Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Black Mirror

by | January 15, 2015 | Comments

In the wake of rumors that Netflix may discontinue streaming all BBC series on Jan. 31 if contract negotiations fall through, it’s somewhat comforting to know that there will still be some quality British programming left for Anglophiles to devour. The Channel 4 production Black Mirror has largely flown under the radar, but it’s fascinating, sometimes brilliant, and certainly worth a look if you’re in the mood for some twisted social satire. Here’s why:

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

What’s the premise? Black Mirror is an anthology series of standalone episodes that explores the tricky relationship between society and technology, often depicting either a heightened reality in contemporary times or the ominous possibilities of a not-so-distant future.

What’s it like? If SyFy and the Discovery Channel decided to collaborate on a scripted program and called upon Rod Serling, Kurt Vonnegut, and Roald Dahl — short story Roald Dahl, not Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl — to co-write every episode, you might end up with something like Black Mirror. In fact, the show has most notably drawn comparisons to Serling’s own iconic anthology series, The Twilight Zone, and it certainly fits that mold both structurally and thematically. What differentiates Black Mirror, however, is its specific focus on technology and the ways in which our darkest human impulses can be enabled or amplified by our reliance upon it. So, yes, you can think of it as a Twilight Zone for the digital era, a scathing critique of modern society delivered in twisty, eerily prescient single-serving installments.

Where can I see it? Currently, the only way US residents can watch Black Mirror is on Netflix, where you can stream every episode with the exception of the Christmas special starring Jon Hamm, which aired just last month in the UK.

How long will it take? Aside from season one’s hourlong second episode, each installment of Black Mirror runs about 45 minutes, so you could conceivably run through everything in a little less than five hours. But we don’t recommend that; the show is so grim at times that we’d suggest you take a break between episodes and do something pleasant. Maybe take a walk, practice some yoga, or visit a petting zoo.

What do the critics think? Though only a handful of critics weighed in on Black Mirror and season two didn’t receive enough reviews to generate a Tomatometer score, the first season stands at 100 percent. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix wrote, “What makes the series so powerful is that it doesn’t just present another collection of stories where technology turns on us, but where we use technology to turn on — or tune out — each other,” and writing about the series as a whole for AV Club, Todd VanDerWerff stated, “There are times throughout all six episodes when it’s easy to fear that Brooker’s satire is only skin deep. But he and his collaborators have something to say about so many subjects besides technology.”

Why should I watch this? Look, we’re going to be honest. This is not feelgood television. If you’re in the mood for something light and uplifting, you may want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re in need of a calculated jolt of bleak cynicism with a dash of sinister paranoia, Black Mirror would be a pretty good way to get your fix. The individual episodes vary somewhat in quality, but they’re all provocative, smartly written, and superbly acted — you’ll see folks like Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Hayley Atwell (Marvel’s Agent Carter), and Domnhall Gleeson (Unbroken) show up in major roles. And while technology does serve as a unifying theme for the series, each episode is cloaked in several layers of satire, whether dressing down contemporary voyeurism, critiquing the culture of celebrity worship, or exploring the dangers of obsessive grieving. If this all sounds a bit heady, don’t worry; the storytelling isn’t dry by any means, and there should be enough sweeping tension and pitch-black humor to keep you engaged and properly disturbed.

What’s my next step? The most obvious post-Black Mirror recommendations would be some of the other anthology series that preceded it, like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Tales of the Unexpected, which was inspired by the short stories of Roald Dahl. Social satire is a popular theme in science fiction, but a few relevant selections from the big screen would include Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, or Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Are you ready to look into the Black Mirror? Tell us why!

