Note: This article contains spoilers for the included episodes of Black Mirror.The standard Black Mirror episode shows the negative effects of technological advancements. Think “The Entire History of You,” where Liam is burdened by the truth after going through his wife’s memory-replaying grain implant, and finding out she slept with another man. Or “Nosedive,” where Lacie desperately struggles to please people because she lives in a world where socioeconomic status is determined by how high their online ratings are.
There are a few other Black Mirror episodes that follow the same format, while also dragging viewers through dark, shocking, or complex plots and scenes. A couple of them are guaranteed to leave fans awed, while others will leave them questioning the events that just happened. Whatever the emotional outcome, everyone is likely to appreciate the level of detail infused into these stories.
10 Arkangel (Season 4, Episode 2)
The parent-child dynamic seen in “Arkangel” initially makes sense. Fearing something terrible might happen to her daughter, Marie signs her up for a new technology that enables parents to track their children, record their memories, and see whatever they are seeing. There is a blatant invasion of privacy here, but in this specific fictional world, bad things happen to children all the time, so Marie’s choice to have her daughter, Sara, implanted with a chip is excusable.
An idea founded on good intentions eventually leads to bizarre outcomes. One scene shows Marie crushing an abortion pill into Sara’s smoothie after realizing she had unprotected sex. The ending is more shocking, as it involves Sara brutally assaulting her mother using the Arkangel pad after finding out about the numerous lines she crossed in the name of protecting her. After that, Sara flees from home, leaving her mother bloodied and bruised.
9 USS Callister (Season 4, Episode 1)
“USS Callister” tackles employee disgruntlement, abuse of authority, and the human need for validation through a plot that is chock-full of excesses. Still, it’s an extremely captivating episode. Events revolve around the CTO, Robert Daly, who feels unappreciated after making the multiplayer game, Infinity. In reaction, he chooses to create another game that allows him to make sentient digital clones of his ungrateful coworkers before trapping them in a virtual Star Trek-like universe.
Daly thus becomes more of the evil version of Captain Kirk, and much of the episode involves him unnecessarily torturing everyone in the game as if they committed a major atrocity. In a memorable scene that’s inspired by The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life,” he edits out a coworker’s mouth after she disobeys him, rendering her mute. In another scene, he throws a colleague’s son out of the USS Callister starship just for the fun of it.
8 Men Against Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)
To the corporate villains in “Men Against Fire,” the ideal way to prevent soldiers from getting PTSD is to make them see enemies as hideous humanoid roaches. This is achieved by placing a neural implant called MASS inside their heads. They figure that soldiers would feel less remorseful about killing ugly creatures than killing fellow humans. This initially makes sense to the viewer, except that there is a bigger agenda in play.
It turns out that only members of certain ethnicities appear as “roaches” in the eyes of soldiers. What the elite really want is to conduct mass genocide and ethnic cleansing in Third Reich fashion, making the world ‘pure. What initially seems like a good cause ends up making the viewer furious.
Additionally, the episode has one of the most disturbing Black Mirror endings. When one soldier makes the discovery, he is given a moral choice. If he vows to not kill anymore, he will be locked up and have all his previous kills play on his mind on a loop. If he vows to continue serving, his memory will be wiped clean. Sadly, he chooses the latter.
7 The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1)
In the majority of Hollywood movies about kidnapping, the criminals are normally after money or something valuable. That’s not the case with the techie Carlton Bloom, who makes a rather shocking demand in the very first episode of Black Mirror, “The National Anthem.”
In order for him to release the Duchess of Beaumont, he insists that the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig on live TV. After some hesitation, the politician is eventually left with no option but to do it, resulting in one of the most viewed events in history.
It’s clear that Carlton is a disgruntled citizen who wants to make the political class look bad for not delivering on their mandate, but the bestiality angle makes the episode weird (even if it is a fitting allegory). There are various other methods he could have used to drive his point home, but since the show was going for shock factor, it all makes sense.
6 Beyond the Sea (Season 6, Episode 3)
“Beyond the Sea” is one of Black Mirror’s most ambitious episodes as it covers cultism, space exploration, technological innovation, lust, family life, and psychopathy all at a go. Viewers are first introduced to an alternate 1969 where astronauts in space can spend time with their families by transferring their consciousness to their cyborg replicas back on Earth whenever they wish to do so. For the main characters, Cliff and David, this is very ideal because their mission in space is supposed to last seven years.
Such a premise alone would still make a decent Black Mirror episode, but “Beyond the Sea” gets darker by introducing cult members who destroy David’s replica and kill his family. Feeling pity for him, Cliff allows him to use his replica whenever he wishes to, but David abuses the privilege and ends up falling for Cliff’s wife, resulting in animosity between the two men.
