Black Mirror: Powerful and Thought Provoking

by absent

While perusing the high-brow discussions carried out in the YouTube comments of some forgotten video, one of the conversations I was reading somehow pointed me towards Black Mirror. I wish I could find whoever pointed the way, so I could thank them. So far, I’ve been writing reviews for media which I deem exceptional and well worth watching. This post is not an exception.

Black Mirror is a show that airs on the publicly-owned British “Channel Four”. It was created by Charlie Brooker. Brooker is relatively well known in England as a “satirist and broadcaster”. So far, it has only seven total episodes. Three in Series 1, three in Series 2, and a Christmas special. Each are approximately 45 minutes, barring the first episode and the special which are both around an hour. There is something to be said for shows which are comfortable with very small episode counts per season. Sherlock has taken a similar approach so far, and all of the episodes have been significantly better than all of their competitors average episodes. Truly a case of quality over quantity. Black Mirror follows suit for the first two Series and none of the episodes have disappointed. The third Series has been approve for twelve episodes, however.[1] This is exciting, as I seriously doubt they would produce sub-par quality episodes after two strong Series, as it would practically ensure failure.

At any rate, why is this worth watching? Black Mirror is significantly different than any other show I have ever seen. I’m no professional critic, and I haven’t seen many anthology series in general, but I’ve seen my fair share of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I don’t think I can recall a single show that has struck me so quickly, and in such unique areas. Each episode posits seriously thought provoking material delving into philosophy, focusing heavily on morality, as well as the psychology of the rapid technological advances that are changing the way humanity exists. Not only does it toy with today’s massive advances, it presents a futuristic and potentially negative reality we could find ourselves in as a result of specific advances. Unintended consequences.

That alone isn’t something particularly novel. These points alone are interesting and watch-worthy, but it’s hard to overstate the other positive aspects Black Mirror brings to the table. The sheer humanity and reality the show presents is incredible. I rarely thought of the characters as actors. All of the actors do superb jobs. In terms of content, the humanity is raw. It’s real. Unlike BBC’s Sherlock, the writers of Black Mirror have no pre-defined niche or story to draw from. Since it’s an anthology, each episode being unique, and since the writers took this to the extreme replacing the major actors per episode, there is no falling into a rhythm of episode creation. In simpler terms, there can be no fillers. Each episode watches like a cinematic experience. Each are fantastic in their own right.

Now, it would be easy, and I’m sure tempting to rely on the very interesting premise of each episode to create an interesting narrative. As said above, this alone would be worth watching. They don’t stop there, however. The interpersonal aspects of this show are incredibly powerful. They do not pull any punches. The characters humanity and flaws are not hidden behind a veil. The problems these characters face are not superficial everyday progressions towards a more ideal self. These characters portray something much more real; the dirty, messy underbelly of humanity, where not everything works out. Not everything is O.K. Not everything bad that happens has a lesson that the characters can walk away from feeling more knowledgeable or better off. From physical and psychological torture to complete personal meltdowns, this show is a sort of expose of human internals. This set of reality driven interpersonal aspects would stand alone as an amazing show, as well.

The moral layer encompassing each episode produces quite a bit of tension, internally, in myself. This isn’t a show you pop in to zone out or wind down with, this is a show that will challenge you. (At least, if you think along with it.) There are no easy fixes that will pop into mind as the characters struggle, you will cognitively struggle for a solution along with them. Moral grey areas, cognitive dissonance, and a healthy dose of paranoia are all prevalent components that pack a powerful undertone to each episode. All of these aspects are also encompassed in an interesting political-economic framework adding yet another dimension of underlying meaning. I won’t go into too much depth, but a huge portion of this show seems to portray a potentially abhorrent corporatist future, Brave New World style.

All in all, if you have not watched Black Mirror, I highly recommend doing so. It’s the perfect time, as there are only seven episodes to get caught up on before series three’s twelve episodes begin airing. It’s available on Netflix (last I heard). Definitely check it out.