BLACK MIRROR: Best to Best-Best

05. White Christmas

10/10 – Jon Hamm stars in the show’s first “anthology episode,” weaving together a handful of mini-episodes that seem at first to be unrelated but in the end coalesce around one heck of a twist. This is a great episode to offer someone who has never seen the show before a taste of what makes it so special: great writing and acting, and a focus on how technology can abuse us if we start abusing it.

04. Be Right Back

10/10 – Beautiful and heartbreaking, sometimes at the same time.  It’s a flawless hour of TV anchored by two mostly-unknown actors of the day, Hayley Atwell and Dhomenall Gleeson. This is going to sound backhanded, but it’s the sort of episode—with this quality of actors—that feels bigger than the show itself. This easily could have been stretched by a half-hour and it would have been a movie worthy of wide release; sort of like the equally-stellar Ex Machina.

03. USS Callister

10/10 – Lots of Black Mirror episodes have twists or surprises or storytelling-approaches that you wouldn’t want to spoil, but you’re often compelled to give a little away because without it you’d have nothing to say about the episode. In this case, we’re fortunate to at least have something to reveal about the episode that doesn’t give away what makes it so fantastic: It’s a spoof of Star Trek: The Original Series. That’s it. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s so so much more than that, but that’s all you need to know.

02 & 01. San Junipero & Hang the DJ

These two are 1 and 1A in my mind. They cover similar territory, end in similar ways, and even break the same previously-established rule of the show. Black Mirror is known for many things, but one reputation it came by honestly was how bleak and even nihilistic it is. The show is littered with bummer endings of one kind or another. These two episodes break the mold: They are love stories, happy and fun, and the joy isn’t just set-up for a gut-punch or a rug-pulling. It’s real and it ends with a happy ending; in fact that might be the biggest spoiler of the episodes.

Each one offers something a little different from the other. San Junipero can’t be beaten when it comes to its aesthetic and soundtrack. Hang the DJ, on the other hand, has maybe the most satisfying ending to an episode in the show’s run so far. Both have the usual “romantic dramedy” trappings, but nothing ever gets too cheesy or schmaltzy. If you’re put out by how bleak most episodes of the show are, these two are the perfect palate cleansers. But not only that, they’re two of the most purely-enjoyable episodes to watch. I can appreciate a well made bit of sadness-personified, but there’s only so much “that was great, I never want to watch it again” I can take. San Junipero, and especially my personal favorite, Hang the DJ, are exactly the kind of shows that keep me watching.

*****

That’s the list, Cult fans. What’s your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments below.

And don’t forget to check out our Salome G’s review of Season Five as soon as it premiers on Netflix.

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