By: Dakota Gordon
Most fans of classic science-fiction (and some ignorant of it) have undoubtedly heard of The Twilight Zone, a series dedicated to showcasing an anthology of stories on an episodic basis that peers into the mind of those within as a commentary to those outside. A revolutionary series that becomes a mainstay of society to this very day. Henceforth, there were bound to be those inspired by the harrowing tales of psychological manipulation; such inspiration comes in the form of Black Mirror, a Netflix-exclusive series dedicated to exhuming the magic once left by an eerily catchy jingle.
Episodes run between forty and seventy minutes, though each season has a constantly changing—though never heavy—amount of episodes, so watching the series within a day is more than possible. What it lacks for quantity it more than makes up for quality, as the series has a wonderfully efficient tone that grabs the viewer with it almost alone. Hard as it is to take the series aloofly with such grim takes presented, even when such blasphemous premises arise as the one in the very first episode. Not only is it a spectacle to behold in terms of mood, the production values seem up-to-date and credible, as though one were watching something from a major cable network. Not that that’s really all that important, it helps build an already acceptable résumé.
A pretty face may attract on its own, but it is the inside that makes one stay and come again and again. Black Mirror stands as a storytelling device full of tragic parody and abject horror of a realistic quality. What makes these horrors so astute is the reasonable belief that a number of these things could really happen, giving the audience ample opportunity to imagine what they would do in such a situation. I found myself doing so, with narcissistic pride, as well. Surely I would be capable enough to control myself in such situations; yet I find myself worrying that should these events truly happen, I may not feel as safe as when the chances are less than zero. To imagine oneself within the moving picture is a sure sign of investment and attention paid, such that Black Mirror becomes much like what its title implies: a portrait into the darkened reality it forces you to take part in.
On a more basic nature, it is tremendously entertaining to see the characters behave in motivations clear and concise, regardless of right and wrong. This manner of self-serving attitude and the fascination with pushing one up by forcing others down is one of many different things covered beneath the contextual fabric laid by the series’ hand. In most cases, right and wrong as a standard becomes dull should one simply choose one or the other. The balance—or perhaps more accurately the mixing—of both moral foundations leads to not only a more realistic interpretation of life, but a more interesting tale of character study. When the story is always changing, the characters rely on taking the brunt of the pieces left behind. Here, it is done so eloquently that I hardly have much more to say on it.
The Twilight Zone was a quirky show that, in comparison to today’s standards, seems outdated in its basic structure. Yet it managed to lay the groundwork for future stories in such a way that its place within history is all but assured as one of treasured nostalgia and rosy-colored allure. Black Mirror certainly feels more polished and serious about its criticism of life and humanity, something that the already noted “quirky” predecessor seemed to hold off on in favor of entertainment. Whether that is of any bother to others is to their discretion, though I find myself more charmed by the gray tone of Black Mirror; ironic considering the alternative is shown primarily in black and white.