Why Black Mirror is the best show you aren’t watching

Black Mirror

The best works of science fiction have a way of making you either change the way you think about something you already have an opinion on, or open up entirely new ideas that you may not have even imagined. Truly great science fiction can do both. The mind-bending British series, Black Mirror, consistently does both. Created by British writer/broadcaster Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is often described glibly as The Twilight Zone for the modern digital era. And although that description is somewhat accurate, it fails to fully explain the show’s uncanny ability to tap into our psyche’s hidden fears and beliefs, and twist them in a way that can be at times, more than a little unsettling.

Each episode is completely standalone, telling a wholly new story with a new cast of characters every time. The show almost always opens in a “near future” where everything looks and feels like it could be taking place in the present, or perhaps five years from now. But then, as we slowly unwrap the world that the episode inhabits, we discover the idiosyncrasies that make this world different from the one we live in. Perhaps in this world, everyone has the ability to record and replay any moment of their lives through their neural cortex. Or perhaps, in this world, everyone rides stationary bikes to earn virtual credits that they can use to buy meaningless digital avatars or other meaningless trifles. There is no consistency of theme across episodes, which actually ends up being a storytelling strength. Each show is given a blank canvas to work with and Brooker quickly paints a compelling world for us to explore. Obviously, Brooker has his own opinions on what each world would be like, but the strength of Black Mirror is how it makes us think about what the implications of what living in such a world would be.

With just six episodes and a Christmas special completed to date, Black Mirror is not a huge time commitment. It has a huge cult following both in England and abroad. And it has its share of high profile fans in the US as well. Robert Downey Jr. optioned one episode to potentially be made into a full length feature film. And Jon Hamm took on the starring role of last year’s Christmas Special.

It’s rare these days for a science fiction show to grab your attention without resorting to familiar tropes that we’ve all seen a million times before. And regardless of whether you end up loving or hating Black Mirror, the one thing I can promise you is that it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on TV before. And that, in and of itself, is a pretty amazing feat.

Every episode of Black Mirror, except for the Christmas Special, is available to stream on Netflix.

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