Now that the fourth series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has been confirmed to return to Netflix before Christmas, what better time to re-watch all the episodes and rank them from best to worst? With three series and thirteen episodes to choose from, that’s no easy task. 

Black Mirror – the modern re-imaging of the ever-iconic The Twilight Zone – is one of the best TV shows ever written, never mind one of my favourite shows of all-time. The show looks at how technology will, eventually, outrun us and the bad situations that that kind of world could put us in. With Netflix surprise-dropping the fourth series on us any time now, I thought I’d rank the 13 episodes we’ve seen so far in what I would consider to be worst to best.

For those who don’t know what Black Mirror is, let me give you a quick overview: Black Mirror is an anthology show that uses a different story each episode, set in a different “world”, with an entirely different cast of actors. The only overarching theme is that of a world where technology is starting to outrun humans, each episode showing us that the way that we interact with new technology can harm us in dark, twisted and sometimes sadistic ways. I think it’s one of the best TV shows – or even works of fiction – this side of the new Millennium and I, quite frankly, can’t get enough of it. As a result, before series four lands on Netflix in a matter of days now, I thought I’d share my ranking of the 13 episodes we’ve seen so far.

13 – Men Against Fire

Series 3 Episode 5, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Jakob Verbruggen

The bottom three episodes of my ranking are the only three episodes of the entire series that I truly hated; all three of them for different reasons, but I hated them nonetheless. “Men Against Fire” was an episode where I didn’t gel with the concept and, as a result, found the episode to be slow-paced and dull. Maybe it’s because I’ve never experienced a warfare situation in any way shape or form so I found it hard to relate to, but overall, it just didn’t work well for me.

Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findlay as Bing and Abi in Fifteen Million Merits. Photo: Netflix

Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findlay as Bing and Abi in Fifteen Million Merits. Photo: Netflix

12 – Playtest

Series 3 Episode 2, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

“Playtest” is, in my opinion, the only episode of the series so far that has dared to enter the realm of horror, but in doing that, this episode ended up feeling a bit like a low-budget horror film as opposed to a high-class episode of Black Mirror. Not only did the jump scares feel like a cop-out, but the storyline was weak and kind of uninteresting. The only thing I felt impressed by was the twist at the end of the episode, but I cared about the characters too little that by the end of it, it didn’t have all too much of an emotional impact on me.

11 – Fifteen Million Merits

Series 1 Episode 2, Written by Charlie Brooker & Kanak Huq, Directed by Euros Lyn

Like the other two episodes before that I really didn’t like, I wasn’t fond of this one because of both the episodes concept and because of the dragged-out script. I found the concept of the piece too Doctor Who for me to get on board with and ultimately found the entire episode to be dragged out and lengthy. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the characters and performances given, but in the landscape of what this show has to offer, it’s weak.

10 – Be Right Back

Series 2 Episode 1, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Owen Harris

This is where my list becomes episodes that I liked, but some more than others. “Be Right Back” was a funny episode for me because, while I was a fan of the episode’s concept, I didn’t warm to the execution of it. There is something about the episode’s setting in a big, empty country house that made me feel cold and while I’m sure that was Charlie Brooker’s intent for this episode, it left me feeling disconnected and distant from the characters.

Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in San Junipero. Photo: Netflix

Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in San Junipero. Photo: Netflix

9 – The Waldo Moment

Series 1 Episode 3, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Bryn Higgins

When Charlie Brooker wrote this episode in 2013, I’m sure he didn’t realise how well he’d predicted the landscape of our democracy in 2017. Following the story of a late-night TV cartoon character eventually running for local office in the UK, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode where the threat of technology’s power loomed over every decision the characters made. The only reasons it ranks so lowly on this list is because of its slower moments regarding pacing and how emotionally un-impactful the episode is in comparison to others.

8 – San Junipero

Series 3 Episode 4, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Owen Harris

If you just tried to punch me through the screen of your device because I ranked the show’s most fan-favourite and award-lauded episode at number eight on my list then I did feel it. “Sam Junipero” – set in a digitalised “afterlife” which is themed around whatever decade takes your fancy (in this case, predominantly the 80s) – is currently the only episode that ends with a happy ending and a genuine, heartfelt love story at the centre of it. And for the very reason that it differs so drastically from the normal model of Black Mirror episodes is exactly why it’s ranking down here. I couldn’t relate to the characters and didn’t really warm to the concept either, but I do love the 80s, so that was easily sold to me!

