TV Review: Black Mirror, The Fall

NETFLIX

The third season of Black Mirror debuted on Netflix on October 21.

If you haven't watched a television show by the time a third series comes out, it's tempting to skip it altogether. 

All too often you often need to spend hours catching up on previous series before it makes any sense.

It's part of the reason I love Black Mirror (available on Netflix from October 21).  Its standalone episodes mean you can just dive on in.  Created by British writer and satirist Charlie Brooker, it's just about to return for its third series, dipping into the realm of sci-fi and confronting our love affair with technology.   Episodes touch on extreme video-games and online trolling, and flip from a brilliantly authentic 1980s storyline, to a futuristic military tale. 

In the Black Mirror episode Nosedive, Bryce Dallas Howard's character lives in a world where everyone is rated out of five.
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In the Black Mirror episode Nosedive, Bryce Dallas Howard's character lives in a world where everyone is rated out of five.

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My favourites are those that take a look at the sinister side of social media.  If you've ever felt a little bit pleased that people have shared your Facebook post, or you've got a new follower on your Instagram feed then check out Nosedive.  In this episode, insecure office worker Lacie (Bryce Dallas-Howard) lives in a world where everyone is rated out of five – and these ratings can come from anywhere, your best friend or the barista at your local cafe.  It's like a sort of TripAdvisor, but for individuals.  Imagine heading out of your door, forgetting to smile at the postman and suddenly your rating takes a nosedive.

The story follows Lacie as she pursues a higher rating and it probes our crazy, unhinged affair with social media and the instant gratification and anxiety that goes along with it.  It's darkly humorous and thought-provoking and it also seems quite plausible – so much so it'll have you wanting to head off for a Wi-Fi free zone and a digital detox.  

Gillian Anderson is back as DSI Stella Gibson for the third season of The Fall.
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Gillian Anderson is back as DSI Stella Gibson for the third season of The Fall.

Unlike previous series, this one was commissioned directly by Netflix.  And, sure it's gone a little bit American and some may see it as having lost that slightly gritty, British tone from earlier series.  But that really doesn't matter – it's as good, if not better, than it ever was.  Rarely predictable, always entertaining and leaves you thinking. 

Viewers of the previous series certainly won't be disappointed and, if you've never watched Black Mirror before, this is a great time to pick it up.  This is a cracking piece of television – way up there in my top picks.

Also back for a third series is The Fall (Tuesdays, 8.30pm, SoHo), in which detective Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and serial killer Spector (Jamie Dornan) play a cat-and-mouse game in a Belfast setting.  I was gripped by previous series – which were tense and well-written.  But honestly, with nearly two years passed since series two screened, I spent the first half-hour trying to remember where it had left off. 

The chase is now over, well, sort of.  Spector is injured in hospital and Gibson's efforts have become focused on keeping him alive so she can bring him to justice.  Worth a watch for viewers familiar with the series.  Worth investing time on catching up?  I'm not so sure.

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