Tag Cloud

E! book Esquire First Reviews talk show finale VH1 sports deadpool Superheroes rotten Fantasy cancelled TV series Lionsgate kong Avengers obi wan television Legendary 2019 mutant archives royal family BET action-comedy Star Wars Celebration Adult Swim TruTV Exclusive Video telelvision adventure stand-up comedy war cinemax Crackle RT21 Disney+ Disney Plus FX on Hulu Trivia cars Holidays independent Pet Sematary directors comiccon Logo Toys Emmy Nominations biography Teen south america Best Actress marvel comics Mary poppins wonder woman binge pirates of the caribbean SundanceTV japan canceled TV shows renewed TV shows nature comic books serial killer See It Skip It SXSW BBC One Amazon Studios documentary 90s 2015 dragons what to watch satire Best and Worst basketball dreamworks Syfy Best Actor scene in color series toronto casting Chernobyl travel MGM 007 spinoff DGA Disney NBA 73rd Emmy Awards zombie The CW technology HBO Max Brie Larson Captain marvel IFC book adaptation zombies Star Trek Musicals dogs christmas movies rt labs critics edition marvel cinematic universe Apple remakes rt labs mcc miniseries video on demand Sony know your critic disaster free movies TV Land Winners Writers Guild of America DC Universe vs. Marathons 72 Emmy Awards posters Star Wars psycho movies American Society of Cinematographers tv talk summer preview AMC Shudder diversity TBS adenture CMT Black Mirror Rock 94th Oscars interviews crime drama The Purge Best Picture natural history Comics on TV series Indigenous Oscar IFC Films Biopics Discovery Channel comedies singing competition classics 2017 black comedy theme song french Travel Channel police drama OneApp Paramount 45 Netflix live action boxoffice based on movie X-Men rom-coms Valentine's Day chucky Christmas kaiju documentaries indie golden globes Amazon 79th Golden Globes Awards scene in color film series romance Film Festival Hollywood Foreign Press Association die hard BBC discovery First Look Musical Winter TV gangster Tumblr 2021 Cosplay Wes Anderson debate trailers Action Disney streaming service versus blockbuster Sony Pictures dramedy news Tubi The Walt Disney Company movie superhero vampires Women's History Month MCU elevated horror Arrowverse justice league crime thriller Oscars feel good CBS cats hispanic PlayStation Sneak Peek politics Election Lifetime Christmas movies 71st Emmy Awards name the review facebook Summer The Arrangement italian worst National Geographic boxing critics President blockbusters cults NBC Geeked Week ABC Family Comedy twilight Instagram Live screen actors guild Calendar Elton John Cartoon Network toy story DC streaming service Britbox canceled TCA Awards Polls and Games Hallmark Christmas movies Trailer japanese sag awards laika young adult Marvel Television streamig Emmys scary historical drama stop motion lord of the rings Podcast IMDb TV joker hispanic heritage month Epix Lifetime FOX ID Anna Paquin supernatural New York Comic Con Reality Trophy Talk YouTube Premium Reality Competition international breaking bad science fiction worst movies cartoon biopic Disney Channel Comic Book indiana jones A24 Nickelodeon Certified Fresh aapi films new zealand PBS NYCC prank spanish Alien Apple TV Plus ITV ESPN Masterpiece LGBT Amazon Prime The Academy ghosts ABC mission: impossible anthology Rocky BET Awards TLC Year in Review TNT reviews summer TV preview Paramount Pictures The Witch Creative Arts Emmys Academy Awards venice TCA 2017 robots Prime Video foreign GIFs art house blaxploitation Classic Film Mary Tyler Moore award winner Photos Song of Ice and Fire slashers thriller popular HBO Premiere Dates Peacock period drama slasher dark Television Academy teaser SXSW 2022 razzies Ghostbusters rt archives Showtime olympics Rocketman TV movies ratings harry potter scorecard USA Network cops AMC Plus TV renewals Pop TV Comic-Con@Home 2021 TCM leaderboard Video Games spanish language heist movie 24 frames Sci-Fi obituary LGBTQ CW Seed 93rd Oscars streaming movies Stephen King new york concert Nat Geo jamie lee curtis king arthur South by Southwest Film Festival YouTube mob spider-man Cannes Amazon Prime Video Columbia Pictures Sundance TV Pride Month halloween Turner Best Director zero dark thirty child's play sequels BAFTA comic book movies USA Fall TV scene in color best VOD Spectrum Originals australia children's TV A&E Food Network medical drama Rom-Com target Opinion sopranos crossover Box Office fast and furious godzilla Marvel Studios quibi GLAAD 21st Century Fox crime Paramount Plus Vudu docuseries saw cancelled Set visit political drama Film animated VICE Animation legend OWN Binge Guide batman 20th Century Fox new star wars movies Black History Month dc Acorn TV Hear Us Out Funimation green book Drama El Rey 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards stoner king kong Pirates Awards Infographic universal monsters Spring TV Apple TV+ hidden camera Pixar live event docudrama Television Critics Association TIFF mockumentary The Walking Dead romantic comedy 2016 anime Holiday comics ViacomCBS Universal 99% witnail Quiz summer TV comic book movie Crunchyroll Broadway reboot FXX golden globe awards PaleyFest werewolf psychological thriller CNN Interview franchise YA aliens spain Fox Searchlight dexter MSNBC sequel Schedule nfl space Kids & Family Music Heroines History Sundance Hallmark Mudbound MTV Dark Horse Comics Extras nbcuniversal true crime HFPA critic resources GoT TCA Winter 2020 WarnerMedia cooking genre Native adaptation doctor who Ellie Kemper Mindy Kaling broadcast YouTube Red Awards Tour Western Superheroe scary movies transformers Image Comics San Diego Comic-Con emmy awards APB WGN streaming target scene in color Spike Red Carpet 4/20 hist Grammys cancelled TV shows fresh Baby Yoda E3 comic Tags: Comedy latino all-time Comedy Central game of thrones Bravo Chilling Adventures of Sabrina richard e. Grant Mystery Countdown suspense Character Guide women Freeform a nightmare on elm street Thanksgiving 1990s spider-verse game show 2018 HBO Go high school rotten movies we love Starz Tomatazos DirecTV Focus Features Paramount Network dceu social media Pacific Islander festivals Universal Pictures TV One Shondaland RT History Country Watching Series Fargo Nominations Endgame kids asian-american trophy Tarantino Ovation SDCC Fox News Horror FX DC Comics cancelled television black superman parents jurassic park BBC America video Tokyo Olympics monster movies Mary Poppins Returns Warner Bros. Walt Disney Pictures festival Marvel hollywood TV Netflix Christmas movies composers halloween tv spy thriller criterion CBS All Access screenings Neflix Turner Classic Movies Family Pop unscripted 2020 Lucasfilm strong female leads Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sitcom Super Bowl james bond Martial Arts Disney Plus revenge ABC Signature Sundance Now football Hulu TCA