Black Mirror Season 3 Review
By Richard Lynch
After years off the air, Charlie Booker’s cult hit Black Mirror is finally back with a new home and a longer season, and it just might be the best season yet. For those new to the series, Black Mirror an anthology series that tackles the potential effects of technology in the not too distant future; think a modern Twilight Zone that feels terrifyingly close to reality. This season is filled with a ton of brilliant highs and a few minor missteps, but if you’re looking to avoid spoilers, I can wholeheartedly recommend this show to returning fans and new viewers alike. Anyone who is into dark speculative fiction will find a lot to love here. The rest of this review is going focus on each episode individually.
Nosedive – Parks and Recreation’s Rashida Jones guest wrote this episode that deals with the consequences of overvaluing social media. In a world where everyone possesses a rating that is voted on by every other person they interact with, Nosedive follows the story of a woman who wants to makes it to her 4.8 rated friend’s wedding but needs to raise her own rating up to something more respectable like a 4.2. This episode reflects on how much importance people put into giving and receiving Facebook likes and shows how ridiculous this would be if it were applied to the real world. This episode was at its most effective when it showed how terrified people are of saying the wrong thing to anybody, and how an arbitrary drop in rating could completely alter someone’s life. Watch our main character joyfully scream obscenities until the screen cut to black was a perfect way to end one of the seasons goofiest episodes.
Playtest – This was a much more straightforward episode that was all about virtual reality and horror games. It starts with an American, traveling in London and looking for a good time. Eventually, bothered by constant phone calls from his mom (who he has been avoiding) he decides that he needs some money to fly back home and accepts a job offer to test the secretive new project of a renowned horror game designer. The game itself is an immersive virtual reality horror game that reads your mind and beams images directly into the player’s head. The buildup in this episode was excellent horror movie material, at first the simulations seemed obviously fake, and things gradually get weirder and weirder until you weren’t able to tell what was real and what was part of the game. The moment when the player was pulled out of the simulation only to discover that he was still inside of it was a fun if familiar twist that echoes all the best parts of the Matrix and Inception.
Shut Up and Dance – This was an episode about internet hacks, Wiki-leaks, and internet trolling. A mysterious hacker has stolen dark secrets from random people all over and used it as blackmail to force people to participate in a series of increasingly nasty crimes with a time limit. Shut Up and Dance is a classic tale that we’ve seen heroes like Batman and Sherlock Holmes go through in the past, the twist here is that the “victims” this time around are all awful people. A huge part of this episode’s appeal is trying to learn what every one of the characters did and see how they deal with the consequences, by the end it’s hard not to feel like everyone gets what they deserve. Overall, this was a fun if unsurprising episode that does all of the things that Black Mirror has always done best.
San Junipero – This is easily the best episode of the season and maybe even the entire series. San Junipero is the story of a time-traveling romance between two women in the West Coast city of San Junipero. The first few minutes of this episode are deliberately confusing and entrancing all at once; we meet Yorkie, a shy quiet girl who is accidentally roped into spending time with Kelly who seems to be the exact opposite. Over time we see their relationship develop as the weeks fly by, time seems to skip and things they talk about don’t make sense almost to the point of seeming ridiculous. Just when things seem almost frustratingly vague we learn the truth, San Junipero is a simulation that allows the terminally ill to live out the rest of their day in relative comfort while the dead are uploaded onto the servers and allowed to live on forever, essentially the idea it to make Heaven a physical place. Consequently, Yorkie and Kelly are both senior citizens in hospice care without much time left. Yorkie wants to remain in San Junipero while Kelly can’t imagine allowing herself to go on, this poses an impossible philosophical question that doesn’t have any easy answer. This question is handled elegantly leading to a beautiful, emotional conclusion and one of the shows rare happy endings.
Men Against Fire – Probably the weakest episode this season, Men Against Fire follows the story of a soldier after getting his first kills against strange zombie creatures; he is sent to a psych evaluation. He experiences nightmares and can’t seem to understand why some people would be willing to defend these creatures. It turns out that a malfunction in his retinal implant allowed him to see the reality of what he was doing and that reality is a lot more brutal than just killing monsters. The military in this episode has decided that the only way to get soldiers to act the way the need to is to “gamify” war by turning enemy combatants into monsters and hiding the most brutal aspects of combat. There isn’t much more to this episode than the twist; it’s not a bad episode but lacks the depth and complexity that the show is known for.
Hated in the Nation – This episode plays out like a typical thriller with an environmental twist. People are being killed by robotic bee’s at the same time every day, and the investigation is going nowhere. Eventually, it turns out that when people tweet #death to, followed by a person’s name, the person with the most votes will be killed. This episode is about toxicity on the internet; it ends with all the people who entered in names being killed resulting in thousands of deaths. The idea for this episode is a solid one, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It would have been nice to see this concept taken even farther.
Overall, season 3 of Black Mirror is a solid new entry in the series featuring some of the show’s best episodes but also some of the weakest. I still wholeheartedly recommend it to sci-fi fans; this is a show that deserves the more recognition than it has had in the past. Hopefully, a new home on Netflix will see Black Mirror getting more of the fans that it has always deserved.
The Geeked Gods Score 9/10