16 WTF Moments From Black Mirror
Black Mirror has had three seasons so far; two that aired on Channel 4 and a third that streamed directly on Netflix. That’s twelve episodes total, plus a Christmas special. While its episode count is relatively small, in the short amount of time Black Mirror has been around it has managed to accumulate an admirable dosage of prestige. Brooker’s sci-fi anthology series is often mentioned is the same breath as The Twilight Zone, and has hosted a wide array of talented actors, from Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm to Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya. As you might already know, Black Mirror‘s resounding success has secured it a fourth season, set to land on Netflix later this year.
Perhaps the reason Black Mirror has resonated so deeply with audiences is because it provides clear insight into modern day paranoia, while simultaneously offering a prophetic glimpse at where our world might be headed. Of course, Black Mirror wouldn’t be able to engage audiences with its shocking stories if it didn’t contain a certain element of, well, shock value. Luckily, the show has successfully made many viewers’ heads spin so quickly that they’re liable to fall right off. The infamy of Black Mirror‘s mind-blowing scenes and concepts have only further embellished the show’s fame.
Depending on the strength of your stomach, this list of 16 WTF Moments From Black Mirror will either deter you from ever watching the show or make you rush to binge it as soon as possible.
16. LIAM MAKES HIS WIFE SHOW HIM VIDEO OF HER AFFAIR (THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU)
“The Entire History of You” is one of Black Mirror’s most acclaimed episodes; so acclaimed that Robert Downey Jr. optioned the episode to potentially be made into a film. This makes sense, as the tense plot of “The Entire History of You,” which makes for a thrilling hour of television, has enough drama to easily fuel a two-hour movie.
The premise of the episode, which is the only one not to credit Brooker as a writer, tackles an alternative reality where people can record and replay their memories. As one might expect, this new technology encourages obsession over reason. When main character Liam suspects that his wife, Ffion, has cheated on him, he pushes Ffion to show him her past memories with her alleged lover. Liam doesn’t like what he sees, yet he forces himself to watch.
Liam’s paranoia escalates when he suspects that he might not be the biological father of their child. He projects his wife’s memory onto a screen, and watches to confirm whether or not she used protection during her affair. His wife watches too, in a disturbing and heartbreaking scene.
15. PRIME MINISTER HAS SEX WITH A PIG (THE NATIONAL ANTHEM)
In Black Mirror‘s earliest answer to one of many “Are they actually going to go there?” questions, the pilot episode’s “there” is a truly horrifying destination. Bearing similarity to a real life incident involving sexual acts and pigs (that creator Charlie Brooker claimed to have no knowledge of before the episode), “The National Anthem” took things to another level, and set up Black Mirror‘s penchant for exposing and exacerbating humanity’s worst exploits.
After a beloved member of the Royal Family is kidnapped, the British Prime Minister receives the terms for the Princess’ release: the Prime Minister must have sexual intercourse with a pig live on national television. As the Prime Minister weighs the chances of law enforcement successfully finding the captive Princess and, more importantly, considers the survival of his public image, it becomes increasingly clear he has no choice but to do the deed.
In Black Mirror‘s first episode, Brooker demonstrates his talent for carefully thinking through the unthinkable. He takes the situation seriously, without denying the lunacy of what his characters are being asked to do. Months after watching Black Mirror‘s pilot, you’ll still be asking yourself if what you witnessed actually happened on a TV show.
14. SOLDIER’S SEX DREAMS GET WEIRD (MEN AGAINST FIRE)
Black Mirror often makes sex a prominent feature in its stories. “Men Against Fire” certainly wasn’t the first Black Mirror episode to observe sex through a perverse, science fiction lense, nor was it the first episode to subvert expectations of a post-apocalyptic narrative. But the penultimate episode of season three stood out with some visceral moments of intensity.
Stripe, a soldier in a wasteland overrun with terrifying monsters known as “roaches,” begins having strange dreams during his military tenure. The dreams are certainly not unpleasant, as they involve him having sex with a woman far away from the battlefield. However, the dreams become stranger and stranger, peaking with a dream where duplicates of the woman appear. Again, not unpleasant, but still bizarre.