7 – Nosedive

Series 3 Episode 1, Written by Charlie Brooker & Rashida Jones & Michael Schur, Directed by Joe Wright

This episode is another that differs greatly to others in the canon, mainly because it was the first episode produced by Netflix (before series three, the show had been produced by Channel 4). As a result, with a much larger budget, the episode covered a lot more scope and the world it takes place in had a lot of space to grow. I also loved Bryce Dallas-Howard’s performance in the lead role and I thought the character’s arc with rather beautiful. I also could totally get on board with the social media “everybody has a rating” idea and, while the world they lived in was very distant from our own, I still felt as though it was the kind of technological threat that is also trying to get on our backs here in 2017.

Bryce Dallas Howard in Nosedive. Photo: Netflix

Bryce Dallas Howard in Nosedive. Photo: Netflix

6 – The National Anthem

Series 1 Episode 1, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Otto Bathurst

I found this episode so impactful when I first started watching the series that I had to take a moment to gather my thoughts when the episode came to an end. Starring Rory Kinnear, the first episode of the show sees the British PM being blackmailed into having sex with a pig on live TV, a demand threatened by a man who has kidnapped the Princess and held her hostage. This episode’s hold on technology is not as revolutionary as it is in other episodes, but the threat still feels just as real and the plot of the episode just as tense. While I know some of my friends thought the episode paled in the light of other episodes from the series, I for one think it’s fantastic.

5 – The Entire History of You

Series 1 Episode 3, Written by Jesse Armstrong, Directed by Brian Welsh

This episode is the only episode of the entirety of this show that isn’t at all written by Charlie Brooker, so I feel kind of guilty for ranking it so highly on my list, but it was just so good! The episode’s concept is that humans are fitted with a microchip which allows them to record footage of every moment of their lives, which they can then watch back and screen for either pleasure and through this, a man tries to discover if his wife has been cheating on him or not. I found the concept totally fascinating and the episode was gripping and intense constantly; one I tell friends to look forward to all of the time.

4 – Hated in the Nation

Series 3 Episode 6, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by James Hawes

As it stands, this episode is the latest in the series canon and it’s also the longest running at 90 minutes and for that reason, I put off watching it for a long time – it’s like dedicating yourself to a full-length movie! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this though and maybe because it was the right length to tell the story or maybe because I got totally immersed in the world that it built for itself, but I loved everything about it. In the episode, we follow two policewomen who discover that people are being murdered as a result of a sick online game and when they realise the root of the problem, it’s more difficult for them to stop them happening than they originally thought. All of the episodes would make perfect films to show someone just on its own, but this episode in particular would be brilliant for just that.

Toby Kebbel in The Entire History of You. Photo: Netflix

Toby Kebbel in The Entire History of You. Photo: Netflix

3 – White Christmas

Series 2 Episode 4, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Carl Tibbetts

This Christmas episode starred Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame, but that isn’t the only reason why I loved this. For the only time so far in Black Mirror history, this episode had a central storyline that ran throughout, but also had three mini-stories built-in as well: two men share three stories of their past to one another, but the story of the two men is one that runs through the episode… if you catch my drift. The episode was complex, twisty-turny and by the conclusion, I felt the desire to applaud what Charlie Brooker had managed to do, something I felt compelled to do at the end of each of my top three favourite episodes. Charlie Brooker has also revealed that he’s returning to this episode structure again in the latter half of the fourth series which I’m sure will make for some thrilling viewing.

2/1 – White Bear/Shut Up and Dance

Series 2 Episode 2, Written by Charlie Brooker, Directed by Carl Tibbetts / Series 3 Episode 3, Written by Charlie Brooker & William Bridges, Directed by James Watkins

My top two episodes are both amazing for the exact same reasons and because of that, I find it impossible to decide which one is my absolute favourite. I cannot explain to you why I love them so much without spoiling the very reason why they work so well, which is annoying when trying to convince you they’re my favourite episodes, but if you’ve seen them before, you know what I mean. Both of them ended in such a way that left me genuinely gobsmacked and sick to my stomach; in my eyes, they are two episodes of twisted and convincing story telling that should be prescription TV watching for everybody.

What are your favourite episodes of Black Mirror? I find that question endlessly fascinating because each person I’ve asked has a completely varying opinion. I’ve even read one of these lists online before where the author thought that “White Bear” and “Shut Up and Dance” were two of the worst episodes of the lot… sacrilege! I think it’s the beauty of the show to have episodes that resonate strongly with different people and I can’t wait for series four.

Alex Lawther as Kenny in Shut Up and Dance. Photo: Netflix

Alex Lawther as Kenny in Shut Up and Dance. Photo: Netflix

‘Black Mirror’ returns for a fourth series on Netflix this Autumn.