Black Mirror: The Only Netflix Binge You Need Over the Break

The holiday break is a time for snowball fights, home-cooked meals and spending time with loved ones. But really, it’s for Netflix bingeing. With over a hundred million hours of content awaiting you and your semester-fried brain, how are you ever going to decide what to watch? Grab a turkey sandwich (how is there still so much leftover turkey? HOW) and let me tell you about a particular gem of a series: Black Mirror. (Note: this is a spoiler-free zone. You may read on in peace.)

A still from “Hated in the Nation.”

The buzz for this show isn’t new, but I’ll forgive those who haven’t heard it while living under their respective six-courses-and-a-part-time-job rocks. Facts first: Black Mirror is a British sci-fi, satire series. It’s an anthology, so each episode follows an entirely new set of characters in a new setting, facing a new technological advancement just inches beyond our own. Created by Charlie Brooker, who also executive-produces and writes every episode, it has been critically-acclaimed, nominated for multiple awards and praised for its daring depth and darkness.

A still from “San Junipero.”

On the surface, Black Mirror explores relationships between humans and technology in the realm of the not-too-distant future. From next-level social media to brain implants similar to Google Glass, these technologies prove to have dire consequences for the characters involved. For those looking to see deeper into its narratives, the show is abundant with fuel to spark debates on the theories of technology, like social constructivism versus technological determinism.

Futuristic technology is featured throughout the series, such as the grain implant in “The Entire History of You.”

It’s been compared to The Twilight Zone, Mr. Robot, and even has its own list of comparable movies on Letterboxd (and if you don’t know what that is, I urge you to spend the next hour falling down this Internet rabbit hole–you won’t regret it). However, I argue Black Mirror is more original than anything else you’ll find on TV these days. Brooker critically examines contemporary human practices with fair but brutal honesty, sometimes leading to very dark consequences, but always hanging the implications all out to dry for the audience to apply to their own lives.

If I haven’t convinced you yet with the show’s thought-provoking subject matter and originality, allow me to tell you about its stellar visual artistry and casting. With different characters each episode, the cast cycles flexibly through decorated actors including Bryce Dallas Howard, Jon Hamm and Domhnall Gleeson. Suspenseful music and editing come together to make each narrative twist into an artfully emotional shocker. Most notable are the custom-designed props and CG graphics that depict the technologies themselves with seamless realism.

Bryce Dallas Howard in “Nosedive.”

Originally airing on Channel 4 in the UK, you can now watch all three seasons (plus the holiday special) since it was picked up by Netflix for season three. Being an anthology, there’s no need to watch the episodes in any particular order, so you might as well start with the holiday special. After that, here’s a hugely subjective list of the best episodes to try next: “The Entire History of You” (season 1, episode 3), “Be Right Back” (season 2, episode 1) “Nosedive” (season 3, episode 1), “San Junipero” (season 3, episode 4) and “Hated in the Nation” (season 3, episode 6).

NOTE: All images courtesy of Netflix.