A preface is necessary before I give all Black Mirror episodes ranked based on my preference. Having stated on numerous occasions here my affinity for Black Mirror, it shouldn’t surprised any loyal reader that I watched all of the new 3rd season on Netflix in a couple days. Normally I participate in the binge-watching technique, but this show deserves and demands your attention and contemplation for a few minutes to several hours after each episode. With that said, “a couple days” is really the fastest I could consume season 3 without appropriately dwelling on what I’d just watched. This stands true as the recommended digestion for every single entry in this spectacularly creative and unique television experience.
This entire introduction is simply intended to inform you why I’m bothering to deliver you all Black Mirror episodes ranked in a comprehensive list. Creator and lead writer Charlie Brooker designed the program to earn at least that much. Since each episode’s placement will require serviceable justification, I prolong you no longer. Here’s all 13 Black Mirror episodes ranked, according to my very subjective bias!
13. The Waldo Moment (Season 2, Episode 3) – Recap
To be fair, none of these Black Mirror episodes were particularly bad, even at the show’s worst. The show’s sophomore season finale still gave passionately-constructed, brilliantly-performed, politically-charged, and socially-relevant monologues, primarily from the installment’s lead, Daniel Rigby. We’re shown a miserable, failed comic, failing miserably at life, and I can’t say I became attached to his further downfall, despite how engaging the dialogue occasionally was. He just came off as pathetic without connecting to the viewer in a meaningful way, and that weakened the episode’s standing in the Black Mirror pantheon.
12. Men Against Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)
This is another case of an entry in the series not resonating with me, despite the content of the episode being otherwise solid. At this time, I’m waiting a bit longer for the rest of the world to catch up with season 3 before I recap each episode, so I won’t divulge any spoilers. However, I will state that the “message” behind Mirror‘s military/war episode’s innovative technology was slightly too heavy-handed for me. Although the action, suspense, Malachi Kirby‘s lead performance, and Michael Kelly‘s general presence anywhere in this show propelled this episode at least above “The Waldo Moment” status on our list of Black Mirror episodes ranked.
11. Shut Up & Dance (Season 3, Episode 3)
Don’t forget to breathe, as episode 3 of Black Mirror‘s latest third season is reminiscent of both season 2’s “White Bear” and the series premiere, “The National Anthem.” Like “Anthem,” the episode occurs in a reality very similar to our own, with extraordinarily awful circumstances befalling seemingly normal individuals. Like “Bear,” the episode delivers an immensely satisfying and unexpected twist that’ll leave you in shock and questioning everything about your own conscience. Like both, “Dance” is insanely pulse-pounding from start to finish. Alex Lawther and Jerome Flynn are ridiculously magnetic and have great chemistry as an “odd couple,” but if the prior 2 aforementioned episodes didn’t exist, this episode’s standing would be much higher in my list.
10. Hated in the Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)
At the show’s longest outing with 90 minutes, I didn’t feel the season 3 finale wasted a single moment or frame. Kelly Macdonald provides a very nuanced dramatic performance. Also, as I review my list of the Black Mirror episodes ranked, I honestly feel that this is the 2nd best directed episode in the entire series. It periodically felt like film that Alfred Hitchcock himself directed. When you get to the stressful bathroom scene, you’ll see what I’m referencing. Furthermore, this episode contained probably the most relevant topic in season 3, as it contained a story involving Internet trolling extremism. The cinematic quality raised this episode in the rankings, even if it wasn’t the best dialogue or most relatable of the entire series.
9. The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1) – Recap
You never forget your first, especially when it’s about a man being blackmailed to fornicate with a pig. As I iterated in my recap, the moral of the story extends beyond the weirdest, yet somehow realistic premise yet. Rory Kinnear destroys his role as the compromised Prime Minister, effortlessly tapping into every human emotion throughout the episode (except genuine happiness, because that’s not what Black Mirror does), and he makes it come across as incredibly real. To think Brooker felt “Anthem” should be the opener is telling. It’s a story that sticks with you, even as you’re watching other Mirror episodes in later seasons, thus scoring a bit higher of a spot in the rankings.
8. Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)
Honestly, this episode deserves such a higher ranking in any other list, especially in a list of “the most innovative horror concepts of the 21st century.” Director Dan Trachtenberg efficiently plays on the tropes you’ve (and the main character played beautifully by natural Wyatt Russell) come to expect, then throws out a scare that blindsides you. Brooker allows Trachtenberg to fully explore this uncharted horror territory in a largely sci-fi show. This qualifies “Playtest” as a standout in TV history, but surprisingly I somewhat predicted the ending as soon as the technological concept was introduced. A tad more unpredictability in the resolution would have driven this installment into top 3 material for me.
