Known for its commentary on technology and plot twists, Black Mirror continuously breaks cinematic barriers from season to season, each one becoming more relevant in today’s society. Here are the five best and five worst episodes in the anthology’s six seasons.
5. “Metalhead” (Season 4 Episode 5)
Known for being the only episode filmed entirely in black and white, “Metalhead” follows Bella (Maxine Peake) in a post-apocalyptic society as she tries to escape robotic “dogs” that target humans by spraying shrapnel and trackers at their victims. This episode is a unique spin on what could happen if technology advances and takes over the human race. While this episode outranks the previous ones listed, its simplicity and lack of development put it as the fifth worst episode in the series.
4. “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” (Season 5 Episode 3)
This episode similarly lacks the sophistication and impact that “Black Mirror’s” older episodes achieved. This episode follows pop star Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) who is stripped of her free will due to her aunt’s strict control over her career and music. Ashley’s team announces “Ashley Too” a robot-doll version of Ashley that mimics her voice and can say inspirational phrases or sing Ashley’s biggest hits. Mega-fan Rachel (Angourie Rice) receives the doll for her birthday, but due to a glitch, the real Ashley’s consciousness cries for help after being imprisoned and sedated by her aunt.
This episode is an interesting take on conservatorship and creative control and can be parallel to Cyrus’s real-life Disney Channel upbringing, or even the recent Britney Spears saga. Though Cyrus’s performance was a tour de force, the plot lacked cohesion and all of the other characters besides Ashley were poorly written and forgettable. Without Cyrus, this episode may be the worst in the series.
3. “Smithereens” (Season 5 Episode 2)
“Smithereens” might be the most forgettable episode to date. This episode follows a rideshare driver, Chris (Andrew Scott), who kidnaps Jaden (Damson Idris), an intern for Smithereen, a social media company resembling Facebook. After Chris’s fiancé died in a car accident due to distracted driving, Chris blames the company for her death and plans to kidnap an employee for revenge. Though Andrew Scott’s performance was remarkable, the episode felt like an uninspired cliché about the dangers of social media and lacked any new or interesting themes in its plot.
2. “The Waldo Moment” (Season 2 Episode 3)
For fans of “Black Mirror,” “The Waldo Moment'' is a universally disliked episode from the franchise, and feels like a one-note satire on American politics. The episode follows a comedian named Jamie (Daniel Rigby) who takes on the persona of Waldo, an animated bear in a TV program who is known for his vulgar language and blatant criticisms of political candidates. Due to his rapidly gaining popularity, Jamie’s TV executives want Waldo to run for parliament himself. Though this plot line mimics aspects of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, all the social and political commentary falls flat due to unconvincing performances from the cast. It’s particularly hard to root for Waldo, who is annoying and unfunny, making the entire episode feel unrealistic and frankly hard to watch.
1. “Mazey Day” (Season 6 Episode 4)
After a four-year hiatus, the sixth season of “Black Mirror” was highly anticipated and, for the most part, lived up to expectations. That is, besides the season’s fourth episode, “Mazey Day.” This episode follows Bo (Zazie Beetz), a paparazzo who is offered $30,000 to capture a picture of famous actress Mazey Day (Clara Rugaard), who secretly went into hiding after a hit-and-run incident. Though the episode had the potential to be an effective critique of mass media and paparazzi culture, the entire plot is lost when Mazey Day suddenly morphs into a werewolf, which causes the entire episode to lose even a modicum of substance, making it the worst “Black Mirror” episode to date.
5. “Shut Up and Dance” (Season 3 Episode 3)
While this episode's shock value is unmatched, there are still a couple of episodes that outperform “Shut Up and Dance.” This episode follows Kenny (Alex Lawther), a teenager who gets blackmailed by computer hackers who threaten to leak a video of him masturbating to his entire contact list. Kenny must complete a series of tasks, each one in exchange for the hackers not releasing his video. This episode perfectly builds tension and anxiety as Kenny’s tasks become increasingly more criminal and gruesome. Without spoiling, the ending of the episode might be the most sickening and gut-wrenching plot twist in “Black Mirror” history, making it worthy of the fifth-best spot.
4. “Fifteen Million Merits” (Season 1 Episode 2)
Many casual fans of “Black Mirror” immediately associate the show’s first season with its disturbing first episode, “The National Anthem,” where a prime minister is forced to have sex with a pig; however, the true standout of the first season is “Fifteen Million Merits.” This episode takes place in a futuristic society where people must ride exercise bikes to earn “merits,” the fictional currency in this dystopian world. Merits are used to buy anything from basic necessities like food or toothpaste to luxuries like new video games or different entertainment options. The episode follows Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) who meets Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) and uses the fifteen million merits he’s accumulated over the years to send Abi on a talent show, so she can escape the monotonous slave-like existence. Bing’s monologue at the end of the episode is chilling and calls viewers to think about the grim reality of modern technology and its future consequences.
3. “Hang the DJ” (Season 4 Episode 4)
This episode follows Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell) whose lives are controlled by a virtual assistant who assigns them romantic partners for a fixed amount of time, each relationship giving the algorithm more information until they are paired with their perfect match. With its references to modern-day dating apps, this episode integrates versions of popular modern technology, while maintaining that ominous sci-fi feeling that “Black Mirror” is known for. But what sets this episode apart from the rest is its happy ending. Cole and Campbell’s chemistry is unmatched, and their love story is beautifully told. “Hang the DJ” is a breath of fresh air compared to the bleak and disturbing nature of other episodes.
2. “White Christmas” (Season 2 Episode 4)
This episode intertwines three stories told by Matt (Jon Hamm) and Potter (Rafe Spall) from a cabin on Christmas Day. Without spoiling, each one explores themes of artificial intelligence, internet blocking and consciousness, making “White Christmas” one of the darkest and most twisted episodes in the show’s history. This episode encapsulates everything that makes “Black Mirror” great, earning the second-best spot in this ranking.
1. “USS Callister” (Season 4 Episode 1)
Finally, the best episode of “Black Mirror” is easily season four’s “USS Callister.” This episode follows Robert Daly (Jesse Plemmons), a reclusive co-founder of a video company who is often mistreated and bullied by his staff and coworkers. Daly takes out his frustrations by putting digital replicas of everyone who has mistreated him in his copy of a Star-Trek-inspired video game, so he can live out his sick and torturous fantasies on their clones. This episode’s themes of consciousness, toxic fan culture and digital abuse are accurately examined, and this episode perfectly balances comedic timing with the chilling nature of the show. With well-written complex characters, “USS Callister” is the best installment to the “Black Mirror” franchise.