Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Black Mirror: Series 3 (2016) - Horror TV Show Review

For those who don't know Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror is like a modern day version of The Twilight Zone, but one that primarily uses technology as the instrument of terror. Each episode is standalone with a different cast and storyline going on, one of the few things they share is that they take place in a near future where a specific type of technology has become prevalent.

Season 3 is the first to have six episodes instead of three that Black Mirror and Black Mirror: Series 2 featured. This extended season means that a mix of different styles can be shown. There are both ultra personal stories that focus on a single character, to ones that affect thousands. This is also the first season to feature at least one episode that actually ends happily! For those who know the show you can realise just how much of an oddity that is.

The season kicks off with Nosedive which takes place in a world where every citizen has a social media ranking that affects their social status and what they are able to do. It centres on Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard - Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) whose desperate desire to be popular causes her downfall. This is a good example of near future technology as it is something that looks spookily similar to the social ranking system that is currently being trailed in China. This is a great episode but one that becomes more cringy as it goes on, eschewing the typical soul destroying abject terror the series is known for.

Next up is Playtest that stars Wyatt Russell (Overlord) as an American tourist who signs up with a cutting edge video game company to try out their new ultra immersive VR device. Needless to say things don't go according to plan with the poor guy finding himself trapped in a never ending nightmare. With zombies and monsters this became far more like traditional horror, but it all comes together for an ending that really gives you something to go off and ponder for a few days. The episodes where the central idea stays with you for long after are what make this show so special.

Shut Up and Dance is quite possibly the most harrowing and disturbing Black Mirror episode ever made, it is certainly up there with White Bear. This would be the episode I would recommend if someone really wanted to see a prime example of what the show is about. Teenager Kenny (Alex Lawther - Ghost Stories) is blackmailed into doing increasingly illegal things by an unknown person after his webcam is hijacked while he was 'having alone time' to online porn. When I watched it with my best friend initially she called the twist very early on. When that twist came though it was still like a punch to the gut, completely altering key elements. This one chills me to this day.

As if to counter the horror of that episode the next is the infamous happy episode. The award winning San Junipero seemingly takes place in the 1980's where shy inexperienced Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis - Blade Runner 2049) begins a relationship with the wild and free Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw - The Cloverfield Paradox). This was a fantastic episode, the feeling of the eighties is so strong and features a whole bunch of classic tunes. The near-future aspect was mixed in well, and the whole piece was just feel good.

Men Against Fire centres on the military. In the future, Stripe (Malachi Kirby) and his platoon use invasive technology to help them battle feral zombie like mutants, but is everything as it appears to be? This was maybe a little too fantastical but still a solid enough episode. Saying that, coming to write about it now there are only a few parts I really remember.

Final episode is Hated in the Nation which takes a far more wide reaching plot that felt like a movie more than a show. Coming in at 90 minutes this is the longest episode of the season and felt like it shared a lot in common with season 1's The National Anthem. In the present day, detective Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) explains to a committee her actions leading up to a tragic past event. People who are vilified in social media are ending up dead at the hands of robotic bee drones, so it is a race against time for the police to identify and stop the aggressor. Due to the much more wide ranging story this didn't affect me as much. It was a great episode regardless, though I didn't think too much of the ending.

It is likely due to the increase in episodes but Black Mirror series 3 was the best one so far. There was a great mix of all the different styles the show can go for. There wasn't a bad one to be found here and so of course is something that should be seen. With series 4 out, as well as Black Mirror: Bandersnatch; the experimental feature length film, Black Mirror is showing no signs of stopping.


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