David, therefore, switches instantly from protagonist to villain, so much so that he even sneaks back in and murders Cliff’s family after Cliff bans him from using his replica. The metamorphosis from good to evil is inspired by grief, but viewers feel uneasy watching a man that had been previously portrayed as a hardworking family man suddenly become a killer.
5 Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)
“Be Right Back” aired in 2013, but it’s even more relevant now, given the current state of artificial intelligence. Another exploration of grief and its effects, the episode revolves around Martha, who signs up for a new AI technology that can create a virtual version of her dead boyfriend, Ash, using details from his past social media posts. Martha soon becomes so addicted to it that she acquires a more advanced android that looks exactly like Ash.
The interactions between the two construct the bulk of the episode’s strange moments. Martha becomes dependent on the android to the point where she allows it to pleasure her sexually. Still, the episode makes sure to remind audiences that AI can never fully replace humans. In one scene, Martha becomes disappointed when the android chooses to leave the room after an argument, aware that the real Ash would never have walked away. Martha grows so frustrated that she takes the android to a cliff and orders it to jump off. And in what is the show’s most bizarre moment, it begins screaming for help.
4 White Christmas (Season 2, Episode 4)
“White Christmas” is undoubtedly one of the greatest Black Mirror episodes, but its plot keeps getting complicated by the minute. First, audiences are introduced to two men, Joe and Matt, who have lived in a cabin together for five years, yet they have never spoken. All of a sudden, they open up to each other.
Matt tells Joe he used to train men how to seduce women, but one of the dates ended up in a murder-suicide. He adds that he had another job training digital clones of people named “cookies.” Joe, on the other hand, claims that he murdered his fiancé’s father after discovering her child wasn’t his. Apparently, he hadn’t realized this sooner because she had blocked him using a new technology that prevents “blocked” people from seeing the blocker’s face.
It’s a clever way for the show to tackle the “cookie” and “blocking” concepts that are used in websites, but as always, the show piles more shocking details on the viewer. This version of Joe was a cookie all along. Matt had been tasked with getting a confession out of Joe’s cookie to get him convicted. In exchange for that, he would be pardoned for his role in the murder-suicide. Fair deal, only that the real Matt now realizes he is now a registered sex offender and has now been blocked by everyone for life hence he cannot see any face.
3 Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)
Few Black Mirror characters suffer more than Cooper in “Playtest.” After his dad dies of Alzheimer’s, he decides to tour the world while ignoring his mother’s numerous calls. Sadly, he soon becomes a victim of identity theft, losing all his cash. To earn more money, he agrees to playtest a new horror VR game that accesses a person’s neural senses and taps into their worst fears.
While Cooper is inside the game, viewers get to see plenty of bizarre scenes, including a giant spider and a digitized bizarre version of Cooper’s childhood bully. The final minutes are even more shocking as it’s revealed that Cooper died after spending only 0.04 seconds in the game because a phone call from his mother interfered with the game’s signal. It’s also stated that he had been asked to switch off his phone but turned it back on to take photos of the VR kit.
2 Hated in the Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)
Black Mirror’s tendency to combine hardly related themes is certainly brave, and nowhere else is that more evident than in “Hated in the Nation.” In this case, environmentalism and social media toxicity are the main topic.
Events kick off with fans being introduced to a world where poor preservation of the environment has resulted in bees becoming extinct. They have now been replaced by Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs). In a surprise twist, the ADIs start attacking specific people, but this isn’t a mere malfunction. Detectives soon find out that these victims are hated figures that the public voted for to die under the #DeathTo social media hashtag.
The question of how the ADIs located the victims emerges. Well, it turns out that apart from doing the work of traditional bees, the ADIs are also being used by the government to spy on people. Since they have everyone’s information, the creator of the hashtag hacked into them and used them to locate the targets. The actual malfunction happens later on when a failure to deactivate the system triggers the ADIs to kill everyone that used the hashtag.
1 Black Museum (Season 4, Episode 6)
“Black Museum”’s three stories are so strong that they each should have been allocated a different episode, but series creator Charlie Brooker chose to cram them into one anyway, creating an anthology episode of an anthology show. Events kick off when a lady named Nish (Black Panther’s Letitia Wright) visits a remote museum located next to a gas station. Its proprietor, Rolo Haynes, tells her about his previous gigs.
First, he had technology that allowed people to transfer their sensations to others. Then he came up with another invention that allowed people to transfer their consciousness to others, before settling on the current one which allows museum visitors to torture the hologram of a convicted Black death row inmate.
How the episode jumps from plots about medical innovations to one about racism and the justice system is baffling, yet it makes sense because Rolo Haynes is an amalgamation of some of the prominent movie mad scientists. He keeps coming up with innovations for his amusement, and he is very proud to showcase them. However, the shock is on him this time, as he learns Nish is the daughter of the death row inmate who happens to be innocent.
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