Plenty of shows are addicting to watch, but none have the impact of Black Mirror. From terrifying political dystopias, to shocking twist reveals and horrifying tech concepts – every episode of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series leaves audiences stunned and in silence.
Even when Black Mirror tackles lighter genres like comedy and romance, there’s still an edge of darkness that makes it impossible to look away. That’s true of both the movie experience Bandersnatch and the newest three episode series available on Netflix now, which is why we’re counting down the top 10 things you probably didn’t know about Black Mirror.
20. The show isn’t actually anti-technology
Given that even the title of Black Mirror refers to screens, it’s not surprising that the show has a reputation for fearmongering around technology.
However, despite most episodes exploring some kind of dystopia related to a new piece of tech, the show isn’t actually anti-technological progress.
Creator of the show Charlie Brooker has said again and again that in most of the episodes, the technology isn’t to blame for what happens.
It’s always the choices the characters make, and the ways in which they choose to use technology, that causes their downfall.
In fact, Brooker has said that he’s a huge fan of cutting edge gadgets and technology, which is why he wrote a show focussing around tech in the first place.
And, while he accepts that the show involves a lot of the downsides, he also shows the huge potential of tech to impact the world in real ways.
19. Black Mirror predicted the future of politics
Black Mirror’s first ever episode might also be its most notorious, since it has a premise that was always going to be divisive. [adunit mobile=”RTK_dVa8″]
For those who haven’t seen it in a while, it deals with a ransom and kidnapping situation in which the UK Prime Minister is forced to have sex with a pig on live TV.
This might seem like a plot so surreal it could never come true, but just a few years later, allegations came out about current Prime Minister David Cameron allegedly taking part in a hazing ritual at university.
That ritual involved him having to do something sexually explicit to a dead pig head, which every other member of the group had also had to do in the past.
The allegations were never actually proved true and, while there was a lot of buzz in the press, David Cameron himself tried his best to distance himself from the rumours.
Charlie Brooker for his part, insisted that he knew nothing about the rumour when he wrote the episode, although he did admit that it was kind of a funny coinscidence.
18. One episode twist was inspired by a hater
Black Mirror has legions of fans, as well as numerous awards and serious critical acclaim.
However, that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone who saw it was in love with it.
One critic released a scathing review disparaging the show’s repetitive and unimaginative premise.
In the review was a joking pitch for the next episode, which went as follows: “what if phones, but too much?”.
Brooker found the sarcastic premise so hilarious that he built it into an episode of the show called Playtest, in which a character dies due to phone over-use.
Overall though, critical response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive, so we probably won’t see any other hater-based premises soon.
17. John Hamm had a real Christmas miracle
Many actors adore Black Mirror, but the show tends to spotlight unknown British actors, who then go on to star in bigger and better things worldwide.
It’s not often that Hollywood stars get an opportunity to add to the show, although that has started to change in the later seasons.
Jon Hamm got his chance completely by accident, when he begged his agent to set up a meeting between him and Charlie Brooker, just so he could emphasise how big of a fan he was.
As it turned out, Brooker had started work on a new season without Hamm knowing, and immediately brought him on board for the Christmas special.
Jon Hamm ended up playing a sleazy tech consultant who also had some seriously illegal side-hustles, including a kind of therapy business that was a front for an illegal surveillance program.
It was a complex character to play, but one that he thoroughly enjoyed, and many critics singled him out as the strongest part of an already strong episode.
16. The show isn’t binge-friendly
For the past few seasons, Black Mirror has made its home on Netflix, alongside shows like Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black and Good Girls.
However, though the other shows on the platform are completely binge-worthy, Brooker has said in interviews that binging Black Mirror is not advised.
Why? Well, watching an episode of Black Mirror is apparently like being hit by a bus emotionally, at least according to Brooker.
He went on to say that being hit by an emotional bus over and over in one day just isn’t a good way to watch TV, even if it is on Netflix.
Instead, Brooker has said that the best way to approach it is to watch one episode time, and to give yourself enough time to emotionally recover afterwards.
Not only that, but it’s a good idea to have another show queued up to watch afterwards, preferably one that’s lighter and won’t haunt your dreams afterwards.
15. Some of the show’s scariest technology actually exists
Some episodes of Black Mirror are set further in the future than others, and so some of the tech is way further out of our reach.
With that said, all of the technology is completely fictional, aside from a pretty surprising exception.
It’s not the technology you might think is closer to reality either, like the constantly recording contact lenses or even the move to a complete crypro-currency technology.
Instead, it’s actually the episode Be Right Back that has since come true, in which a grieving widow uploads the digital consciousness of her late husband into a replica body.
Though the realistic automaton is not quite a possibility yet, scientists have created digital reconstructions of the dead, in specific to help the grieving friends.
These reconstructions are built from a person’s entire digital history across social media, resulting in new posts and messages that speak with their exact voice.
