In the eleven years since Black Mirror first aired, Charlie Brooker’s dystopian vision has started to seem less and less implausible. The acclaimed British anthology series, which explores society’s relationship with technology, predicted the likes of Animoji, robotic bees – even, somehow, David Cameron’s “piggate”. In 2016, in a move that eerily recalled series one episode “The Entire History of You”, Samsung patented contact lenses with a built-in camera.
But as the show has evolved from a cult favourite, only really known in the UK, into something globally famous – largely thanks to its transition from Channel 4 to Netflix – it has risked not only toppling under the weight of its own success, but becoming something of a self-parody. When journalist Daniel Mallory Ortberg famously tweeted, “Next on Black Mirror: what if phones, but too much?” there was the faint whiff of an impending backlash.
Because of the show's unique combination of cynicism and imagination, however, Charlie Brooker has managed to keep Black Mirror on track. There have been a few missteps, of course, but like its inspiration The Twilight Zone, the possibilities for Black Mirror’s future are infinite.
These are all the episodes so far, ranked from worst to best, including season five. **Spoilers ahead**
Every Black Mirror episode ranked – from worst to best
Series two, episode three
While supremely prescient in predicting how a pop-culture figure would one day find themselves unwittingly in a place of political power, "The Waldo Moment" lacks the bite of other episodes. The pacing is cumbersome, and the bleak ending for Daniel Rigby's failed comedian feels slightly extra. (Channel 4)" />
Series four, episode three
A new insurance company innovation allows access to people’s memories – much to the dismay of Andrea Riseborough’s Mia, who witnesses an accident but has much darker things to hide. Riseborough is typically excellent, but Mia’s behaviour is jarringly inconsistent throughout. (Netflix)" />
Series four, episode two
When an overly fearful mother (Rosemarie DeWitt) resorts to drastic measures in order to keep her daughter safe, things inevitably unravel. Quite how far they unravel is the greatest weakness of a lacklustre episode, despite being directed with vigour by Jodie Foster. (Netflix)" />
Series five, episode four
Casting a globally famous pop star, Miley Cyrus, as a globally famous pop star whose entire consciousness is copied over into sellable robot dolls should have been a fun idea. But the episode unfolds at a strangely plodding pace, failing to make good use of its concept and its stars. Thankfully, when the tone suddenly changes as a result of an accidental discovery at the hands of two teenage sisters, the episode becomes a fun, high-concept heist film. (Netflix)" />
Series three, episode five
A group of soldiers are tasked with protecting a village from mutant humans known as “roaches”, by hunting them down and exterminating them. A typically shocking twist reveals that something even more sinister is at play, and two soldiers – played by Malachi Kirby and Madeline Brewer – must face the horrific moral implications of their actions. A shocking, troubling episode. (Netflix)" />
Series 3, episode six
The show’s longest outing, after the just-released Bandersnatch, “Hated in the Nation” is Brooker’s answer to Scandi Noir dramas such as The Killing. But its murder mystery plot, involving killer drone insects, fails to reach the heights it aspires to. (Netflix)" />
Series three, episode four
There’s fun to be had in the augmented reality chiller “Playtest”, an episode following an American man (Wyatt Russell) who accepts a one-time, rather bizarre, job offer from a video game company. An often thrilling instalment, that ultimately fails to live up to its brilliant potential. (Netflix)" />
Series three, episode one
A phenomenal team came together for the first Netflix-produced episode: star Bryce Dallas Howard, director Joe Wright and The Good Place creator Michael Schur. The result is expansive, expensive-looking – and strangely soulless. The world it presents, however, is scarily plausible: people must rate each other from one to five at every single interaction in a bid to improve social standing. (Netflix)" />
Series five, episode one
Fleabag actor Andrew Scott plays a grieving not-Uber driver who hates how people are addicted to their phones. He decides to take someone hostage and demands to speak to their boss – the head of a world-conquering social media website (a fictional Mark Zuckerberg-type character played by Topher Grace). By Black Mirror's standards it feels like a thin premise, and doesn't build enough to justify a 70-minute running time. Despite a moving ending, “Smithereens” feels muted rather than subtle. (Netflix)" />
Series one, episode one
Could this be the most audacious first episode of any TV series? "The National Anthem" is a wonderfully twisted opener, a satirical comment on the terrifying power of social media via a grim story about a Prime Minister forced to have sex with a pig live on television. It set the Black Mirror blueprint perfectly. (Channel 4)" />
Black Mirror is available to watch on Netflix.