The third season of “Black Mirror” deftly picks up where Netflix left us at the end of season two (see my December 29, 2014 review of previous seasons) exploring themes of techno-paranoia, the ugly side of social media and its lack of consequences. Technophobia thrives!
Like the prior seasons, this season’s six episodes of “Black Mirror” involve at least one unwitting main character who is controlled by devices or inventions that are supposed either to enhance the quality of life or be a source of entertainment. Personal freedom is threatened instead. Each episode tackles some form of hacking and hijacking.
The first episode, “Nosedive,” explores the obsession with smartphones. Personal lives become shattered by low star ratings and swiping left, with the ensuing online shaming leading to tragedy.
“Play Test,” reveals what happens to a world traveler who stumbles into a genuinely terrifying video game that is more real than virtual.
In “Shut Up and Dance,” an unseen hacker gains access to a teenager’s webcam and blackmails him. The anonymous hacker blackmails each subsequent victim to engage in criminal acts. Those who saw “Snowden” and now “Shut Up and Dance” will think more seriously about covering their webcam lens with a post-it!
The fourth “Hated in the Nation” is a bit like the classic, “Manchurian Candidate”. An investigator soon sees how murders advocated on Twitter with the hashtag #DeathTo, intersect with the decimation of the bee population. Use of #DeathTo actually grows rapidly in popularity after users learn that the Twitter “game” is real and actually used to identify people who become public hate figures.
“Men Against Fire” is not your usual mini–war movie. To avoid PTSD after killing enemy combatants, the military embeds electronic implants into soldiers’ brains to dehumanize the enemy and avoid PTSD.
“San Junipero,” is a romantic encounter between two women who time-travel to unexpected places, some real and some virtual. They can choose to live as their younger selves forever, resonating a bit with the movie “Sixth Sense”.
Watching each episode of “Black Mirror” is like falling into a rabbit hole, where the world of the Cheshire Cat is ominous and not only a figment of the imagination. “Black Mirror” poses the question: Do our smart screens prevent us from authentic relationships and a shared reality within a wider community? Or have our moral boundaries been erased by the often tantalizing and addicting worlds our Wi-Fi connections make so real and so easy to pursue?
All six episodes are evocative and open a portal to seeing if our minds can be hacked and hijacked. Choose your own favorite episodes and post your preferences here!
Note: The episode “White Christmas” from the end of last season is quite a somber Christmas to say the least. Starring Jon Hamm (of “Mad Men” fame), I loved this one!