosedive) and it’s first episode set in America (San Junipero). Also the overall tone has lightened, it’s no longer completely depressing, just mostly depressing!
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard (the love interest in Jurassic World), Alice Eve (Sophia in Entourage)
Plot: Imagine Yelp for people. In a world (!) where your rating on social media actually counts towards real-world applications, like employability and discounted rent, Lacie is obsessed with improving hers (4.2). Her vacuous socialite former-friend (a 4.8) rings her out of the blue and asks her to be maid of honour – if it goes, well she’ll get the ratings she needs and everything she wants.
Thoughts: A much lighter tone to kick things off. No torturing a digital human being to get them to undertoast bread! Just a woman looking to improve her social standing and nab a better apartment. I love that this app is not a government-mandated thing, but enough people choose to be falsely/sickly sweet to others to get rated higher. They do a great job of quickly showing you this person’s world — constantly on social media rating people 5 stars and giving positive messages in the hopes of getting the same. I wonder why there isn’t “5 star farms” like clickfarms for facebook; where you could buy 1000 people rating you 5 star. It turns into a one-woman Planes, Trains and Automobiles, as she has a rough time getting to the wedding, and learns things about herself on the way. Seeing her freak out at the airport and changing her attitude to the whole system was satisfying. I wonder what happens when you hit zero. Her speech could’ve been more biting though, the bride got off quite easy! A small point, but her maid of honour dress was very unflattering! Anywoo, there’s a huge secret-affair vibe from Naomi’s husband and the best man. Given that this ‘honour’ was just a ratings stunt, possibly the marriage could also be a sham. Lacie’s brother tries to convince her not to go, that these people ‘are all dying on the inside’ — There’s a shot where Naomi’s on her phone and you can see scars on her wrist.
Overall: A fun watch! It’s quite easy-going and straight forward; felt a bit like rom-com at times, and has the most positive ending for any Black Mirror episode up to this point.
Cool thing: Charlie Brooker did an AMA on reddit and posted the ratings chimes for everyone to use!
Starring: Wyatt Russell (actually Kurt Russell’s son) and Hannah John-Kamen (Dothraki widow in GoT – and a small part as Selma in 15M Merits)
Plot: An American traveller runs out of cash and gets a quick job, testing out new augmented reality tech.
Thoughts: Oh man! Their first horror episode! YAAAAS! I marked out when I saw it was about a games company. Marked out harder when he decides to try out a more immersive horror experience, set in a Resident Evil-style small mansion (complete with odd camera angles). So this one was a really easy sell for me! It’s like he was playing Resident Evil 7 in VR but without the headset, and the horror is generated from his mind! Cooper is a typical American tourist douchebag — Sonja (his lay from last night) even insults him about not getting sarcasm, lol. He plays such a loudmouth but nice guy, and trying to watch him mask his attempts at not being scared (by talking loudly) is quite funny. Popped for Katie saying “would you kindly” which is straight out of Bioshock. Frank Fontaine used it as part of mind-control of your character. Real Kojima vibes from Saito’s president. Cooper’s last name is Redfield (ala Resident Evil). It ramps up into a flurry of false finishes and Black Mirrors signature wow-I-never-would’ve-thought-of-something-that-bleak ending! Seriously, it stuck with me for a while, worse than the next episode (lol).
Overall: Fantastic, absolutely loved it. I’m biased because of the subject matter but I was so happy watching it. A personal favourite.
S3-E3 “Shut Up and Dance”
Starring: Alex Lawther (young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) & Jerome Flynn (Bronn in GoT)
Plot: Kenny is a teenager that is blackmailed into going on a series of increasingly dangerous tasks with fellow-blackmailee Hector.
Thoughts: Ah jeez! C’mon! My heart couldn’t sink further upon the revelation in this one. Actually makes you rethink of the stereotypical person of certain crimes. Rewatching certain scenes, Kenny’s crumbling reaction makes sense; eg when Hector tells Kenny about “they’ve seen everything on my computer” re:cheating on his wife. It makes sense why he wouldn’t just accept being the laughing stock of the school (for cracking one off on webcam). For a guy that is the “I.T. guy” in the house, he lost a lot of sympathy how he found and installed malware. Did you like the trollface? Felt a bit 5 years ago. Brooker said earlier versions didn’t include the twist ending (or Hector had the big twist ending) and I think the final product was absolutely the most effective version. I’d like to note that the fantastic big finish uses Radiohead’s Exit Music (For A Film), which is also used for Westworld’s big finish (well, a wonderful orchestral version). So get OK Computer onto your phone!
Overall: Tense, great, so demoralising. Also a rare episode where it could happen today (i.e. no futuristic tech).
Cool Easter Egg: On TV there’s headlines referencing previous episodes, the most interesting being the PM from “The National Anthem” is being divorced (at the end of the episode, his wife was publicly supportive but privately distant to him).
