The opening episode of Black Mirror season 3 is an example of just how much money Netflix have been willing to chuck into this show. Joe Wright takes directing credits whilst the lead role is played by Bryce Dallas Howard in casting that would have been well out of their budget during the Channel 4 days.
The concept is simple but brilliant – a world dictated by our social media ratings, where every encounter we have is rated and this will either grant us access to, or forbid us from doing certain things.
Bryce Dallas Howard is Lacie Pond, an aspiring socialite who is desperate to get her average rating up to a 4.5 or above so she can rent herself a nice new apartment and be included in the best social circles. All is going well for Lacie when she is invited to an old school friend’s wedding that will be attended by loads of highly rated people. That is until a few bad encounters see her desperately, and rather pathetically trying to claw her way back up the social ladder.
Nosedive, written by Michael Shur and Rashida Jones creates a sterile, Martha Stewart inspired world, where everybody is super nice to each other and has lost touch with what it is to be a real person, something that is demonstrated brilliantly in the show’s very last moments.
The grand finale of the episode also makes for tough viewing, watching Lacie effectively commit social suicide is cringe inducing and in that moment, when the facade is finally dropped we can really, truly feel for her for the first time in 60 minutes.
The episode’s aesthetic is also a sign of Netflix’s investment into the show. The set design for Lacie’s world is immaculate – the world in which she lives is full of pastel colours and smiling faces, creating a sterile environment. Imagine a nightmarish world created by Martha Stewart and you’re nearly there.
Nosedive is a frightening modern day morality tale, set in a world that we could be fast approaching.
2: Shut up and Dance
Shut up and Dance is so brilliant, and so frightening because it is the first Black Mirror episode since the very first one that could happen to you, or somebody you know, right now. It is not set in a distant future, or a slightly closer future, it is set today and it shows us just how crazy the internet could potentially become.
It is also the show’s bleakest episode, with no moment of redemption or no hope for any of the characters from the opening moments. It takes our expectations and crushes them in front of our faces.
Alex Lawther is Kenny, a teenage boy who is recorded doing what teenage boys do online, by some hackers. The hackers then begin to text him, telling him he must follow their orders otherwise they will leak the video online to everybody he knows.
Whilst following their instructions he bumps into several other people, all of which are also being threatened by these anonymous forces.
Shut up and Dance’s final revelations, whilst being somewhat predictable from early on in the episode are still a massive punch in the gut and really twist audience expectations and play with our sense of morality. Shut up and Dance is Black Mirror at it’s most devastating.
1: San Junipero
San Junipero is likely to be a controversial choice for the season’s top spot. Many have claimed that the episode is against the show’s spirit and general outlook. Me however, I loved every minute of it and it is testament to the show’s genius that it can deliver something that is so surprising and beautiful.
San Junipero is unlike any other episode you’ve ever seen of Black Mirror, instead of being a cautionary tale it is one of hope and love, and the potential good technology can do for us.
Set in 1987 San Junipero is a story of a two young girls who fall in love in a nightclub one night in a meeting that will change both of their lives, quite literally forever.
Anchored by two of the best performances the show has ever seen from Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, San Junipero takes us on an emotional roller coaster that I’m not ashamed to say brought a tear to my eye on at least two separate occasions. Not only thematically is it the show’s most beautiful either, aesthetically it is something to cherish as well. The cinematography is simply stunning and the period work is second to none.
San Junipero’s ending may be open to interpretations but the show’s overall messages are sweet and endearing and the episode is a ray of sunshine through the show’s otherwise cloudy and bleak approach. A daring, beautiful, challenging and thought provoking piece of television, San Junipero is Black Mirror’s finest hour.
What did you think was the best episode of Black Mirror Season 3? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter here – @liamhoofe