I’m not behind the times, but I actively resist watching ‘the latest must see’ TV shows when they come out.
My first (reluctant) episode of GoT was only last year, 2017. I didn’t finish the first season, likewise Breaking Bad, where I got to the second season but didn’t get any further. The Leftovers, I found by accident, and was a marvel of writing, acting and direction from the first minute to the last.
In essence, waiting and discovering ‘new’ shows at my own pace allows me to judge them on their own merits.
This gives me time to feel like I’m not being forced into some social compliance. It also allows me to think more carefully about the shows without too many people throwing spoilers around or influencing my views on which season/episode is the best.
I took time with Black Mirror as I knew from the only episode I watched that it would be something to savour and enjoy at the right time. I’ve now done it.
What a ride it was.
A very pointless task is to try and rank the episodes, but I felt the need to remind myself just how good they really were. My list will be very different to yours, I’m very certain of that – but that’s the fun of it right?
I know I’ve ranked some beloved episodes low and some seemingly divisive ones high.
I ranked them on how they made me feel. Many punching me harder in the soul than others.
So, in traditional style, after season/series 4, from ‘worst’ to ‘best’:
19. That Waldo Moment
Stranger things have happened than an animation being taken seriously in politics. ‘Waldo’ just seemed too Bo’ Selecta! and Ali G for me, and Black Mirror is best when it’s pushing it’s own boundaries.
18. Fifteen Million Merits
I kept waiting for something to happen, when it came I was underwhelmed.
17. USS Callister
‘Boo’, you say.
Is that hissing and egg throwing I can hear?
I get it.
It’s brilliant in lots of ways. The set design, the costumes, the attention to detail and the acting. But, it just didn’t gel for me.
Most of the best episodes have have some level of darkness. While the main ‘villain’ was downright creepy, I never felt there were any stakes involved for the characters. It was all too detached and fun.
16. San Junipero
Oh dear, as I clear away the broken eggs that were chucked at me from the last choice, rotten cabbages and manky bread rolls being thrown at the screen right now.
I know why this is a beloved favourite of almost everyone.
I don’t hate it, indeed it’s grown on my since I watched it a few days ago.
Beautiful feel, great chemistry and a love story that spans age, health, time and space.
However, being a writer, I’ve created similar stories to this in the past which meant I just felt a lack of overall attachment to it and I could see the story panning out before it did.
Shame. It seemed to tick a lot of boxes.
Loved the black and white cinematography. Very different dystopian feel. Urgent in-the-heat-of-the-moment camera work.
Dogs that reminded me of cockroach terminators? Seriously, Black Mirror is better than this.
As for the ending. I’m almost tempted to put it nearer to Waldo.
14. The National Anthem
So, from here on in, I loved every episode and they all made me feel wow in some way or other.
It’s strange watching this post-Cameron and years after pig-gate.
I sat the entire time watching it, thinking ‘how on earth is Brooker getting away with this?’.
To find out afterwards that this came years before the Cameron story was truly mind-blowing. In a way that makes me think anything else in Black Mirror is likely to come true at some point in time.
Only in Britain. You wouldn’t catch the American presidents doing that sort of thing… oh, hold on.
13. The Entire History of You
Brilliant. Loved it. However, it’s lost its shine and other episodes were more believable, with greater chemistry and a bigger punch. However, this paved the way for many of the stories to come, so kudos to it.
Blimey. It was hard work. Bleak and unforgiving. It was confusing at points and it somehow reminded me of American Psycho.
Enjoyed the ending and this stayed with me for a few days afterward.
11. Hated in the Nation
It felt too long. Long shots of nothing much happening.
In many ways it was clever (the use of the bee drones to save the environment).
In others it was stupid. The power the bees would have needed could have powered entire cities on a bigger scale. The homing lock near the end, tagged to peoples devices–why not throw the device away? Also, there was no guarantee that the person was near the device that sent the message.
Too many holes when the rest of it took itself very seriously, like a crime drama.
Enjoyed the ending, but it let itself down elsewhere.