7. White Bear (Season 2, Episode 2) – Recap
I saw the sophomore episode in the sophomore season in many publications’ top 2 or 3 when reviewing other Black Mirror episodes ranked, yet the others simply echoed in my brain more often than the disorienting “White Bear” entry. I use “disorienting” in a positive sense. The dread elicited from Lenora Crichlow as Victoria, through every step of her journey, reverberates off the screen and to your own body. Then the episode gives the twist of all twists in the Mirror world. Visit my recap for specifics if you desire, but the episode needs to be witnessed to promptly take your breath away. Additionally, the commentary on bystanders filming everything with their phones feels scarily authentic.
6. Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1)
Why is the season 3 premiere ranked so high? It’s rather easy to explain. I see “Nosedive” as the most accurate metaphor for where our instant-reaction, online-rating society currently exists. We live to create communications on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else only for a justified “like” or “retweet,” instead of having a thought that originates from the heart. It all sounds incredibly corny, but the episode inspired me to reflect in such corny ways. Bryce Dallas Howard also shows off her insanely brilliant acting chops in probably the best performance on the show, especially in the final 10-15 minutes which displays her impeccable range of emotion in a contained monologue.
5. White Christmas (Christmas Special between seasons 2 & 3) – Recap
The Black Mirror Christmas special has practically everything (although all of it becomes more depressing than the last scene as it progresses). We receive 3 connected stories with 3 very different technologies. The endings to each of the 3 stories contains a twist themselves, and by the end of the episode, your brain is worn out, you feel gross and depressed, and you just want to take a shower and silence your phone. “White Christmas” ranks so high simply because of the stellar casting choices, how seamlessly all 3 stories were weaved together, and because I’m a giant fan of giant bummer conclusions, which this special definitely possesses. Another takeaway from the installment is “Jon Hamm can do anything.”
4. Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1) – Recap
After watching season 2 again very recently to present my list of Black Mirror episodes ranked, the concept and philosophical conversations about artificial intelligence the season 2 premiere evokes has permeated my consciousness indefinitely. Hayley Atwell is a powerhouse in this with how vulnerable and grief-stricken she comes across, and Domhnall Gleeson is eerily convincing of an unfeeling android. As reviewed in my recap, there are many loaded questions about existence in the episode, even if they’re fleeting moments in conversation (like Gleeson constantly asking, “is that not something I’d say?” or Atwell saying “you’re not you.”) Context is needed to fully grasp what’s to appreciate from this loaded episode.
3. San Junipero (Season 3, Episode 3)
Yep, Brooker is capable of making you tear up as he is making you feel disgusted. Who would’ve guessed the same show that had a man literally porking a pig (get it?) in the premiere would evolve into a powerful, touching, transcendent love story? Not only that, “San Junipero” contains one of the most ambitious concepts in the entire series, which says a lot considering what ideas have been contributed thus far. Moreover, Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw both turn in heartfelt, charming, passionate portrayals. I defy anyone to not be moved by this episode and to even find a flaw in it. The only reason it’s not number one is…well…because of my top 2.
2. Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2) – Recap
Black Mirror is one of the most visually, conceptually, and technologically ambitious shows out there, so I don’t say it lightly when I declare “Fifteen Million Merits” the most ambitious episode they’ve ever done in all aspects. Seriously, I’m captivated just sitting here ogling at the picture I chose as episode representation. The cinematography is exquisite, Daniel Kaluuya puts himself on the map in an extraordinary performance, the concept is the biggest the show’s ever done (especially visually speaking), and like every other installment in the series, the technology doesn’t feel out of place if it were implemented in today’s society. This episode is a shining example of what to fear when it comes to overindulging on technology, especially to the point of reliance.
1. The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3) – Recap
This claiming the top spot on our list of Black Mirror episodes ranked should surprise no one that’s seen the show. I’m comfortable accusing anyone without this episode at #1 as having an objectively-wrong list. I went there. “The Entire History of You” introduces the Z-Eye concept, which returns in the Christmas special, where you can rewind and review any one moment captured by your own eyes. Where the show succeeds is hovering that concept over an ordinary relationship where the man starts showing his jealous tendencies.
Throughout the entire series, Brooker shows us improbable technology used completely practically by the characters, and “History of You” is definitely the best example of it. We’re shown one of the biggest downer endings the series provided, which I’ve already admitted my love for earlier. The fact that this is an episode of TV boggles the average viewer’s mind. It’s so good that we simply don’t deserve it, but the episode deserves any and all praise, and people watching it.
If you desire more of my extensive thoughts on some of these episodes, please visit the recap links next to the episode title. Season 3’s episodes will be individually recapped later on once the rest of the population sees this marvelous series. If you haven’t watched any of the series whatsoever, consider this your wake-up call. This is absolutely one of the best series ever created, guaranteed. That’s my personal list of Black Mirror episodes ranked. I expect many have differing opinions, which despite my sarcastic declaration on my #1 choice, we’d love to hear! More Black Mirror drops in 2017, with Jodie Foster announced to direct an episode so far. Stay tuned for more from your resident Mirrorhead who’s still attempting to find a better name for Black Mirror fans.