Shut Up and Dance
Men Against Fire
Hated in the Nation
Continuing the run of great episodes from last season, Black Mirror hits the ground running with some more dark, technology-focused stories. Featuring slick camera work and great script writing, Black Mirror confidently presents itself as the new age Twilight Zone with a show that rarely disappoints and very much provides thought provocative, well produced episodes.
The first episode “Nosedive” imagines a surreal world where social media has become centralised in life with each person judged on a 5 star rating which constantly fluctuates as people rate one another in the world. The lower the rating, the more shunned by society you are. Its a smartly written story and one of the best from this season. With such a bright, happy colour palette, it juxtaposes brilliantly with the mellow piano score tinged with sadness. The ending is one of the few in the show’s history that sees some sort of positive resolution which definitely helps set it apart from the rest.
The second episode, “Playtest” sees a man embarking on an augmented reality experiment that quickly gets out of hand. Its multiple layers and horror-centric theme make it a really interesting episode and whilst thematically its not as strong as some of the other episodes, the horror is well paced and extremely effective.
“Shut Up And Dance” is one of the more modern episodes and whilst it doesn’t include any technology outside the scope of what we currently have, its danger lies in just how far people will go to protect their secrets. The handheld camera and diluted colour palette help give this episode a much needed gritty realism too. This all combines to provide the foundation for a fast-paced thriller with a really powerful ending.
On the back of this is “San Junipero”. A hedonistic, beautiful tale about love transcending time. Tonally, this episode stands out among the bleak hopelessness of the other episodes and although its plot feels a little convoluted at times, by the end the writing manages to pull it together for a satisfying conclusion. To end the season we have “Men Against Fire”, a story focusing on the horror of war and “Hated in the nation” that works as a slow paced crime drama.
By the end of the season, it does feel like the ideas run a little dry. Although the final two episodes are still good in their own right, the sheer quality of the first four episodes almost feels like the final two just aren’t at the same level. They’re still produced well with smartly written scripts but for me, they just didn’t hold the same excitement and drive the other episodes did. Perhaps these episodes may fair better when not watched on the back of the first four, but watching in order I did feel they weren’t as hard hitting.
On the whole though, Season 3 is arguably stronger than Season 2 but with 6 rather than 3 episodes, it does feel a little overlong by the time the last credits roll. All of the episodes are produced well with decent scripts and its great to see the show doing as well as it is. With Charlie Brooker returning to writing duties, the plots are well realized and the differing Directors for every episode help to keep it fresh with every passing episode. The morals of each episode are all hard hitting and this season in particular is the most diverse in terms of story and strong themes. Whilst it might not feature a quartet of stunning episodes like last season, Season 3 of Black Mirror still pulls it out the bag for another slice of dark tales about a possible bleak future, even if it does lose steam by the end. There simply isn’t another show on TV like it and with Season 4 given the go ahead, it’ll be interesting to see just what direction the show goes in.