Last week Netflix released six new episodes of the hit show Black Mirror. Since earlier episodes involve such grim scenarios as a politician being blackmailed into having sex with a pig on live television, fans of the show, like screenwriter Rafael Jordan, had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the new season.
“A lot of people say it’s so dark, cynical, and depressing that it isn’t really their thing,” Jordan says in Episode 227 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But to me, I think it’s just so socially relevant, and it’s such a scathing commentary on where society is going, that to me it’s the best show on TV.”
Pop culture critic Natalie Zutter agrees that cynicism and edginess are key to the show’s appeal.
“I’ve always been a fan of dark stuff,” she says. “I would much rather have friends over to watch something that really makes you think, or something where you’re all experiencing an emotion beyond just laughing at it.”
But surprisingly, one of the new episodes features an ending that’s not just happy, it’s borderline sappy. Writer Anthony Ha found that an enjoyable change of pace, though overall he feels that the new season doesn’t quite live up to earlier episodes.
“As much as maybe some of us might prefer the darker, harder-hitting version of Black Mirror, I think if it’s going to keep going it has to continue to branch out and explore different formats and tones,” he says. “So as much as I had reservations about some of the episodes, I think that is a really good thing.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that the occasional happy ending helps to keep viewers guessing.
“It broadens the palette of the show,” he says. “I’m wondering though, if they keep having happy endings, are they going to have to change the name of the show to Grey Mirror?”
Listen to our complete interview with Rafael Jordan, Natalie Zutter, and Anthony Ha in Episode 227 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
David Barr Kirtley on watching Black Mirror
“This is my favorite show, and so I was really looking forward to it coming out on Friday. So I wake up Friday morning, I’m all psyched to watch the show, and Netflix isn’t working. It wasn’t working all day, and I was kind of going crazy. If you’re listening to this in the future, there was this giant DDOS attack that shut down a bunch of big sites, including Netflix, all day long. And it was actually kind of funny because on the Black Mirror Twitter account they said, ‘Twitter is no longer available to users below a five star rating. We apologize for the inconvenience.’ So I thought that was pretty good. … It’s a reference to the first episode of this new season, which is called ‘Nosedive.’”
Rafael Jordan on “Nosedive”
“I actually really liked it and thought it was relevant to me. As someone that’s trying to get ahead in Hollywood as a filmmaker, I feel like it really encapsulated, to some degree, what I do. I mean I’m constantly promoting other people’s work, and essentially five-starring them, publicly, because it’s kind of what you do. You want people to speak well of you and your projects, so I’m always speaking well of other people’s projects, even when they’re clearly not that great. It’s truthfully what you do. Because people always say, ‘Oh, on Facebook you seem to like everything,’ but that’s kind of the public front you need to put up.”
Natalie Zutter on “Playtest”
“Looking at this character, I think ‘Cooper’ was his name, he was so goofy and so privileged. I mean, he was this white guy who just left home and decided to go travel the world. And we knew that he was probably working odd jobs to get by, but he had a debit card and a credit card, and the fact that he could just sort of drop everything, and drop a mother who clearly needed him and ignore her calls [was annoying]. … So even as he was walking his way through the haunted house and reasoning out the horror—in the same way that I do when I watch a scary movie, I will talk myself through it and say, ‘Well, this jump scare already happened a scene ago, so it can’t happen again, and it’s all fake.’ As much as I sympathized with that, I just found him very grating.”
Natalie Zutter on “Men Against Fire”
“In the case of the other episodes, if I start to catch on to the twist, or whatever reversal they’ve engineered into it, I still want to see where the story goes after it, and in this case, once [the twist was revealed], I kind of lost interest in where the story went. Although I will say, it was one of those cases where the other small worldbuilding details, I would have wanted to follow those paths. … The rewards that the soldiers would get—like the main character, he gets two kills on his first time out, and so they say, ‘Oh, you’re going to have really good dreams tonight.’ Part of their programming is giving them these hyper-realistic, or in his case hyper-sexual, dreams. … I would love to see a Black Mirror story about that in relation to PTSD.”