This article originally appeared on VICE Canada. Black Mirror is the apex of every “the grass is greener on the other side” show right now. You may have it bad, but the mirror wants to show you something worse. It takes all that technology you love so much, churns the bitch, and squeezes out all that goodness, until you’re found on a farm rocking a straw hat and some chin scruff.
It’s what Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror does incredibly well. It takes our reliances on modern technology, while throwing it in our faces and calling it a show—disastrous, dystopian nihilism included. Having seen season four, I can disturbingly say that none of that has changed, but from that, it’s important to understand how one should watch this season. You don’t just down the show with one swift gulp, you temper those emotions. With its multiple genres and tonal differences, it’s all over the map like years, and you've got to know how to navigate. And how to balance it, so at least you’re left thinking, but at the very least, can still eye that smartphone without tossing it.
Episode One: "USS Callister"
Now granted, this is your basic, feature-length Star Trek spoof and a half, but it’s also digestible as hell. This isn’t the wipe it from memory sort of Black Mirror affair. Unlike other entries, there’s a concept around virtual reality and the morals that should extend to those worlds, through the lens of a cliché as hell, final frontier shtick. Jesse Plemons ( Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad) doing a Captain Kirk imitation that’s entirely on point is only a small selling point compared to the overall watch. Peep this one first as a precursor to the royal fuckery that’s about to come.
Episode 3: "Crocodile"
What makes a good lie believable is the fact that it sounds believable. But take that shit muddling within the insides of your brain—all those alternative facts/sentences and toss it out. That’s the scenario " Crocodile" presents; a piece of tech that can read your mind like a projected episode on display. How far are we willing to go to keep those secrets when we no longer can? Pretty fucking… god-dammit… she killed that… good god… fuck that chick… far. Have a drink on hand with this one.
Episode 4: "Hang the DJ"
This is a definite breather from "Crocodile." The concept is simple. Imagine a world where we follow our Tinder matches literally. Like it’s an entire law and shit. We’re matched, un-matched as the triangle goes, until we find that perfect other. "Hang the DJ" is a classic ode to love in a social media age with a twist, and a dash of WTF. It’s pretty much the only kind of love story that you’re getting out of Black Mirror this season, so enjoy it.
Episode 5: "Metalhead"
It’s basically Terminator, folks—Terminator if it was a metal dog without a backstory and all that shit. Compared to the topics liable to disturb, this is the least of them, mostly because we haven’t hit Skynet territory just yet; it’s the least believable. But in terms of tension, it’s up there, mostly in what we aren’t told. We’re so used to technology without faces—ones that don’t express emotion. But imagine our greatest fears shaped like something we’re supposed to love. One that outnumbers us, and wants to kill us. What would that look like? Sound like? Feel like? "MetalHead" is about as close to that, Black Mirror style, as we’re going to get. And if you’re a film head, it’s the most artistically shot.
Episode 2: "Arkangel"
Just about everyone should be able to identify with this. If you’ve had a parent or sibling that loved you, loved you so much that you could feel the overbearing weight of that sickening love, this is the one. Archangel, like many, uses a piece of technology to play with the theme of momism and overprotection. Like the current tracking devices that parents already inject into their kids and pets, there’s an added level of surveillance at play here. One that dangerously flirts with the moral limits of privacy. No killer robots and shit here, but a whole lot to think about and question parents about.
Episode 6: "Black Museum"
This’ll rightfully bring you back down to earth. This is your quintessential Black Mirror episode within a Black Mirror episode… episode. Take Tales from the Crypt, put a tech spin on it, and you have “Black Museum.” As the story goes, a girl finds herself in the middle of a crime museum and a curator tells her all the cautionary tales around the pieces of technology that riddle the space. This was the least compelling to me in the sense that it felt like a “don’t do drugs”—iPhone on a pan (instead of an egg)—sort of episode. A good time, but pretty forgettable. Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.