TV Review: Black Mirror (Series 3)
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One of the most interesting, insightful and critically acclaimed dystopian horror series of recent times, Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror has finally made it’s return.
Originally conceived on Channel 4, series three changes things up, being produced and distributed by Netflix. Fans of the previous ventures into the dark days of tomorrow will know what to expect and may be pleasantly surprised by this latest season. Brooker's ability to transport the audience on a journey, not only through the lurking danger of developing technologies, but with terrific storytelling is still as present and wonderful as ever - as well as the many unpredictable plot twists.
Again, doing what Brooker does best, there are harsh stabs at modern society throughout the six episodes. In each tale, we see the likes of a society based on social media rankings, an intense and personal augmented video game experience and a dark take on the evolution of the military.
'San Junipero' and 'Playtest' prove to be the best episodes of the season. 'San Junipero' actually gives a shimmer of hope and happiness amongst the darkness and horror of the rest of the series. Focusing on a relationship between Kelly and Yorkie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis) in a party town in 80s California, the episode offers some really gorgeous visuals and terrific performances from the two leads. Its ending isn’t as dark or depressing as the others either - but is still as innovative and heart-wrenching.
In contrast to this relatively friendly episode of Black Mirror, 'Playtest' is perhaps one of the scariest episodes so far. The tale follows American traveller Cooper (played by Wyatt Russell, who rocks a beard almost as gloriously as his father Kurt does) who finds himself in Britain with no money and offers himself up for a paid video game test, that turns out to be one that plays and manipulates his inner-most nightmares and brings them to life with terrifying consequences. The horror aspect mixed with the standard nihilism makes for an uncomfortable experience, but is still up to standards with the best written episodes.
Perhaps the weakest of the bunch of new episodes is 'Nosedive', an episode that echoes a lot of ambition. Along the way, we follow Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her navigations through a world ruled by social media rankings that determine such transactions as buying a house to renting a car. The episode seems predictable and doesn’t lend itself to the shock surprises that Black Mirror delivers so well. It is still enjoyable, but doesn’t seem as polished as the others in the season. Nevertheless, 'Nosedive' is really good at diving into its social allegories concerning the rabbit hole of social media and how it rules people's lives.
The season ends with some of the most interesting stories provided by Black Mirror. 'Men Against Fire' includes a look at the military and the potentially extreme ideologies that they will eventually adopt. The military and the use of force by government is a topic that has been largely avoided in previous series, but it makes for some terrifying predictions that feel close to reverting back to some of the most horrific moments in history. The season finale reaches new levels of insanity, in a full 90 minute feature that mixes terrific science-fiction with the honest brutality of a Scandinavian drama and inklings of David Fincher’s Se7en.
There is definitely an emergent formula throughout each episode and the lingering expectancy of a plot twist. However, due to the creativity exerted by Brooker, this hasn’t become redundant or overdone.
Where a full series Netflix release subconsciously encourages binge-watching, this is the one show that doesn’t benefit from doing so. Having a break between episodes is highly recommended, just to let yourself fully absorb the episode and to ponder upon what just appeared in front of you. Watching all episodes in a day would definitely lead you to a very dark place.
Black Mirror’s third series is strong; not a single episode sticks out as bad, but the occasional episode is slightly flawed. It is however revolutionary in other ways with each episode developing such an astute sense of individuality, through the filmmaking style, to the acting and even the sound design and score.
Series four is in production and is set to be released in 2017. After that? Well, who knows where Brooker will take us next.
Series 3 of Black Mirror is available to stream on Netflix now.