Nov 11, 2016

[TV] Black Mirror: Season 3

So Tobie and super got into Black Mirror some time back for many reasons. Let's face it, this series is an amazing bit of storytelling whose impact feels a lot like past shows such as The Twilight Zone, but more in tune with the technology of today. The various episodes were all near-future enough to feel familiar and yet always with a twist to show where current technology trends could lead.

There were some fears when the broadcast rights for the show were secured by Netflix from Channel 4 and the format was set to change from a limited 3-episode run to a 6-episode season. And it's easy to worry since we think of Netflix as yet another American network that stretches stories too far or makes weird adaptations of great British shows. But in this case the result was still perfectly in tune with the prior seasons of the show, and we're all the luckier for it.

Synopsis: Black Mirror is a British television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker. The current Netflix deal makes the show a Netflix-exclusive for two 6-episode seasons.

Like the prior seasons, this third season of the show still features self-contained stories for each of the episodes. It's not necessary to watch any of the episodes in one particular order or another, however there are little connections to other episodes included as Easter Eggs, but this is nothing major.

Nose Dive is about a world where everyone rates everyone else and the scores factor into all aspects of life. Playtest is about pushing the limits for experiential gaming. Shut Up and Dance makes us consider what might happen if we were to get blackmailed with our secrets. San Junipero is a beautiful story about a whole different escape from life. Men Against Fire is about a possible future for military technology. And Hated in the Nation makes us consider the potential consequences of online hate speech.

What I Liked: This was a great season  for sure and I liked most of the episodes for one reason or another. Nose Dive was just classic Black Mirror goodness and Bryce Dallas Howard was amazing in that episode. Shut Up and Dance was all sorts of intense and also felt like the sort of stories we've seen in past seasons but more because of emotional impact.

But man, San Junipero was something else entirely given how it's a clever mix of nostalgia, curiosity and a genuine love story. It was a brilliant example of storytelling that blended great characters, powerful music and a clever plot all into one brilliant story. I feel it's one of the best episodes of the show as a whole and not just this season, but I'm sure some others may have other opinions.

On the whole, Brooker really delivered something special with this latest season and it looks like the move to Netflix was definitely a good thing.

What Could Have Been Better: Oddly enough, it felt almost a little distracting to have more familiar actors involved in the show. Most of the prior seasons didn't really feature folks all too familiar to most of us outside the UK (I'm assuming) and so the greater focus was on the narrative. This season had more than a few familiar faces involved so results vary. Sure we had John Hamm in White Christmas, but that was a one-off special episode so it felt extraneous to all this.

And there were instances when it felt like we didn't quite get the full push of speculative fiction for how things would go. Both Playtest and Men Against Fire felt a little too predictable as we went through them and I really do prefer not knowing what's coming around the bend in a Black Mirror episode.

TL;DR: Black Mirror is as good as it has ever been and it's nice to see the show back in production and in a format as widely accessible as Netlix. And as with any anthology, not all episodes are made equal and people will enjoy one over the other for different reasons, but I think it's safe to say they're all more good than bad. And so I'm happy to give this third season of Black Mirror a full 5 strange twists to social media out of a possible 5.

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