Guest Contribution: Ranking Black Mirror’s Most Human Stories

Bouncing between the plausibly not too distant future and the horrifyingly fucked up but still plausible not too distant future, Black Mirror is one of the many blessings Netflix has taken under its umbrella. The third season debuted on Netflix in October last year, and during a recent rewatch of the series I couldn’t quell my desire to write about the stand-out episodes that affected me the most during and post-viewing. I had one episode in mind right away, but in the midst of a brain dead afternoon after I was mentally defeated by a Super Mario puzzle, I thought it might be more fun to do a list! Plus I get to ride on the coattails of Buzzfeed and WatchMojo for sensationalizing them. So, here’s one man’s opinion on the definitive top 10 ranking of Black Mirror’s most emotional tales.

NUMBER 10

Men Against Fire

A scenario where the government is in control of what our soldiers see, hear and smell while they’re out in the field certainly doesn’t seem so far fetched. I believe there’s a few video games out there with similar concepts, but ‘Men Against Fire’ does a great job of showing us the perspective through the eyes of a questioning soldier and the harsh realities of war and propaganda on the psyche.

Emotional Grade: Unsettling


NUMBER 9

Playtest

Gosh, this episode is wild from start to finish. Horror mixed with Mystery mixed with Sci-fi all in a nice little bow, it’s fun to rewatch and to show off to friends who haven’t seen it yet. The tech in this episode takes a jarring turn, but it’s not hard to see that this could be the direction gaming could move in to get away from the fashion eye sore of the clunky VR headsets. It’s easy to get sucked in and ride the emotional wave with the main character as he plunges further and further into his personal nightmare.

Emotional Grade: I peed my pants


NUMBER 8

Fifteen Million Merits

Another beautiful episode, we follow humans trapped in digital cells where they are surrounded by screens on all sides, allowed out to cycle and build credits. These credits, called merits, are used to pay for food, entertainment and waive large scale ‘pop ups’. One way out is to try and prove your worth on a X-factor styled talent show called Hot Shot, but is the reward worth the effort? Guess you better earn your fifteen million credits and find out!

Emotional Grade: Absolute frustration


NUMBER 7

White Bear

No matter what stance you have on punishment vs rehabilitation, it’s not hard to find yourself empathizing for the main character by the time the credits roll. One of the great Black Mirror reveal episodes, you’ll find yourself just as if not more confused than the main character is before she has to do it alllllll over again. Reality television taken to the absolute extreme, but there’s no denying that the audience numbers would be there akin to the Hunger Games or Battle Royale.

Emotional Grade: “I am confusion, American explain yourself”


NUMBER 6

Nosedive


When I want to first introduce someone or goad them into watching this series, this is the episode I recommend every time. Not as left fielded as the season one premiere, Nosedive has forced everyone into a rating system. Every time you interact with another human being, ratings can be issued, some genuine, and some totally haphazard by apathetic users. Seeing as we almost saw an app similar to this (yelp for people I think back in 2014) come into existence, this story is great for new viewers since it’s a lot tamer and the ending turns into a total laugh fest of secondhand uneasiness.

Emotional Grade: Honesty is a dish best served never


NUMBER 5

The National Anthem


For those who DO start at the beginning, be prepared for 45 minutes of “I need this to be over”. A princess (duchess maybe?) is kidnapped and the prime minister must, instead of answering to a ransom, comply to fornicating with a pig on live television before she can be released. It’s a whirlwind of “No don’t do that!” and “Fuck, he’s trying to do that”, and culminating with an ending that will leave you saying “Damn, people suck”.

Emotional Grade: Please God No


NUMBER 4

Shut Up and Dance


Hey, it’s Bron! I mean if you’re not watching Game of Thrones, are you really living? Anyway, if you wouldn’t want your momma to see it, don’t do it in front of a webcam! The power of shame is strong, strong enough to push you to doing anything to protect yourself from having to reveal it to others. Whether you’re cheating, masturbating to questionable content, engaging in illegal activities: once you get blackmailed it’s almost impossible to escape it (especially when you end up doing even worse acts out of fear). Hindsight is 20/20.

Emotional Grade: Shame bells everywhere


NUMBER 3

Be Right Back


Ohhhhh man. This is one of those would I/wouldn’t I situations. After the passing of her husband, technology allows a widow to have communication with an A.I. version of her loved one. Evolving from text to phone calls to an actual synthetic body, it’s enough to wonder whether I would be strong enough in her shoes to be able to say no if I had the same opportunity. Plus, sounds like the sex was better…soooo….

Emotional Grade: I’m too weak to say no


NUMBER 2

The Entire History of You


I demand to know if there’s anyone out there who didn’t identify with this episode in some way. Have you ever over-analyzed a situation? What if you had the ability to replay it and then show it to others? Obsession doesn’t even begin to describe it. Sure this could be handy for those of us like ME who have god awful memories, but it’d definitely be more of a blessing than a curse. Forgiveness is nearly impossible if you have the memories and wounds as fresh as the day you received them.

Emotional Grade: Fuck you and here’s why


Honorable Mentions:

The Waldo Moment

Totally in line with our current political climate, the story is plausible but it’s a little tough to feel a complete connection to the characters.

White Christmas

Hey, look at you doing things Jon Hamm! This is honestly an incredible episode, the only downside is that there’s so much going on that it feels like three episodes in one and it’s hard to invest in a way that you can in the other stories.

Hated in the Nation

There’s honestly no bad black mirror episodes, and I love the mystery we are presented in this episode and the revelations we get at the conclusion, but I just had no emotional attachment to any of the principal characters involved. It still gets a B for enjoyment!


NUMBER 1

San Junipero


I mean, this is probably pretty unsurprising if you know me in any sort of degree. Not only do we get some phenomenal representation in this episode, but the story is touching and heartbreaking all at once. Stylized beautifully with amazing dance hits and perfect staging, we travel different decades but feel the same human connection throughout all of them. I’ve heard critiques that the story is cheesy and it’s a slow build to the final revelation at the end, but the payoff is sooooo worth it. Kelly’s emotional burst about her grief with her lost husband breaks me, and the end sequence alone is perfect television. I’ll never be able to listen to Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” without this gut feeling of sorrow mixed with joy. Without giving much away, I just ask that if any episode of Black Mirror deserves your attention, it’s this one.

Emotional Grade: My heart hurts so good

Do you agree? Let me know! I’m happy to engage in any discussions about why I’m right and you’re wrong! ❤

Editor’s note:

Eric Smith is a delightfully nerdy guy from Michigan with an incredible taste and an amazing beard. Funny, thoughtful, and incredibly political, he has a voice that is necessary and valued by this humble blogger.

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