Ever have a TV show you’re absolutely late to the party for? When all the fanfare has been and gone, you’re sitting down to the series pilot, wondering what the fuss has been about? Same. It happened to yours truly with Hidden Detective, The Killing and even How to Make A Murderer and Twin Peaks. But thankfully, I’m not the only binge-watcher filled with minor regrets; Black Mirror, it seems, falls into that category for quite a few viewers.
The thing is, if you haven’t already caught up on Charlie Brooker’s excellent and extremely dark TV series then you have sorely missed out. It’s a contemporary reworking of The Twilight Zone with stories that tap into the collective unease about the modern world as technology advances beyond our control. This is a show that is weird and twisted – you need time to get your head around it. And though the early series episodes, in particular, are short, each episode is so intense it’s easy to see why there aren’t many of them. Each episode is intended as a stand-alone; each has its own characters, its own story, its own cast, and no connection to the rest of the canon except being loosely about our relationship with technology.
And as the series primarily adopts the anthology format to tell separate narratives with a different cast for each of its episodes, there’s little time to build its universe – it hasn’t got one in a sense as every starting episode sees it begin again, making it both refreshing and frustrating. Equal parts terrifying and deeply moving, the third episode of the first season, for example, “The Entire History of You,” is still widely regarded as one of the best thus far (and will be getting a film adaptation produced by Robert Downey Jr.). Set in a world where people can replay all of their experiences and memories, the episode shows the power of our obsessive nature and how deeply this can affect us.
Some of the series’ more twisted predictions grow more and more relevant as time passes, and it’s back on everyone’s radar because the trailer for the highly-anticipated fourth season’s Jodie Foster (yes, that Jodie Foster)–directed episode, “Arkangel,” has premiered, unsettling as ever. Rosemarie DeWitt stars as a mother panics after her young daughter briefly vanishes. We soon see she has signed her up for a chilling clinical trial that appears to utterly alter her personality and involves very pointy syringes. Brooker told EW that Foster left her unique mark in the episode. “She responded to the script, and she had a lot of thoughts and suggestions on the characters, so there were a lot of adjustments. She’s not just a gun for hire, she’s incredibly intelligent and comes in with some thoughts on the material. Which is what you want in a director because each story is a standalone [episode], so you want each to be idiosyncratic to that director. And she brought a lot of that.”
Has society come to a point where we must adopt new forms of control to protect our children from harm? Or is our insistence to advance new technologies merely a mechanism continuing to feed our darkest impulses?
Black Mirror asks all these questions and more. It will terrify and infuriate you and it will be something you’ll binge-watch until you finish every episode.
Season 4 won’t premiere until 2018 but seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Netflix now.