While Stripe’s dreams maintain a serene tone, viewers can’t help but start to feel uneasy about Stripe’s mental situation. Those uneasy feelings are eventually validated as “Men Against Fire” continues.
13. CONTESTANT HOLDS SHARD OF GLASS TO THROAT (15 MILLION MERITS)
Daniel Kaluuya is on the rise. The star of Get Out previously played a supporting role in Sicario and will appear in Marvel’s Black Panther next year. The script of Black Mirror‘s “15 Million Merits,” builds up to a stunning climax not only with the help of its brilliant writing, but also due to Kaluuya’s memorable acting.
Kaluuya’s character, Bing, lives in a strange facility powered by its inhabitants. They ride exercise bikes in exchange for “merits.” Bing is a quiet, indifferent man with an abundance of merits. He’s shaken from his ambivalence by Abi, a woman with dreams of entering a popular talent competition. Bing offers Abi the merits needed to enter, but feels betrayed when she decides to instead perform lewd acts to achieve fame. Bing saves more merits to put himself in the competition. With a glass shard pressed to his throat, he sends an impassioned message to the hosts and audience.
Bing’s journey from passivity to outrage works well, thanks to Kaluuya. This change happens quickly, and yet Bing’s willingness to kill himself onstage is highly believable.
12. SOLDIER FINDS OUT HE’S BEEN KILLING INNOCENTS INSTEAD OF MONSTERS (MEN AGAINST FIRE)
The surprises in “Men Against Fire” don’t end with the lucid dreams. By the episode’s conclusion, Stripe discovers that his dreams are the result of a glitch in a computer chip, which has been implanted into his brain. The chip is meant to help Stripe and other soldiers carry out military operations. Stripe is devastated when he realizes his chip was helping in more ways than he knew.
After more dreams and repeated meetings with a military therapist, Stripe uncovers the truth about the war he’s been fighting. The roaches that he and his battalion have been hunting down and slaughtering are actually just regular people. They’re innocents, who have the misfortune of carrying a deadly virus. But the technology in Stripe’s brain makes him see these people as monsters, thus making it easier for him to kill them.
“Men Against Fire” truly excels at analyzing the risk of advanced weaponry. The military’s efforts to desensitize combatants, at least enough so that they can kill whatever appears threatening, have abysmal effects on Stripe’s conscience.
11. TWIST AT THE END OF WHITE BEAR (WHITE BEAR)
As a top-tier episode of Black Mirror, “White Bear,” draws audiences in with a mildly interesting post-apocalyptic sci-fi concept, only to astonish them in a final act that sets up the episode’s own premise. The final twist is as refreshing as it is unnerving, sparing the audience an atypical ending, while also shaking them to their core the way only Black Mirror can.
Beginning as a standard Walking Dead–type story, “White Bear” opens with a woman waking up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Suffering from amnesia, the woman joins survivors in a quest to destroy a television signal controlling the masses. The sub-par story takes a sudden twist when it’s revealed that the whole journey is a simulation, meant to put the woman through hell again and again as punishment for her previous crimes, which included torturing and killing a young girl.
It seems Brooker wanted to make something less tedious than an average apocalyptic tale, as he reportedly rewrote the original script to fit the surprise ending. “White Rabbit” ends on a supremely unsettling note, thanks to Brooker’s inclination to deviate from the expected.
10. LIAM DIGS OUT HIS GRAIN WITH A KNIFE (THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU)
As Liam watches the video of his wife’s affair in “The Entire History of You,” he realizes that he may not be the biological father of his child. Broken, Liam responds to the video in an appropriately shocking fashion.
After spending several days at the mercy of his memories, as well as the memories of others, Liam finally decides that he can’t continue to let the past dictate his life. He rushes to the bathroom and digs his grain – the device that allows him to record his memories – out of his body with a knife. His incision is bloody but successful, as he gets the awful thing out of him.
Grains are so popular in Liam’s world that not having one is basically the real-world equivalent of not having a Facebook account. People can’t get enough of them, but at the same time applaud those without grains as brave. Vanity more often than not holds back the people in Black Mirror from pursuing their best selves.
