These days there are so many Netflix Originals acquisitions it’s hard to keep ‘em all straight. But the moment that Netflix announced that it would debut a brand new season of Black Mirror we’ve been following every image, every casting, every director announcement as closely as a fantasy football owner follows the injury report (hey, it’s that time of year; check yer lineup!).
For the oblivious, get thee to your laptop and watch all six existing episodes—plus a Christmas TV special—as soon as possible. Each episode of Black Mirror is a standalone, a la The Twilight Zone, and tackles an existing fear of our tech reliance, whether it’s social media, invasion of privacy, or online popularity begetting a horrific political candidate, in more futuristic settings. Brooker’s finger is on a world wide pulse. And for my money, Mirror has had at least one of the best episodes of television in history (Toby Kebbell‘s recording private moments for jealous retributions). It’s impressive, heady, and addictive stuff. Which is great because many of us, stateside, were introduced to Mirror on Netflix in a ready-to-binge format. And now we can experience it anew!
Ahead of a premiere of two episodes at TIFF, writer/executive producer/sci-fi wizard, Charlie Brooker, talked about the premises of each episode (sans spoilers) and although we trusted his story judgement from the outset, these are very tantalizing indeed. (All quotes below via EW).
“Nosedive” An insecure office worker (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives in a world in which everyone obsessively ranks and rates every tiny social interaction. She thinks she finally may have found a way to rank alongside her friend (Alice Eve), who’s one of society’s elites. At first glance, this sounds like a classic Black Mirror setup — an existing tech element taken to a horrifying new extreme. But Brooker says it’s one of the most unusual episodes he’s done. “Each episode this season is a different genre; this one is a social satire,” Brooker says. “It’s got a creepy serenity to it and won’t be what people expect.”
“San Junipero” How could you make Black Mirror episode set in the past when the show is all about the future? That was the mental puzzle that prompted Booker to write this 1980s-set tale, where Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw play recent arrivals to a beach town “synonymous with sun, surf, and sex.” “It’s kind of an ‘80s coming-of-age drama with a Black Mirror undertow,” he says. “Also, when Netflix picked us up, people were going, ‘Oh that means [the show is] going to be Americanized.’ I thought it would be a funny to fuck with those people by literally writing an episode set in California.”
“Shut Up and Dance” There have been a couple previous tales set in present day without any sci-fi elements (like the notorious pig sex episode “The National Anthem”). This is one of those, but Brookeradds it’s the “most grounded” of the three. Here a withdrawn 19-year-old (Alex Lawther) stumbles headlong into an online trap and is quickly forced into an uneasy alliance with shifty man (Jerome Flynn) who are both at the mercy of persons unknown. “A kitchen sink nightmarish thriller,” he says.
“Men Against Fire” A military story set in a post-war future. A rookie soldier (Malachi Kirby) is posted overseas, protecting frightened villagers from an infestation of vicious feral mutants alongside fellow soldier Raiman (Madeline Brewer). They’re hoping some new technological advantage will save them. “It stemmed slightly from thinking about drone attacks and how technology is alternating the face of warfare, but it’s not about drones,” Brooker says. “It’s a horror thriller, almost like The Walking Dead.”
“Playtest” Brooker was formerly a video game journalist and here he revisits that world: A thrill-seeking globetrotter (Wyatt Russell) visits Britain, hooks up with a woman (Hannah John-Kamen) and tests the latest in video game technology – “a device as mind-bendingly sophisticated as it is terrifying.” Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane),Brooker notes, “Dan is fantastic at creating suspenseful and tense mood; this is our Evil Dead 2.”
“Hated in the Nation” The show’s first-ever 90-minute episode; a crime drama inspired by Scandi-Noir thrillers like The Killing and Borgen. A police detective (Kelly Macdonald) and her geeky young sidekick investigate a string of grisly murders with a sinister link to social media. “It deals with online rage,” teases Brooker. “It starts out like a stylish standard police procedural, then takes a bizarre turn.” Well, that we expected.
Black Mirror premieres the first batch of season 3 episodes at the Toronto International Film Festival (look for a review of “San Junipero” and “Nosedive” on Collider, soon!) and they will all become available on Netflix on October 21.