This seems to get a lot of hate. I love it as elements reminded me of Grind Spark, by Tamara Rogers, which is a brilliant compliment to Black Mirror. For that reason it gets extra points.
Being a parent and having this in-built fear and sense of protection (circumstances meant that I probably went through this more than many), was brilliantly captured.
Question: Couldn’t the mum just get a new tablet?
9. Men Against Fire.
Another one that seems to split opinion, with many people seemingly thinking it was a waste of time.
Call me dense, but I didn’t really see the twist coming until just before it was revealed.
War and the conditioning of soldiers, and the use of technology and media to influence how we see the ‘enemy’ has been evolving almost since the first conflict. Could this really be the next phase? Given the other horrors in the real world, it seemed plausible to me.
8. Be Right Back
Domhnall Gleeson, is amazing. So effortlessly charming and his understated charisma just lights up the screen so brilliantly that you’d want a copy of his soul if you were left a day without him in real life, wouldn’t you?
I’ve mentioned that I’ve written digital afterlife stories before, but it would be hard to beat one so refined and beautifully layered as this one. Well done Gleeson jnr, you have a mighty fine career ahead of you.
7. White Bear
Oh my goodness.
What the ****
I had no idea what was going on. I have to say that when I watched this I thought it was the weakest of the episodes. Rubbish. Useless. Too wacky and bizarre.
But, wow, how they turned my opinion around.
It had a Running Man vibe to it, but infinitely more believable and downright dangerous.
Classic Black Mirror.
6. Play Test
Another one that I took a long time to like.
The horror vibe worked well. The story was patchy in places and there were some elements that just didn’t work.
Overall, it deserved a place this high because with VR tech becoming more realistic, our greater demand to be hooked up and immersed in virtual worlds and the ever harder task of frightening the next generation of kids, this looked like a glimpse of the future.
5. Black Museum
I loved this. I know it will forever be compared to White Christmas, but it was a joy to watch.
Fabulous acting all round.
Loved the three stories approach.
Dark but funny.
Sinister yet redeeming.
Easter eggs aplenty.
It’s a hard call ranking these last few episodes.
4. Hang the DJ
For me, this wins over San Junipero for the happy and love-based episode award.
I didn’t have the same issues I had with San J. Here, while I thought they would ‘get together’ in the end, I knew it was happening in SJ. There was more of a struggle in the middle and more of a connection knowing that each partner was likely to be destined to a life with someone they didn’t want to be with.
The ending, for me, was less contrived and I hadn’t expected the Match.com type scenario until the reveals started to come.
Lovely, charming, and makes me feel that ‘there’s someone for everyone’.
3. Shut Up and Dance
When I think about this episode I genuinely feel physically sick.
After the gloss and shine of many of the new Netflix episodes this felt dirty, grimy, diseased almost.
Throughout it, it was hard to watch. Superbly acted.
I felt genuine empathy for the main character, until the end, which shocked me and left me feeling empty and numb.
Not many TV shows can do that and this could easily have finished number 1, 2, or 3.
What a start to the Netflix era.
Glossy, manicured, sophisticated.
Bryce Dallas Howard may never have a better performance.
Reports suggest that she gained up to thirty pounds to play the role and she owned it from start to finish.
Mesmerizing, from her needy perfect world, to her psychotic unhinged unraveling. Just brilliant in every way.
This more than any other episode touched me with the way our society has become and the way it’s heading.
And it did it all with a fake smile hidden behind unnaturally perfect teeth.
So good it hurts.
1 White Christmas
This was the only one that I had seen before watching them all back-to-back.
It’s hard to describe how brilliant it is.
Of the three segments, the middle one is the one that feels like it is a let-down, but it’s there for a reason and it joins the opening and closing elements nicely.
Sublime writing. Wonderful acting, with Jon Hamm masterful in joining the pieces together, with elusive charm and wit and never letting us near his character enough to know him.
The entire list is highly subjective and on a different day, I might have changed the first three around a bit.
Save for a small number of episodes it was a breathtaking ride that I immensely enjoyed.
Bring on the next season, I’ll find it hard to delay it this time.