9. MARTHA TELLS ANDROID ASH TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF (BE RIGHT BACK)
“Be Right Back” leans closer to drama than sci-fi, using science fiction as an allegory for grief. It still manages to jolt the audience, even though most of the story deals with the main character’s isolated mourning. “Be Right Back” stands out for being melancholy and alarming in equal measure.
In a traumatic one-two punch, Martha finds out within the course of few days that her husband has died in a car accident and that she’s pregnant. Feeling lonely, she reluctantly turns to technology, and dabbles in an artificial intelligence program that builds a replica of her deceased husband, Ash. Martha is briefly relieved by android Ash, but eventually finds out that he’s not enough to fill the place in her heart that once belonged to the real Ash.
With her frustration worsening her depression, Martha takes android Ash out to a cliff and tells him to jump. However, programmed to imitate the real Ash, the android begs for his life. Martha finally realizes she can’t truly have what she wants. Either she can let the android die and move on from Ash, or keep the android and have a fabricated Ash.
8. HARRY GETS POISONED BY HIS CRUSH (WHITE CHRISTMAS)
Once again Black Mirror coaxes you into believing you’re about to see a alluring fling before flipping the script on you with a second’s notice. If no good deed goes unpunished in Brooker’s crazy world, then you can assume every bad deed is met with terrifying repercussions. Such is the case for poor Harry in Black Mirror’s Christmas episode.
When relaying the events that landed him in a wintery outpost, Matt explains that he used to work as a professional wing-man. One of his clients, Harry, was interested in a pretty loner at an office Christmas party. As Matt guided Harry into talking to the woman, he convinced Harry to go back to her house.
Matt is able to watch the scene through a live feed of Harry’s POV (along with a group of single men who also contribute to Harry’s seduction plan). The woman pours Harry a drink, which turns out to be poisoned. She believes that Harry, like herself, was so tortured from being alone that he wanted to commit suicide with her. Matt tries to erase any evidence of his involvement, but is ultimately unsuccessful
7. ANDROID ASH BEING KEPT IN THE ATTIC (BE RIGHT BACK)
In “Be Right Back” Martha decides to keep android Ash around, albeit stowed away in the attic of her house. Android Ash doesn’t seem to mind, partly because he’s a robot and partly because Martha frequently brings her daughter up to see him. It should feel sweet that Martha’s daughter gets to spend quality time with something resembling her father. But something feels off about all this.
On her daughter’s birthday, Martha breaks the rule of only letting her child into the attic on weekends. Everything is fun and games for him and Martha’s daughter, but Martha herself has to fight a flood of emotions every time she opens the door to the attic.
Though audiences feel no shortage of remorse for Martha, they can’t help but question the moral justification of her choices. Where do android Ash’s rights begin and end? Also, what long term effects will Martha’s daughter have from speaking with a mechanical replica of her father?
6. MINI-GRETA IS WORN DOWN BY TORTURE (WHITE CHRISTMAS)
Black Mirror‘s Christmas episode further explores the issues of artificially intelligent beings and the freedom they deserve but, sadly, are denied.
It turns out in that Matt’s professional wing-man job was just a hobby. His real occupation involves extracting data from the minds of wealthy individuals, and then molding it into artificial copies. He performed this on woman named Greta, creating a copy of her. Matt informs the copy that it was her duty to operate Greta’s smart home. Since copy-Greta shared the particularities of her larger self, she could do every task around the house exactly to Greta’s liking.
Copy-Greta doesn’t stand for this at first, but is worn down after Matt forces her to sit through extended periods of time within her imprisoned pod. To copy-Greta, a few seconds in the outside world would feel like six months in her little pod. Inhumane is a mild word for the torture Matt puts her through.
5. MATT’S FACE IS BLURRED, MARKING HIM AS A SEX OFFENDER (WHITE CHRISTMAS)
Matt’s sins finally catch up with him. Permanently this time. By the end of the Christmas special, we discover his companion at the wintery outpost, Joe, is actually the copied version of an accused murderer. Matt, in an attempt to resolve his own legal issues, dug a confession out of Joe. The police offered him immunity, though it came with a caveat.
In Matt and Joe’s world, people can “block” other people. Here, that means a person can blur another person’s face, making them impossible to recognize. Both Matt and Joe’s respective partners had blocked them. This is one of many occasions when you’ll watch Black Mirror and think, “Oh yeah, we’re totally headed there.”