14. There’s a reason each season never longer than six episodes
Unlike most big-budget television shows, seasons of Black Mirror vary in length and even format – with some series’ comprising of a single experience, while some are three episodes and some are six.
However, you’ll notice that no series will ever exceed seven episodes, and there’s a reason for that.
Creator Charlie Brooker has explained in interviews that making a series of Black Mirror is the most demanding job he has ever had, and making six episodes at a time is enough to drive everyone involved with the production to breaking point.
To make seven episodes, he explained, would be to push his team over the break into burn out.
This might also explain the step back into a three episode season for this latest Netflix run, since each episode is far more intricate than anything that has come before.
Each episode feels more like a movie than it does a TV special, and the casting choices reflect that, meaning they take far more work to get right.
13. The horror episode was the hardest to make scary
Charlie Brooker was actually a comedy writer before he came up with the idea for a tech-based anthology show, and you can see that dark, ironic humour in multiple episodes of Black Mirror.
With that said, one episode was supposed to be as far away from comedy as possible, and yet it kept turning out funny.
The issue was that they had to build a monster for the Playtest episode that was genuinely terrifying, and yet the absurd premise of a spider with a face kept looking goofy.
To fix this, they collaborated with surrealist horror artists to build a monster that would make people scream rather than laugh.
The resulting creatures are one of the only time that Black Mirror moves away from existential or conceptual horror into pure physical horror.
The visuals are genuinely more dark and twisted than what you would expect to see in any horror video game, and they are only made palatable by the fact that the protagonist is so likeable.
12. Charlie Brooker has a weird way of choosing episode ideas
Charlie Brooker might be the creator of Black Mirror, but he’s far from the only person involved.
He has a small core team to bounce ideas off of, even if the final say is his, and he has a pretty unique way of pitching ideas for the show.
Basically, he describes the plot of an episode to his right-hand writer, and includes all of the shocking twists, the gruesome details, or the brutal aspects of the concept.
If she covers her face with her hands and tells him that it’s awful or disgusting, then he knows he’s on the right track.
By contrast, if she seems ready and able to accept the concept of that particular episode, then Brooker knows he should probably attempt to push it further.
That’s what leads to the signature moments in every episode, where the watching audience stares open-mouthed once they realise where the episode is going.
11. One episode is based on Brooker’s real-life
Hated In The Nation was written with the aim of exploring what a police procedural would look like through Black Mirror’s eyes.
With that said, it’s also directly inspired by one of Brooker’s own experiences, in regards specifically to online hate.
Essentially, Brooker had written a satirical comedy article in a national newspaper, where he jokingly called for the assassination of a politician.
After the article came out, he was faced with levels of social media hate that he’d never seen before and didn’t know how to deal with it.
This is reflected in the episode, where throwaway comments made on social media went on to massively affect the lives of the characters.
It’s an issue that was relevant then, but feels even more relevant today, with questions about cancel culture and responsiblility being raised in every major newspaper.
10. Some episodes could get sequels in the future
For the majority of the time Black Mirror was airing, every episode was thought to exist in its own universe, with its own version of the future.
As a part of this standalone concept, Charlie Brooker made it clear that every episode existed by itself, and would never be returned to again.
With that said, with more and more Easter Eggs popping up that confirm at least some of the episodes overlap, people began to get curious about the potential for sequels.
The more the audience clamoured for it, the more the show’s creators began to think about it, and the more they liked the idea.
As it stands, we haven’t had any episodes that are direct sequels, even if some of the technology is a clear evolution of tech from previous seasons.
Brooker has said that both White Bear and Be Right Back are ripe for continuation though, with the team knowing where those stories would go next.
9. But one episode will never get a sequel
Though tentative sequels have been posed for a sparse few episodes across the seasons, one will never be continued.
Unfortunately for fans of the show (and the Netflix backed episodes in particular) it’s the most successful episode that will never be picked up.
San Junipero, the romantic episode set entirely within a virtual world, is a favourite of fans across the globe.
Not only did they adore the vintage eighties setting, but they also fell in love with the love story of the two female leads.
This episode is the only one with a true happy ending, which has led fans to beg for another episode in which the couple just gets to be happy and in love forever.
Brooker has said publicly that this will never happen, probably since happy romantic comedies are not exactly what Black Mirror is all about.
8. They thought about tying every episode together
With more and more episodes coming out with nods to other seasons, it might seem like Brooker decided to create an overt extended universe after-all.
Especially since there is now a museum episode that outright creates a timeline for the order of all the events depicted in previous seasons.
The problem is, even that pretty overwhelming nod is small-scale compared to what they were planning to do.
Given that the show is inspired by the Twilight Zone, they had tossed around the idea of having a creepy narrator to introduce each episode and go over the themes and meanings.
When that felt too goofy and retro, they also floated the idea of having every character at some point appear on the same street, or having an extra appear in every episode.
