Why your favourite Black Mirror episode sucks

by Jade Psihogios

Black Mirror season six has released on Netflix four years after season five. In this satirical piece, Jade reviews the top five most popular episodes and tells exactly why they are terrible. 




The National Anthem (S1 E1) 

The National Anthem is the first episode of Black Mirror and a particularly distressing one at that. Sadly, with technology progressing and older social media phenomena becoming outdated, like viral videos, it is no surprise that The National Anthem has not aged well. A scene where the government attempts to use AI technology to photoshop the Prime Minister’s face to avoid the distraught ending is stopped as the technology is considered too advanced – deeming it impossible to do. However, as deep fakes of politicians, celebrities, and everyday individuals become more commonplace, the freakishness of The National Anthem becomes more grotesque than engaging. Luckily, Black Mirror has recently adopted this new-age technology in S6 E1 Joan is Awful, but for now, this episode falls flat and out of date.   


Shut Up and Dance (S3 E3) 

For Black Mirror episodes, Shut Up and Dance is undoubtedly the most discussed of the series. It is one of the only episodes set in the contemporary world without enhanced AI technology. If anything, it makes the narrative unnervingly realistic. However, when Black Mirror has no speculative technology to serve as a plot device, as we’ve seen in earlier episodes. The story relies heavily on the ending's revelation. Without the shock factor and the unironic troll face, most viewers would forget this episode like many others. Is it truly an audience favourite? or just the one they remember the most?  

White Bear (S2 E2) 

Another Black Mirror episode based on the shock factor? It’s more likely than you think! This episode sets itself in a similar setting to Shut Up and Dance, traumatising and damaging the main protagonist with the involvement of a large corporation and the public. The primary social issue in the narrative is whether we should feel sympathy for the protagonist or if the park is a necessary wake-up call for criminals. However, such a violent fate leads the protagonist to forget the impact of her actions (actually, the actions of her partner, with her recording the victim) – it is difficult to develop sympathy for anyone involved in this torture park. I question whether it would be more applicable towards the partner in this story – or is that just too Shut Up and Dance for the series? 


Nosedive (S3 E1) 

Despite the utopian, bright settings almost reminiscent of the new Barbie movie, Nosedive is possibly the most freakishly realistic concern of humanity and technology. Its narrative strives solely on the fears of human behaviour rather than technology; and how the attention economy can result in public shame and segregation. Despite its almost-perfect balance, this story can appear hyper-critical and distrustful of the good in humanity. Even characters who do not adhere to the social attitude, like the protagonist’s brother, are criticised. Whether it is the writers' intention for that distasteful aspect to be a reflection of the character’s universe or our universe, it still leaves a negative perspective on young people's social media consumption. 


San Junipero (S3 E4) 

Emmy-award-winning San Junipero is dramatically distinct from any other Black Mirror episode. The late 1980s setting makes it one of the first and only episodes set in the past. It’s also much more empathy-driven than many bleak, fear-driven dystopian episodes. While I agree that this episode is a brilliant stand-alone, heart-wrenching at that, those who were avid Black Mirror watchers at its release would have felt unhappy with how separated it feels from the rest of the Netflix show. Although in 2023, this episode can be compared to Demon 79 and Loch Henry in narrative style, San Junipero is still the stand-out episode for emotion-driven romance. If you are looking to watch a Black Mirror episode with its true essence of dystopia and freakish realism, this is not the episode for you. 


While there are faults in every episode of Black Mirror, the series is truly a masterpiece in constructing unique storylines and speculating about old and new technologies. As creator Charlie Brooker contends, it concerns how humans incorporate new technologies into their lives rather than fearing the future. San Junipero, Nosedive, and the most recent Demon 79 are some of my favourite episodes that stay with me months after my viewing. As our attention span decreases and our consumption of new media content grows, it is hard for a television series to stick with its audience, and Black Mirror has managed to keep its audience coming back since 2011. 


PS: My ranking of Black Mirror Season Six 

  1. Demon 79 

  2. Beyond the Sea 

  3. Loch Henry 

  4. Joan is Awful 

  5. Mazey Day 

Jade Psihogios is a 3rd year studying for a Bachelor of Media, majoring in Journalism. She consumes all forms of media, including niche Korean-pop girl group releases and Oscar-nominated feature films. You will either find her studying with ASMR no-talking in the background or trying to buy VIP concert tickets in class.

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