Maybe you’ve only vaguely heard of Black Mirror. Maybe you’ve watched the previous seasons obsessively. Either way, this guide will help you prepare – spoiler free – for the new season, which Netflix dropped on Friday.
What is this show? It’s a sci-fi mystery-thriller anthology series like The Twilight Zone, except each episode has something to do with technology. If liked the movie Ex Machina and/or HBO’s Westworld, this show is for you. The season 3 trailer is below (and doesn’t really do the new season justice).
Don’t I need to watch the previous seasons first? No. Each episode of the show is entirely self contained – different story, different cast. Even the look and tone can vary significantly.
But should I watch the previous seasons at some point? Absolutely. There are only seven previous episodes total. My favorite is “The Entire History of You” (season 1, episode 3). Others that are generally considered terrific: “Be Right Back” (season 2, episode 1 – and perhaps best series introduction), “White Bear” (season 2, episode 2) and “The National Anthem” (season 1, episode 1 – but not the best to start with). Oh, and also there’s the excellent 70-minute Christmas special, titled “White Christmas” (it stars Jon Hamm, so there is that).
Is there anything different about season 3? Are there any famous people in it? Um-hm. First, there are six episodes whereas previous seasons only had three each. One is the show’s only 90-minute episode (“Hated in the Nation”). The season is also the first one that’s produced by Netflix and the episodes appear to have higher production values than past seasons. Stars include Bryce-Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Mackenzie Davis (The Martian), Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire).
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In what order should I watch the new episodes? Now we’re talking. Showrunner Charlie Brooker picked the order in which they appear on Netflix, but he’s a bit unsure that he got it right (for example, “Hated in the Nation” is last, but only because Netflix’s research shows that longer episodes are best placed at the end of a playlist). “My viewing order would be random,” he tells us. “If Netflix had a shuffle mode, it would be perfect. I can never decide.” Here is my recommended order: Start with “Nosedive” (unusual, terrific, uniquely comedic) and “Playtest” (a great entry that’s arguably the most typical Black Mirror episode) just like Brooker has in the current Netflix setup (reversing them actually works well too). Then I’d suggest “Men Against Fire” (a war story), “Hated in the Nation” (a feature-length crime procedural), then “Shut Up and Dance” (an all-too-plausible nightmare). I feel strongly about ending with “San Junipero” (it’s closing credits are a perfect conclusion for the season). Here are some more detailed spoiler-free episode descriptions by Brooker.
I’m not sure I want to watch them all. Which are the best? Very difficult to say since they’re all so different. My top three, in no particular order: “Nosedive,” “Playtest” and “San Junipero” – each stuck with me for days. Then “Hated in the Nation,” followed by “Shut Up and Dance” and “Men Against Fire.” Read all the EW recaps here.
Should I binge them? As Brooker pointed out in our previous interview, Black Mirror isn’t very binge-y. Most of the episodes pack an intellectual and emotional punch. They’re best when you have time to mull them over. (Good luck resisting, though).
What do I do after I finish and I have thoughts and questions and existential technology angst? Come to EW.com where we’ll have a new interview with Brooker on Monday answering some the burning questions that we had after watching each new episode (follow me @jameshibberd for the link).
I want more already. When do we get more episodes? There are six more episodes coming, perhaps this time next year.