Aside from some recurring actors, the closest they got to this concept is having an actor say the word “oi” in every single Black Mirror instalment.
7. But eventually chose a subtler way
Aside from the crossover actors and the shared dialogue in every episodes, there’s an even subtler way that ties certain episodes together.
Essentially, there’s a song that is sung by numerous characters in the show, and it plays in other scenarios as well.
The song is called Anyone Who Knows What Love Is, and it’s a sweet and romantic track with a serious edge of sadness.
That makes sense, since most of the times we hear it in various episodes, it’s usually in a sad or tragic scenario for the characters singing or watching.
For example, we hear it in 15 Million Merits before the love interest is forced to become an adult film star, and in thw Christmas special White Christmas.
It also appears in Men Against Fire, and the fully black and white episode Crocodile.
6. A potential movie got Hollywood interest
The Entire History Of You is the third episode of season one, and the episode that really cemented what the show is about.
It revolves around contact lenses and brain implants that can be worn that enhance the senses and memory, so that someone can remember their whole lives.
Not only that, but it gives people the ability to pause and rewind through their own memories, as well as stream them on TV and films.
Obviously there’s a lot of ways this can be explored, and Black Mirror took the route of showing how it could destroy a relationship.
Many people thought the scope of the concept was just too big for the show, leading to studio interest in a movie adaptation from all sides.
One of the studios to express interest and go after the rights was Team Downey, Rober Downey Jr’s own personal movie production company.
5. One actress was very affected by her character
The season of Black Mirror that included Nose Dive was supposed to be a kind of experiment by Charlie Brooker, attempting to see how Black Mirror would attempt different genres.
With that in mind, Nosedive was actually supposed to be a dark comedy, where you can see the humour and the tragedy in the main character’s downfall.
The only reason this concept worked was because of the acting of Bryce Dallas Howard, who balanced the hilarity and desperation of the character perfectly.
However, the part affected her far more than she expected it to, making her far more aware and self-conscious of how she was being percieved in every day life.
This manifested for her in a pretty trivial way, with her obsessively checking her Uber rating after shooting, which is similar to the rating system in the show.
Even though her rating was over 4.8, she was horrified by that dropped two percent, wondering what she had done wrong.
4. Miley Cyrus was obsessed with Black Mirror
Charlie Brooker knew that for season five he wanted to do a story about celebrity, but he didn’t know how to go about casting it.
He knew that to make it convincing he would need an actress with pop star experience, in order to make the character feel authentic.
When he pitched the idea to his team, he began making a list of pop stars to reach out to, hoping that one would agree to appear in the show.
In the end though, he didn’t have to go out and find a pop star, as a pop star came and found him.
The story goes that Miley Cyrus heard about the character that was being casted, and immediately reached out to Brooker.
She explained that she was a massive fan of the show and had been for years, and she immediately got the part on that alone.
3. One aspect of the show caused problems
However, just having a real-life pop star playing the part of Ashley O wasn’t the only thing necessary to make the episode feel convincing.
They also had to write pop songs that felt like they could be real, whether that meant writing real chart toppers or real-sounding rock tracks.
The team tried to write several of the songs themselves, and for a lot of the bubble gum pop they came close to creating something real.
However, in the end they thought the best thing to do would be to use real songs by real artists.
That’s not surprising, but what is unexpected is that the same band was used for both the rock music and the pop songs.
In both cases, it was Nine Inch Nails songs that were used, only in the case of the pop songs the lyrics were changed to be happier and more family friendly.
2. Miley Cyrus had to work through difficult conditions
Miley Cyrus has been working as a pop-star and actress ever since she was a child, so the demanding role wasn’t a problem for her.
In fact, even though much of her earlier acting had been in things aimed at children, she embraced the darker and more difficult work.
With that said, just because she was capable of tackling both the music and acting elements of the character, that doesn’t mean it was all plain sailing.
In particular, she had to deal with some immense personal strife during shooting, which no doubt weighed heavily on her performance.
Essentially: her house in Miami was right in the path of the forest fires raging across parts of America, and she’d had to move out for safety reasons.
That was already hard for her, but while she was on set shooting for Black Mirror, she got word that her house was literally burning down.
1. And she disappeared into the role
Despite the personal troubles Cyrus was dealing with while filming, she made sure to commit fully to the promotion and release of the episode.
When it came time to release the episode, she changed her whole social media brand, even changing her username to match her character.
As well as that, she uploaded a series of photos in her signature purple Ashley O wig, and even from the perspective of the character.
The captions were pretty normal popstar fare, but with an edge of darkness that hints something is not quite right.
For fans of Miley Cyrus’ work that had never heard of or seen Black Mirror, the move was confusing but did work as awesome promotion.
For everyone else, it led to some doubt that Cyrus could pull of the role, but it definitely did.