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"Black Mirror" Delivers an Early Summer Surprise
The new season knocks it out of the park.
One of my early ‘Daly Grind’ newsletters was on the topic of compartmentalization, in how I like to balance my writing between fiction and politics (along with the personal blog-type stuff). It occurred to me the other day that I do something similar with how I digest those genres.
My political consumption these days comes almost entirely through online reading and podcasts. I almost never get my news and news-commentary from television anymore, because I think the television news model (especially cable news) is largely broken.
For fiction — though I try (but mostly fail) to fit in a good book from time to time, and occasionally go to the movie theater — I turn on my television. I should clarify that most of what I watch these days is on streaming channels, so I suppose that’s technically “online” content too. But I watch those channels through my television, and because I don’t seek out entertainment online (through a web-browser), I’m rarely given a heads-up about the latest movies, shows, and seasons of shows — including stuff I’d be very interested in. In fact, I often know nothing about the new stuff until it magically appears on the home-screen of Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, or whatever, ready to be watched.
I like that. It makes for a nice surprise.
I especially liked it last week, as our dog Squiggy (the little guy) was recovering from surgery, and required pretty much constant supervision. It was a perfect time to binge-watch something, and much to my delight, a new — completely unexpected — season of Black Mirror came to the rescue.
If you’ve never heard of the tech-themed anthology series, boy have you been missing out. In the tradition of the Twilight Zone, it mixes horror and sci-fi elements with contemporary social commentary, and most episodes — all available on Netflix — are extremely well done.
It’s a British show, though its critical and commercial success has led to it becoming more Americanized over the years, drawing in top talent from the states, both in front of and behind the camera. The new season is its sixth, and per usual, there is only a handful of episodes; in fact, there are only 27 episodes in total. Having just finished the new ones last Saturday night, I’m comfortable saying that this may just be the best, most imaginative season yet. The acting and writing is superb, and just about every episode ends up going in a direction you don’t see coming.
Here’s the trailer to give you a taste.
Though it’s tough to choose, I think episode two, titled Loch Henry, is my favorite of the season. While it’s not as outlandish as some of the other episodes, the well-defined characters and strong elements of mystery really shine. It’s about a Scottish film student who returns home with his American girlfriend to film a documentary about a local collector, when a murderous story from the past — with a personal twist — becomes the film’s new focus. As a thriller writer with an appreciation for folksy characters, and small-town secrets, the episode very much impressed me.
Like I said, there are almost 30 episodes of Black Mirror in full, and I highly recommend checking out the entire series. Since each episode is its own standalone story with unique characters, it doesn’t matter at all what order you watch them in. That said, do not watch episode one of season one first. Those who’ve seen it already know why I’m saying this. There’s an element of the story that is so unsettling (aka really gross) that a good number of viewers who naturally began the series with the pilot episode weren’t inclined to continue watching the series, believing such themes were representative of the rest of the show (which isn’t the case).
Don’t get me wrong. You should definitely watch that episode at some point (because the story is pretty gripping), but it shouldn’t be the one to set your expectations for the rest of the series.
Also, don’t bother with the interactive film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. It was a worthwhile “choose your own adventure” experiment, I suppose, but it’s pretty exhausting and kind of a mess. Just stick to the regular series — perhaps starting with the new season — and I think you’ll come away happy.
If you check it out, let me know what you think.
Have a favorite anthology series? Let me know what it is in an email or in the comment section below.
Special “guest thought” this week, since I thought it was kind of hilarious…
Obligatory Dog Shot
Just going to say that there's a legitimate medical reason for this.
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This is one of those albums that I never would have guessed existed, had I not come across it in a spoken-word bin one day.
“Rendezvous With Destiny” by Ronald Reagan dates way back to 1964, just a couple years after the actor-turned-politician — a longtime Democrat — became a Republican. He would soon be elected California’s governor, and of course later go on to become our 40th U.S. president. The speech featured on this album (delivered in support of then presidential contender Barry Goldwater) impressively articulates the conservative vision that led Reagan to those great political heights.
Regardless of how you feel about the man’s politics, it’s a fascinating and consequential piece of American history, and well worth a listen.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!