“Black Mirror” is one of the most talked-about shows around, even if it’s not the most-watched. But those starting the mind-bending British sci-fi series, which is now a Netfix original and just kicked off its third season, often wonder where to start.
There’s one clear answer, and it’s not the first episode.
Each episode of “Black Mirror” is its own self-contained story, in the tradition of “Twilight Zone” (the influential sci-fi series that clearly inspired it), so there’s no reason to start from the beginning.
Also, for all of the hype around “Black Mirror” for its high-concept setups that send up our relationships to technology and politics, it can sometimes feel overwrought and, at its worst, didactic. Sometimes it feels like the show is just shouting at you about how technology will doom us, though with admittedly slick aesthetics and a final-act turn.
The first episode of season one falls into that trap. Centering on a stand-in for ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron, “The National Anthem” (written by series creator Charlie Brooker) takes a pretty obvious point about our obsession with media and our ability to be duped, and adds onto it a nasty sex gimmick that shocks for the sake of shocking.
Where you should really start “Black Mirror”
The best episode of “Black Mirror” to my mind is the third and last episode of that first season, “The Entire History of You,” a delicate, heartbreaking story about a relationship that ingeniously folds in its sci-fi conceit. It proves that when the show is working, it’s really working.
In the indeterminate future/alternative world of “The Entire History of You” (a setting that otherwise looks like a yuppie part of England), everyone has a chip implanted in their head that records everything they see and do. People replay their happiest moments, but also their deepest mistakes and conflicts.
That’s how a night out at a party for a couple turns into devastation when one of them suspects infidelity. You think you know where the episode is going, and you’re partly right, but its twists are devious. It says a lot not just about our reliance on technology, but also about how we can (and always have) wielded technology against each other and ourselves.
And it’s just a really good, dark love story.
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