For the first time ever, I am momentarily moving away from film to review a TV show. Shocking, I know.
However I can justify this for two reasons; firstly, it was screened as part of the London Film Festival this year, so they’ve lead me to it, and secondly, Black Mirror in its new home on Netflix feels a lot more like mini movies (Brooker revealed one in the upcoming series 3 is actually feature length at 90 minutes).
After previously residing on channel 4, Black Mirror has now found its home on streaming service Netflix, undoubtedly broadening its audience, and giving it greater scope to do even bigger and even better things.
At the preview events on the 6th October, I was treated to 3 new episodes from the upcoming series, arriving on Netflix on the 21st October. This season will be 6 episodes long, so having now seen 50% of the series, here’s some short reviews to give you an idea of what to expect! They’re as spoiler free as I could make them, so enjoy!
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve, James Norton
Immediately the pristine, pastel colour palette feels a little jarring for Black Mirror fans as we see Bryce Dallas Howard jogging through an idyllic, yet clinically stale realisation of an American suburb. Nosedive presents to us an app, a strange amalgamation of Uber, Tinder, and Instagram, as people rate, swipe, upload, and climb their way to the top of the social rankings. A glance in someone’s direction reveals their status (a mark out of 5 essentially), and everyone is competing to have the best ranking. The better ranking means better jobs, better opportunities, more freedom to live your perfect life in just the way you want it.
Sound a little familiar? As with other Black Mirror episodes it a horrifying yet pleasing vision of the “future”, as people stare blankly at their phones and live their entire lives online. The focus is on our obsession with the need for validation from those we know, and complete strangers, and imagines a world if we were defined by our online personas “IRL”.
Based on that description, this episode could’ve easily been incredibly dark, but it was actually surprisingly funny. Very funny in fact. Whether it was a nervous chuckle about just how close it was to our lives now, I couldn’t tell. Bryce Dallas Howard is an absolute revelation in this episode, at times sickeningly sweet in her desire to please and improve her rankings, and at others desperate and angry, but at all times incredibly likeable, with impeccable comic timing, and it is a pleasure to spend time with this character and watch the crazy events unfold.
Hidden behind this pastel drenched facade, there is still a pretty dark story; most notably in the times it is made clear that you cannot do certain things if your ranking is below a certain level, and those with the lowest rating are ostracised by society.
This episode is quite simply glorious. It’s gorgeous to look at, with the cinematography being the real star of the show. The soundtrack is also excellent, tinged with sadness throughout. I feel like this episode has the potential to be a real Black Mirror favourite (it was my favourite of the 3 I saw) and will certainly get people talking. If I rated things, I’d rate this 5 stars for sure.
Director: Owen Harris
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mackenzie Davis
Didn’t think an episode of Black Mirror could make you cry? Think again. It’s near impossible to talk about this episode without giving away huge plot spoilers, and I’ll be honest, it is one of those episodes which is best to just completely immerse yourself in, and enjoy everything that follows.
And no, “enjoy” wasn’t a typo! Charlie Brooker wasn’t wrong when he said that some of the episodes in this series would be very tonally different to what we have seen before, and this is maybe the most joyful, hope-filled, beautiful episode of Black Mirror I have seen.
It is a love story of sorts, but it would really be a shame to give much more away than that. As well as the theme of love, it plays with the ideas of mortality, memories, time, and loss, but it’s still incredibly accessible.
It’s a real slow burner, that at first seems a little conventional, but it is Black Mirror still so of course there’s a reveal which changes everything, but rather than shocking you or creeping you out, it’ll absolutely destroy you emotionally, make you ugly cry most likely, and warm your cold, dead heart.
It’s an absolute gut-punch of an episode, truly beautiful, and one you’ll definitely need to watch multiple times to appreciate every aspect of it. Quite simply, stunning.
Shut Up and Dance
Director: James Watkins
Starring: Jerome Flynn, Alex Lawther
Now when somebody asks me, “what exactly is Black Mirror?”, my answer will be “shut up and watch this episode!” Shut Up and Dance through and through feels like quintessential Black Mirror, and is magnificent beyond what my mere words can describe.
The story follows 19 year old Kenny (Lawther) who gets himself into an online predicament which leads to a faceless, anonymous force threatening to reveal a rather incriminating video of him to all his friends and contacts, unless he does exactly what they ask him to. Along the way he meets Hector (Flynn), a Father and Husband who is being similarly blackmailed by the same people, again threatening to reveal his shocking extra-marital liaisons.
If that description is enough to make your skin crawl, then just wait until you see this episode! It is maybe the most nail-bitingly horrific hour of television that you’ll ever see, with jet black humour, and a finale which will absolutely ruin you.
It is startlingly grounded in reality, not a near future like some other episodes, but a reality which is very, very current, and absolutely too close to our realities for comfort. It warns of the danger of information getting into the wrong hands, and will make you think twice about what kind of things you’re putting out online! It is a thoroughly modern Orwellian tale, incredibly well acted throughout, dark, gritty, and completely riveting from start to finish.
It is one which will stay with you for a very long time afterwards, will probably keep you awake at night, and will still give you the heebie-jeebies every time you think about it. Everyone might just have a new favourite Black Mirror episode after they’ve seen this one; Shut Up and Dance is absolute perfection.
Black Mirror arrives on Netflix on the 21st October, with series 1 & 2 currently available for your streaming pleasure! Which of these episodes are you most looking forward to? What is your favourite episode of Black Mirror so far? Let me know in the comments below!