In return for Matt’s help in obtaining a confession from Joe, the police free him from charges involved with Harry’s murder. However, they still decide to punish him: they block him from the whole of society. Not only will everybody Matt sees come off as a blur, Matt himself will appear to everybody around him as a red blur, the mark of a registered sex offender.
4. LACIE PULLS KNIFE AT WEDDING (NOSEDIVE)
The season three premiere of Black Mirror was written by none other than Parks and Recreation creator Mike Shur and actor Rashida Jones.
Working off a story by Brooker, Shur and Jones wrote “Nosedive”, an episode that starred Jurassic World‘s Bryce Dallas Howard. Howard plays Lacie, a woman navigating a world where people can rate others on a scale from one to five stars. The higher rating you have, the better life you can lead. Lacie sees the perfect opportunity to boost her rating when an old friend announces she’s getting married. Lacie thinks that if she gives the perfect bridesmaid speech at the friend’s wedding, her numbers will skyrocket.
Unfortunately, things don’t go the way Lacie had hoped. Obstacles hit Lacie at every point on her trip to the wedding, some of them physical and some a result of her declining score. By the time Lacie gets to the wedding, her invitation has been rescinded and she has to break in. A total mess, Lacie demands to give her speech and even pulls a knife on people trying to remove her.
3. KENNY IS FORCED TO FIGHT AND HIS SECRET IS REVEALED (SHUT UP AND DANCE)
“Shut Up and Dance” follows a hellish day in the life of a seemingly innocent kid who gets tormented by anonymous, virtual blackmailers. The key word here is “seemingly”, as by the episode’s end we discover that Kenny is not as pure as we first assumed.
After installing a malware remover, Kenny’s computer is suddenly infected with a virus, which is able to dig into his internet history. The computer system reaches out to Kenny and demands that he obey it, *otherwise his history will go public. Viewers spend the episode believing that the presumed blackmail is that Kenny was recorded masturbating to internet porn, but a disturbing climax reveals that there’s more to the situation.
After being forced into robbing a bank, Kenny is ordered to go to the woods to find a man with a box. The box contains a drone, which hovers over Kenny and the other man, as they are instructed to fight to the death. It is here when Kenny is asked what his crimes were specifically, and we discover that the pornographic videos he was watching involved children.
2. COOPER IS KILLED ONE SECOND INTO HIS VR EXPERIENCE (PLAYTEST)
This episode is the most Inception-like Black Mirror episode so far. The episode stars Wyatt Russell (who is an offspring of Ego the Living Planet) as Cooper, a young man backpacking through Europe. In order to make some quick money for a flight home, Cooper accepts a job testing new gaming software at a high-tech corporation. Things go south fast. Really, really fast.
Cooper smuggles his phone into the test session, hoping to take pictures of new technology and sell them for more money. Sadly, this decision leads to his doom. After plugging into a virtual reality game, Cooper believes that he has entered a haunted house with horrifying creatures, before waking up and finding that he has returned home to America, where his mother doesn’t remember him.
The reality is far worse, as Cooper’s virtual experience is illegitimate in more ways than one. It turns out, Cooper never even got to the main attraction in the game he was testing. We discover by the end that Cooper actually died 0.04 seconds into the session due to interference from his phone.
1. A HAPPY ENDING (SAN JUNIPERO)
After a series of cruel deaths, bizarre sexual experiences, and horrible condemnations, perhaps the most shocking thing Black Mirror could do was tell a happy story. Not a happy story that winds up someplace awful, but a story that remains happy from beginning to end, which is exactly what viewers got with “San Junipero.”
Seemingly set in 1987, the episode takes its name from San Junipero, a small beach town, which is where a timid woman named Yorkie first meets energized partier, Kelly. The episode relays their love affair, and the story remains sweet throughout, even after its sci-fi angle is revealed.
San Junipero is actually a simulated reality where the dying can upload their consciousness after they pass. Both Yorkie and Kelly are considering signing onto San Junipero after they die. Though their relationship hits some bumps along the way, in the end Yorkie and Kelly wind up together, living a wonderful afterlife in San Junipero. This might be the only edition of Black Mirror that requires a box of tissues to watch.