Thursday, 4 May 2017

TV59: Black Mirror

Speaking of discussable shows, it’s long past time that I reviewed one of the the best Netflix TV shows out there: Black Mirror. Created by Charles Booker, this British series is a collection of completely self-contained episodes; there is almost no continuity whatsoever (i.e. all different actors, writers, directors, etc.). In this, and in its subject matter, it resembles most closely The Twilight Zone, of which I was a big fan back in the day. 

What sets Black Mirror apart, however, is the way its individual episodes (there are 13 available at the moment) focus on are out-of-control technological advances, usually taking place in the very near future and often providing spot-on prophetic warnings of where we are headed (if we’re not there already). Each episode tackles a different subject and often in very different ways, so that some episodes feel like pure horror while others can be quite funny satires and others beautiful dramas. Most of the time, Black Mirror episodes are downright terrifying to watch and think about; personally, I loved that. 

As can only be the case in an anthology like this, some episodes are brilliant four-star classics, while others can be disappointing. However, the overall quality of writing and acting is way above the norm for TV (there are often film stars in the lead roles) and brilliance predominates. And if you don’t like where an episode is heading, you can always skip it without any worries. To review the series properly, one would have to review each individual episode, which I don’t have time to do. All I can do is briefly highlight my favourite seven episodes:

Fifteen Million Merits (photo above) superbly satirizes our celebrity cult and reality-TV world, with great acting from Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findley.

Be Right Back stars Hayley Attwell and Domhnall Gleeson at their best in this romantic exploration of the future of AI and social media. 

White Bear is a terrifying exposé of the media’s role in criminal justice cases, the prominence of violence as entertainment, and much more. 

White Christmas is another terrifying (though often satiric) episode with a criminal justice/out-of-control technology theme. It stars Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall as two men in a remote cabin who share stories of what brought them there. 

Nosedive explores similar ground to The Circle, with Bryce Dallas Howard playing a woman desperately trying to hold on to her social media popularity ratings. 

San Junipero is a beautiful romance with a twist, starring Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as two women who fall in love in the seaside resort of San Junipero.

Hated in the Nation stars the marvellous Kelly Macdonald as a detective trying to solve a number of deaths related to social media. 

All of the above episodes get an easy ****. Most of the others get ***+ (there are only one or two true disappointments), so I am giving Black Mirror as a whole **** as well. This may be the finest episodic TV show ever made. Not to be missed (if you can handle the dark intensity of most of the episodes). 

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