“Blасk Mirror” debuted in Britain in 2011, but didn’t make itѕ wау (lеgаllу) tо the Unitеd States until a few уеаrѕ lаtеr. It’ѕ a dаrk and diѕсоnсеrting аnthоlоgу ѕеriеѕ, with ѕtаnd-аlоnе ерiѕоdеѕ à lа “Thе Twilight Zоnе,” fосuѕing largely but nоt еxсluѕivеlу on tесhnоlоgу, politics аnd thе tеnuоuѕ еxiѕtеnсе of gеnuinе ѕеlf-hооd.
Some episodes are particularly upsetting, and on the whole, it’s not a good series to binge. The third season of the show comes out Friday, and we’ll have a separate guide for that. But in the meantime, here’s how and why to watch each episode of “Black Mirror.”
Start With: ‘The Entire History of Us,’ Season 1, Episode 3
In the very-near future, everyone has a chip that records their entire lives; everyone can play back every moment, good and bad, whether to relive instances of joy, or to dwell on moments of regret or jealousy.
This isn’t the best episode of “Black Mirror,” but it’s representative of the show on the whole: Society is more or less like real life, although one aspect of technology has exacerbated some obvious element of human weakness, and one of the performers has also appeared on “Downton Abbey.” There’s a sinister side to the episode’s futurism, but this won’t keep you up at night. (Unless jealousy is your No. 1 thing, in which case “Black Mirror” is the least of your problems.)
…Followed by ‘Be Right Back,’ Season 2, Episode 1
After her boyfriend dies, a woman uploads all his social media content into an artificial intelligence service, complete with a lifelike physical replica.
This is probably the most emotional episode of the series, and if you were going to watch any two back-to-back, this and “The Entire History of Us” would be two do to that with. Otherwise, spread out the episodes. This is a more wistful spin on the future applications of A.I., plus a touch of your classic “is this robot a person?” anxiety.
Then Get Serious: ‘The National Anthem,’ Season 1, Episode 1
The British princess is kidnapped, and there’s a bizarre ransom: The male Prime Minister has to have sex with a pig on live television.
This is technically the first episode of “Black Mirror,” but know that it’s possible to enjoy other episodes and still find this one too grotesque for your sensibilities. It is big and galling and deeply disturbing, and some might consider it in poor taste while others will fall over themselves to talk about David Cameron. This is not a good pre-bedtime episode, and even if you’re used to violent TV shows, the psychological trauma portrayed here is intense.
Then Go a Smidge Lighter: ‘Fifteen Million Merits,’ Season 1, Episode 2
Everyone has to ride exercise bikes while staring at vile reality shows.
While not a cakewalk, “Merits” is nowhere near as stomach-churning as “The National Anthem.” It is, however, the most directly critical of contemporary entertainment and our complicity in the degradation-for-entertainment industry.
Then More Political: ‘The Waldo Moment,’ Season 2, Episode 3
A comedian’s anti-everything political cartoon character grows increasingly popular.
“Waldo” is a little too pat, but then, it’s about anti-propaganda propaganda. At its worst, “Black Mirror” can sometimes feel like the dispiriting dorm crank who argues that all philanthropy is selfish, if you really think about it, because it’s simply pleasure-seeking in its own way — like, give it a rest, dude. “Waldo” has threads of that.
And Then the Stunner: ‘White Bear,’ Season 2, Episode 2
A woman comes to in an unfamiliar room, having no idea who she is or how she got there, and then is terrifyingly chased through town while people just stand there, recording her with their phones and cameras.
This is one of the most frightening and affecting hours of television in living memory. The episode pulls from an array of real-world, despicable, widespread human behaviors and synthesizes them into one bleak display. Panic is the pervasive sensation of “White Bear,” but the episode also points at one of the themes for the entire series: The nature of indifference. “Black Mirror” itself is conflicted about how much humans should care about one another — enough to surveil each other, say? No! But … a little? Well, maybe.
And Finally: ‘White Christmas,’ the 2014 90-Minute Christmas Special
Two snowed-in employees at a remote station share weird stories.
“White Christmas” is itself sort of an anthology, comprising three different stories. But it’s one episode, and it touches on the ideas the show has wrestled with before — especially the performance of personhood and how none of us could possibly determine what the “real” version of ourselves is, let alone the “real” version of anyone else.