Worst to Best
Black Mirror

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14 Hated in the
Nation (3.6)

Beginning with a clear parody of clickbait columnist Katie Hopkins, this episode takes in Twitter hate campaigns, social media targeting and an army of killer robot bees. Look out too for some "Easter Eggs" in the episode - just before the hour mark there's a brief shot of a Twitter "trending" page... which includes the trending topics of a game mentioned in Playtest, the Prime Minister from The National Anthem, and the hashtag #FreeTheWhiteBearOne.
     A police procedural drama, it does, due to the high technological content, depend heavily on characters not understanding each other and consequently needing things to be explained in chunks of jargon-based exposition. The longest Black Mirror episode at 89 minutes, it can be also be unnecessarily ponderous, placing length before engagement. While far from Black Mirror's worst instalment, it may ultimately be its dullest.

13 Nosedive (3.1)

Out of the 19 Black Mirror episodes, only two of them weren't written by Charlie Brooker. Nosedive has Brooker's involvement as the man who came up with the basic storyline and wrote a treatment, but the script itself was written by Rashida Jones and Michael Schur. Featuring a world where people live or die by five-star ratings, such a concept is far from unrealistic in an age where Uber drivers are said to be dismissed if their ratings fall too low. Some reviewers have drawn parallels with the 2014 Community episode App Development and Condiments, with its amusing "MeowMeowBeenz" ratings app, but Brooker stated that he was not aware of the episode at the time of writing, and similarities between the two are largely superficial.
     Although the Netflix seasons are released on the site in their entirety, meaning they can be watched in any order, Nosedive was marketed as the first episode of season three. It's a bold move, as it features exclusively American characters (albeit many played by English actors) and has a deliberate, pastel shade to fit with the theme of false projection. Like most of the Netflix episodes, it's lengthy (the average runtime for the Netflix entries just under 61 minutes, as opposed to under 48 minutes for the regular Channel 4 episodes), but it compels thanks to a committed, vanity-free central performance by Bryce Dallas Howard, including an excruciating wedding speech.

12 Arkangel (4.3)

An interesting plot with many facets sees an over-protective mother chip her daughter's mind to follow her every movement via computer. Many issues are touched upon, including the psychological damage that can be caused by filtering a child from the full nature of the world around them, as well as issues of privacy in an age of extreme social media.
     Pre-publicity for the fourth series ran back to May 2017, and having Jodie Foster as director on this episode was one of the biggest headlines. There's a great sense of style to her work, in particular a passage-of-time scene that involves the daughter aging as she repeatedly passes a neighbour's barking dog. There's much to say on this episode, as it literally removes the concept of the Male Gaze, but does so through the filter of another female character.

11 San Junipero (3.4)

Having San Junipero only scrape into the top ten (and directly below a traditionally far less popular episode) saw The Anorak Zone get a bit of flack on Twitter when this article was first launched... now a new episode has pushed this fan favourite out of the top ten, will it get even worse? However, I hope that justification for this, at least, is given, so that you may not agree with the placing, but you can at least understand my reason why.
     San Junipero is arguably the most atypical Black Mirror episode ever made. A series with a bleak, blackly-comic outlook where the karmic balance is always open to question, this was the only story until Hang The DJ to feature a truly happy ending.
     It's easy to assume, with his cynical on-screen persona, that Charlie Brooker lacks genuine emotion, but this is his warmest and most sincere episode. The man who was partly responsible for television such as Screen Wipe, Brass Eye and Nathan Barley is nowhere to be found here, a sometimes heart-breaking yet charming tale of a relationship in a virtual afterlife between two women.
     As both women face (and experience) death in real life, then there's a bittersweet feel to events, but it lacks the dark, ironic edges that normally make up a Black Mirror experience. San Junipero is a tale that champions both love and a homosexual relationship, and is justly lauded. Yet in praising an episode where everything, after a fashion, works out well in the end, you have to ask yourself... have you switched on the wrong series by accident?

10 The Waldo
Moment (2.3)

The concept of an urban, technology-based take on the anthology format is a good one, though ultimately has a limited lifespan. It perhaps explains why the series went to Netflix after this instalment (barring one Christmas special) as already, just half a dozen episodes in, the ideas appear to be repeating themselves, at least thematically.
     It's not that The Waldo Moment is actually a bad episode. In fact, it's a very good one. If you can get past the concept of a foul-mouthed cartoon bear having mainstream crossover appeal with the public, then the story is well told and well-acted. In isolation it's actually a great and underrated piece of television, it's just that in the context of the series it did feel like the show was treading over old ground.
     What has helped push the episode further up the rankings is how unwittingly prescient it has become in depicting a political candidate who engaged the electorate via negativity and abuse. What seemed at the time a slightly flat episode has become elevated into something more, and, rewatched with fresh eyes, it's an instalment that has aged well. Although by someway the least of the Channel 4 episodes, it still fits comfortably in the top ten here. Perhaps the only disappointment is that the YouTube video "A dog farting the theme tune to Happy Days" is entirely fictional.


9 Shut Up and
Dance (3.3)

Shut Up and Dance received mixed critical reviews, whereby a final twist - thematically similar to that of the earlier White Bear - left viewers feeling troubled with the episode's content. It contains strong lead performances from Alex Lawther as Kenny, a young boy blackmailed when filmed via his internet webcam, and Jerome Flynn as Hector, another blackmail victim who he's forced to team up with. Co-written by William Bridges - here credited as "Will" - it's astonishing to think that such a dark, distressing episode was written by the same team behind USS Callister.
     The episode drops a little due to the ending, but not in the way one might think: having hard-hitting, line-crossing twists is what Black Mirror has been all about from its very inception. What harms is that said twist is then spelt out to the viewers via a phone call after having already been heavily implied... although Black Mirror could never perhaps be accused of being subtle, it seems as if the Netflix audience wasn't credited with the intelligence to work it out. There's also the unexplained plot twist of how, in their enforced "fight to the death", slightly built 5'7 Kenny somehow manages to kill a six foot man.
     Yet the main reason it ranks so relatively low in this list is because nothing that happens in the episode follows the series' self-imposed "future shocks" remit. The entirety of Shut Up and Dance could conceivably take place now, with no future technology or SF element involved. As a result it's a strong, gripping thriller with a devastating final twist... but it's hardly an episode of Black Mirror at all.

8 The National
Anthem (1.1)

The concept that someone would kidnap a member of the Royal Family and blackmail the Prime Minister into having sex with a pig on live TV is a far-fetched idea, but made scarily plausible in this opening episode. Brooker's media-savvy is on show from the outset, as he depicts the various activity that would engineer such a situation, not least the all-important polls. Sadly, it may have been too much for some viewers, the undeniable "shock value" off-putting... while "opening nights" always attract a spike in viewing figures, a quarter of the 2 million that tuned in to this debut had deserted the programme by the second week.
     It's now, of course, impossible to discuss this episode without referring to the fact that the real Prime Minister was later accused of penetrating a dead pig's mouth as part of an initiation ceremony. Brought to the press four years after this episode aired, the charges were denied, but brought retroactive attention to a controversial instalment.