S3E4 “San Junipero”
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish in Doctor Who) & Mackenzie Davis (Mindy in 2015’s The Martian)
Plot: In an idyllic California Beach Town in the 80s, a romance buds between Kelly & Yorkie.
Thoughts: Wow! instant classic. Only a couple of minutes in and I was in love with this episode. Moving this episode to California was absolutely the right, best-fit choice. The 80s soundtrack is phenomenal and is getting a physical release! (Brooker came across “Heaven is a Place on Earth” randomly on spotify while jogging and was bricking it until it was cleared for use in the episode). The reverence paid to the time periods (music/clothing/set dressings) is so heart-warming. All the nostalgia feels! There’s an arcade part to the bar, which is very cool. This episode is full-on character driven but with a sci-fi backdrop. There’s a little too melodrama (women going off in a huff – esp Yorkie, who has this fantastic speech about what it’s like to be married for decades and decades, and then casts it aside maybe 10 minutes later. Interesting to note that a lesbian marriage wasn’t legal in the year it’s set in, 1987. Spoiler-wise, we find out that San Junipero is an artificial reality resort (which changes time periods depending on the day), where people can log in, or go so far as to upload their consciousness and live there forever. However, surely this is more like a cookie – you yourself die, and an exact copy ‘lives’ on. But that only helps your relatives, you’re still dead! It’s just computer data interacting with computer data. This is kinda like giving out about transporters, as your molecules are copied and disintegrated, and an exact duplicate is made on the other side. So every time you transport, you die and an exact copy of you is made. Does that make sense? lol.
Overall: Just wow! It’s beautiful and touching, highly, highly recommend. Full-on film-quality episode!
Cool easter egg: The Lost Boys poster at the start’s tagline includes “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die.”
S3E5 “Men Against Fire”
Starring: Malachi Kirby (Gastron in Doctor Who), Madeline Brewer (Tricia in Orange Is the New Black)
Plot: Stripe (Malachi) & Hunter (Madeline) are part of a US military squad, on a mission to rid the land of “roaches”, humanoid monsters.
Thoughts: The soliders have a neural implant called MASS that heightens their sensory processing and has a HUD displaying instant-feedback on their situation. Part of the perk is that soldiers get awesome sex dreams at night. It’s bewildering as Hunter makes multiple obvious sexual advances towards Stripe, but he’d rather a wet dream than to actually have sex. It’s not even broached! I popped that the psychologist is named Arquette, that name is now ruined for me lol. SHADAPPPPPP! The twist was interesting, but ultimately the holocaust-style explanation is kinda shitty. A bleak look at the de-humanisation of war; not really an interesting world built here so it’s one of my least favourites.
Overall: Unfortunately a watch-once episode.
S3E6 “Hated in the Nation”
Starring: Kelly Macdonald (Margaret in Boardwalk Empire), Faye Marsay (The Waif in GoT) and Benedict Wong (Wong in Doctor Strange)
Plot: Someone is using hate speech on social media to target individuals and have them killed. The name with the most amount tweets with #DeathTo gets murdered.
Thoughts: I gotta get these out of the way: 1) Following the decline of bees (MARKY MARK TOLD Y’ALL! IT WAS THE WIND!), a company has made mechanical bees to pollinate. This is ludicrously inefficient. Although they explain it as there’s a sinister alternative use for millions of tiny mechanical drones. 2) Got hours to prepare for a death threat? Wear a Hazard suit! 3) Facial recognition? Wear a scarf over your face. Problem solved!
Ok, so this was more a typical blockbuster film type episode (there’s a lot of CG with the swarms of bees). It brings up the idea of responsibility and the power/effect of hate speech on social media. Tusk the rapper insulting a fan imitating him was hilarious (as the fan is backstage, and starts crying). I LOVED the worst-case-scenario finish of the episode though, and the small amount of hope too.
Overall: Not seeing much re-watch value but a fun go around the first time.
Cool Easter Egg: on a screen there’s an article “What if phones but too much?”, which Mallory Ortberg wrote in her tongue-in-cheek series 2 review.
Series Overall: It’s a fantastic TV show! This season kinda peaked at San Junipero; 2 good, 1 very good, and 3 excellent episodes. As with all of Black Mirror, worth a watch! I also recommend watching in order to see how the show has grown.
So! Here’s my tiers for Black Mirror.
Must-Watch: “The National Anthem”, “The Entire History of You”, “Be Right Back”, “White Christmas”, “Playtest”, “San Junipero”
Very Good: “Shut Up and Dance”, “Nosedive”
Watch Once: “Fifteen Million Merits”, “White Bear”, “The Waldo Moment”, “Men Against Fire”, “Hated in the Nation”
What did ya think of S3? How would you rate episodes overall?