Netflix’s production of the third season of the British series “Black Mirror” has been met with much critical success and it’s wealthy share of viewer obsession. With that comes the rating and rankings of each episode. Through this process, several critics often over-praise and over-criticize certain episodes.
Let’s break down what could be considered to be the most underrated and overrated episode from the show’s run so far.
Starting with the lesser controversial point is often the better decision.
“Hated in the Nation” is the final episode of the Netflix-produced the third season. This episode is not hated by many. It’s generally seen as a “good” episode but is not often featured on many top-five lists for a plethora of reasons, but each and every one of those reasons are completely unjust.
First and foremost, let it be said that this episode is not the best episode in the series. It certainly has it’s flaws. It could even be debated whether it’s the best episode of that season. That being said, this particular episode has one of the more epic and urgent story-lines.
The episode feels more like a feature-length movie than part of a long-form episodic series, but that should not be a knock on the episode. It should be commended, as that takes guts to pull off–which they do.
What especially makes this episode work is how the story continues to evolve, something thing that “Black Mirror” really excels at when they go all-in with an episode
The story begins Chief Inspector Karin Parke (a focused Kelly Macdonald) investigating the homicide of a controversial journalist who was hated by much of the nation. Just as we find out how the homicide was committed (an artificial bee that was designed to replace the extinct species years ago), we then discover that this is not an isolated incident. A famous rapper is killed the same exact way the next day, who was also the most hated man in the nation. Without giving away spoilers, the story continues to evolve and the reasons for the killings become more and more complex and philosophical.
One of the larger critiques of the episode, other than the run-time, is the introduction of the bees. Many critics felt that–while a unique idea– they were such a complex idea that they contributed to convoluting the plot.
This is wrong.
Where a lot of critics and fans felt that the plot of convoluted, was indeed what pushed the episode to a grander scale. There were a lot of elements added that an audience member could hurt the audience’s mind, or it could exercise it.
No pain, no gain.
Again, this is not a perfect episode. The ending is a little frustrating, as we do want more closure, but every second of this episode is moving towards each character’s needs and the show’s vision. It may run long, but there is not a second wasted.
“Be Right Back” is a very good episode. It deals with many complex themes and personal questions about life and death. The ending is both enduring and haunting at the same time, as are several moments in this episode.
However, brace yourself, this episode isn’t as good as you think.
First, let’s go over what makes this episode so favorable to many. Like many of the more successful “Black Mirror” episodes, “Be Right Back” makes clear statements on society without forcing the agenda. It’s theme of life, death, and how we deal with loss are refreshing and grim at the same time. In conjunction with that, all of the characters mesh well and we truly do develop a sympathy for them and a familiarity with their relationships.
All of these attributes constitute to a very good episode, but not one of the best as many pundits seem to claim it is. A lot of the elements that make “Black Mirror” what it is, this episode fails to capitalize on them.
Many great episodes have constant layers to the story, which keep building suspense to the viewing experience. However, we know exactly where this story is going once we are in the thick of it.
The story follows Martha, whose husband just passed away in a car accident. In her grief, she is introduced to a service where she can communicate with an electronic copy of her late husband, Ash. Shortly after, she takes on a more risky service, where Ash can be cloned into a body. The new version of Ash looks and sounds just like him, but is reliant on electronic information and internet history in order to act like him.
From the introduction to this tale, we know this isn’t going to work out. We know that the artifical Ash isn’t really him and that is eventually going to push Martha away. There are no twists and turns in this story, no new plot developments. The story just happens, there’s no change. Not only does the story not change, but neither do the characters. Martha does realize that this creation is not the real Ash, but she doesn’t really change anything about her life. We don’t get any sense of moving on or independence from her.
There also is no obstacle within the episode. There is the obstacle of dealing with grief, but nothing that Martha is continuously working towards and we the audience becoming worried if she’ll reach it. The internal need is a fine narrative tool, but it’s hard to rank this episode so high when it relies on that tool so heavily.
A large reason why so many fell in love with this episode was because of the relationship between Martha and Ash. It’s a simplistic greiving love story. However, when you compare this to other “Black Mirror” episodes that dealt with relationships, they fall short. In “The History of You,” the story may not focus on the relationship itself, but it deals with trust and obsession within a relationship. This episode works in several twists and turns and a plethora of huge scenes that change the tide of the story, leaving audience members either on the edge of their seat or crumbling in the depths of their psyche. “San Junipero” is an episode that deals with a story closer to “Be Right Back” as it is focused solely on a relationship and even touches on death and moving on to the next stage of life. This is another episode that excels where “Be Right Back” does not. While a lot of the episode is the two characters interacting, we are constantly wondering what they are thinking and what their motives are. In “Be Right Back,” there are very few questions to be answered. It is peril for an audience member to have questions. It builds intrigue and anticipation for the next scene. It keeps them hanging on the edge of every line the actors breathe.
Again, this is not a bad episode. It’s certainly original and entertaining, but it doesn’t pack the punch that “Black Mirror” is capable of.