Two seasons, streaming on Netflix
If you’re looking for a counterbalance to the cloying holiday schmaltz or some conversation topics with your technology-paranoid relatives, look no further than the dark and unsettling Black Mirror, which is finally available on Netflix this month. Created by Charlie Brooker in 2011 and first aired on BBC4 , the Twilight Zone-style anthology offers a series of unconnected, pitch black parables exploring the ways in which technology changes the world we live in, for better and (usually) worse.
The episodes range from disconcertingly plausible (“The National Anthem,” “The Waldo Moment”) to a future dystopia more reminiscent of Brave New World (“Fifteen Million Merits,” “White Bear”), but each strikes at the heart of our deepest technological anxieties. The self-contained stories feel rich and fully realized; many details throughout offer passing glimpses into the potential applications and ramifications of our technological advances. “The Entire History of You,” for example, depicts a world in which most people contain an implant that allows the recording of everything they see and hear, that can later be replayed or even broadcast. Aside from being a critical plot device in its exploration of how people deal with their past and each other, the episode also shows the technology being utilized for employer performance evaluations, airport security screenings, and even as a nanny cam. These surprising and often unsettlingly clever details make each new world as intriguing and disturbing as the plot itself.
The strength of the writing is also worth noting; the story and the world it inhabits are brilliantly intertwined, with every new twist in the story elucidating a different aspect of technology’s pervasive influence and vice versa. The impact of both is amplified as a result, and the suspense builds to dizzying heights as the viewer quickly learns to expect the worst. There’s also comedy to be found here, but it’s as dark as the satire and doesn’t offer much comfort from the show’s general tone of underlying dread and emotional devastation.
Longtime fans will have the perverse pleasure of introducing this dark, intelligent satire to loved ones. Grinches will swiftly and utterly extinguish any holiday cheer. Technophobics will see their worst nightmares manifested on screen, and likely discover a few new ones they never knew they had.