I have to admit, for a show I love, I was initially turned off by the first episode. Something about the blatant pessimism of millions of people gathering in front of tv screen to watch a national leader perform bestiality left a sour taste in my stomach. I kept wanting to disbelieve it, telling myself “nah, that would never happen.” But the genius of Black Mirror is that it explorers the deeper, darker side of technology to expose what COULD happen.
After not watching it again for about a year I decided to give Black Mirror a second go-around, after seeing advertisements for season 3. I checked in for another episode, expecting the worst. And to my surprise I found myself extremely impressed. Each episode of the dark sci-fi anthology features a different set of characters, thrown into a different technical nightmare that usually ends very badly. People become no more than phone ratings, hackers watch you through computer screens, dead boyfriends are recreated synthetically, social media humiliates in the worst way, virtual gaming becomes a living hell ride, and lovers unite in a virtual purgatory. Oh and there’s the one where a clownish buffoon runs for prime minister, insulting his way to the top. Any of these sound familiar?
The genius of Black Mirror is not only in what COULD happen, but part of what has already happened with technology. Hackers can uncover our deepest secrets. People can be rated on cell phones. Gaming is becoming more “live” every year. And clownish buffoons can run for president. And win. The creators of the show even had to confirm on the Twitter page that U.S. election wasn’t an episode of Black Mirror. It’s reality now.
Every episode packs a gut punch. And sends you reeling. It’s biting satire at its best. Like the Twilight Zone, normal, everyday people fall into strange circumstances. Take exhibit A, Mr. Liam Foxwell: a lawyer with a nervous attention to detail. His guilty pleasure: a brain implant that allows him to see and replay every moment of his past. But buried beneath these memories of happy marriage and fatherhood lies a deep secret. One that his wife is hiding from him. Or exhibit B, Martha: a young woman mourning the loss of her partner. Her only escape from loneliness: a technology that recreates him beyond death.
The searing hole left by each episode is part of Black Mirror’s gripping appeal. You see yourself in these situations, no matter how distant. You find yourself falling deeper and deeper into a technological chasm. You want to tell yourself things could never get that bad. But in some ways they already have.
Black Mirror uses technology to bring out the worst of human behavior and shows it to you unflinchingly. You see a world where people are pawns in a game of hacking, conspiracy, and virtual terror. And it all feels too real, no matter how insane. I think this is what drew me back to the show, along with curiosity. And fascination. It’s incredibly grim. But grim in a brilliant way. It shows the endless shortcomings of a rapidly changing world as it moves to the digital age. We’re already there, mostly. But if Black Mirror’s prophetic tone has proven anything, it’s that things can always escalate.
After careful, tortured re-evaluation, I have to rate Black Mirror as one of my favorite shows. I would recommend it, only with a grain of salt. One for each episode. You may come away scarred and emotionally drained. As a matter of fact, that’s a guarantee. It may sicken you to the point of wanting to throw up and expunge every wretched trace of humanity that still clings to your cell phone. Or laptop. Or social media account. But it’s worth a shot.