With the arrival of "Bandersnatch," a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style exploration of free will, we decided to re-rank every episode of "Black Mirror," going back to the first episode, "National Anthem." There are no bad "Black Mirror" episodes, so we ranked them from good to mind-blowing.
20. Season 2, Episode 3: "The Waldo Moment"
Many have made the now-trite observation that this episode, about a cartoon bear who insults his way into higher office, predicted the rise of Donald Trump. OK. This episode does a good job of again showing that we bend too easily before the loud and obnoxious. But "Black Mirror" usually had more novel things to say.
19. Season 3, Episode 6: "Hated in the Nation"
It's disappointing that "Black Mirror" Season 3 -- one of the best TV seasons ever -- ended with a story that feels a little like "Sharknado." Great acting, though, and it can be taken as a friendly reminder not to cancel people over tweets.
18. Season 2, Episode 2: "White Bear"
Sure, this one's scary, but it's just scary. There's some "Purge"-quality social commentary here, and that's nice. But "Black Mirror" is usually smarter. (Curiously, "Bandersnatch" calls back to it aggressively.)
17. Season 2, Episode 1: "Be Right Back"
We recommend this episode, and all the ones that follow, with zero reservations. Starring Hayley Atwell
and Domhnall Gleeson
, "Be Right Back" is another aching look at the qualities that make us us. It's one of many "Black Mirror" episodes that could have been a Best Picture contender if it were a movie. In fact, it shares some similarities with the 2014 Best Picture nominee "Her."
16. Season 1, Episode 2: "Fifteen Million Merits"
This twist on "American Idol"-style mobs is gorgeously acted by Jessica Brown Findlay and a pre-"Get Out" Daniel Kaluuya, and their chemistry helps sell familiar lessons about literal cycles of exploitation. We think about this episode every time we ride an exercise bike, which probably isn't often enough.
15. Season 1, Episode 1: "National Anthem"
This mean little story feels all the meaner because it's so easy to imagine it happening in real life. It's a perfect first episode, because there's no better test of whether "Black Mirror" is for you.
14. Season 3, Episode 2: "Playtest"
Most of us will never get trapped in a digital haunted house, but the health situation portrayed here will feel achingly real to many viewers. The scariest part of the episode is the realest.
13. Season 4, Episode 6: "Black Museum"
“Black Museum” references every past episode in the anthology, but the ruthlessness with which it merges three vignettes into one nasty story. Letitia Wright and Douglas Hodge counter the ugliness with some beautiful acting.
12. Season 4, Episode 2: "Arkangel"
This episode has the best setup of any "Black Mirror," and seems like it will be a savage critique of helicopter parenting. It doesn't escalate as heartlessly as we expected, but maybe that's a good thing.
11. Season 4, Episode 5: Metalhead
Hey, Alexa: Is this episode just a stripped-down survival story? Or a grim warning that our reliance on Amazon is a slippery slope into Terminator dogs chasing us down across a hellscape Earth? Just asking.
10. Season 4, Episode 3: "Crocodile"
If Alfred Hitchcock had done a "Black Mirror" episode, it would go pretty much like this. A frosty blonde antihero (Andrea Riseborough) tries to outsmart a relentless insurance adjuster. A rodent gets involved.
9. Season 2, Episode 4: "White Christmas"
If you're dreaming of a black Christmas, this showcase for madman Jon Hamm
combines two imaginary technologies -- one of which allows you to "block" people in real life -- to tell one of grayest stories ever told. Sentiment-free, it's the most "Black Mirror" episode of "Black Mirror."
8. Season 4, Episode 4: "Hang the DJ"Boy and girl meet cute in The System, which is designed to find “true matches.” If you and your better half are fighting over complicated wedding plans and too-high expectations, stop and watch this episode and remember you don't owe anything to anyone but each other.
"Hang the DJ" is probably the sweetest episode of "Black Mirror," and is therefore not our favorite.
7. Season 3, Episode 3: "Shut Up and Dance"
No episode of "Black Mirror" will leave you feeling worse about humanity than this one. The ultimate prank is on you. Oh, also? It could happen. Similar things have already happened.
6. Season 4, Episode 1: USS CallisterThis one makes the Top 5 on sweep and ambition alone. And it's one of many episodes that remind us to never let anyone make a digital copy of your soul. Stars Jesse Plemons and Cristin Milioti should be in everything.
5. Season 3, Episode 1: "Nosedive"
This is the episode that probably hits closest to home. The Bryce Dallas Howard
story is a perfect sendup of our obsession with social-media approval. As soon as it ended we tweeted how much we loved it, then waited to see if anyone would retweet us, and... why didn't they? What's wrong with them? What's wrong with us?
4. Standalone movie: "Bandersnatch"
By far the most ambitious "Black Mirror," "Bandersnatch" does something never before attempted in serious drama, using the "Choose Your Own Adventure" format to ask provocative questions about free will and power. Part film, part video game, it's incredibly impressive, and builds a complicated, stunning alternate-reality 1984 that we're still navigating. But the next three episodes on this list are even better at combining hard questions with emotion.
3. Episode 3, Season 5: "Men Against Fire"
We don't say this lightly: This episodes stands alongside "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Full Metal Jacket" as one of the best stories about how war really works. (Even though the speech about how most soldiers don't fire their weapons
might be totally wrong.)
2. Season 3, Episode 4: "San Junipero"
No other story better captures the 1980s' pulsing mix of hope, heartache, cruelty and perfect pop music. It's another episode that could have been a Best Picture, and it may be the best single episode of television at capturing raw emotion. (It also feels joyously defiant that this story of colorblind LGBT love was filmed in South Africa, a former bastion of government-mandated bigotry.)
1. Season 1, Episode 3: "The Entire History of You"
If you've ever been in a relationship with anyone who's been in another relationship, this one will crush you. Should life be lived, or remembered? And can you separate the living from the remembering? We think of this episode every time our memories fail us -- or serve us much too well.