‘Black Mir­ror’ re­flects our deep­est, weird­est fears

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - By Rob Low­man South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group Con­tact Rob Low­man at rlow­man@scng.com or @ RobLow­man1 on Twit­ter.

The bril­liant “Black Mir­ror” re­turns Fri­day for a third sea­son — and its best one yet — on Net­flix with six new episodes.

Charlie Brooker’s an­thol­ogy se­ries traf­fics in trippy, spec­u­la­tive fic­tion that often feels dis­qui­et­ingly too close to home.

“I didn’t ex­pect to find my­self liv­ing in the fu­ture, but here I (ex­ple­tive) well am,” de­clares Lon­don po­lice de­tec­tive Karin Parke (Kelly Mac­don­ald) when walk­ing into a high-tech com­pany that makes ar­ti­fi­cial-in­tel­li­gence drone bees meant to re­place the fail­ing real bee pop­u­la­tion.

In the episode called “Hated in the Na­tion” — di­rected by James Hawes (“Doc­tor Who,” “Penny Dread­ful”) — the old-school de­tec­tive is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a string of mys­te­ri­ous deaths tied to men­ac­ing mes­sages on so­cial me­dia. She’s as­sisted by the tech-savvy Blue (Faye Marsay of “Game of Thrones”).

The first to be mur­dered is a colum­nist who wrote a nasty ar­ti­cle about a dis­abled ac­tivist, and the piece at­tracts the wrath of the pub­lic. When it is learned that the mes­sages in­clude the hash­tag #death­toll, mil­lions through­out the coun­try join in, with the name of the coun­try’s leader top­ping the list of who should be killed next.

The episode may bring to mind the very first “Black Mir­ror” in 2011, called “Na­tional An­them.” In that episode, a young mem­ber of the royal fam­ily is kid­napped, and the kid­nap­pers de­mand that the prime min­is­ter com­mit a deeply dis­turb­ing act on live tele­vi­sion to save her life.

Since then, the se­ries has peered into the fu­ture to won­der how tech­nol­ogy will af­fect us, we im­per­fect hu­mans with our foibles, weak­nesses and silly be­hav­iors. Some­times the episodes are funny, some­times hor­rific and more often a weird com­bi­na­tion of both.

The six episodes of sea­son three, which makes the sea­son twice as long as ei­ther of the first two, of­fer an im­pres­sive ar­ray of tal­ent.

Joe Wright (“Atone­ment,” “Pride & Prej­u­dice)” di­rects the darkly funny “Nose­dive,” in which Bryce Dal­las Howard plays a woman ob­sessed with be­ing liked who lives her life try­ing to please ev­ery­one so they will give her a good rat­ing. It was co-writ­ten by “The Of­fice’s” Michael Schur and Rashida Jones.

In “Play Test,” a thrillseek­ing Amer­i­can Wy­att Rus­sell, (“22 Jump Street,” “Ev­ery­body Wants Some!!”) tests a video game so ad­vanced it be­comes a real-life hor­ror film. Dan Tracht­en­berg (“10 Clover­field Lane”) di­rected the episode.

“Shut Up and Dance,” from James Watkins (The Woman in Black”), is some­thing of a black­mail tale. It finds a shy 19-year-old (Alex Lawther) fall­ing into an on­line trap and then forced into some un­sa­vory sit­u­a­tions.

“San Ju­nipero” takes a dif­fer­ent tact, head­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia beaches of the late 1980s, where two new arrivals (Macken­zie Davis and Gugu MbathaRaw) believe their lives will change for bet­ter. In­stead, they find a sun-drenched world turned on its head. The episode, di­rected by Owen Har­ris (“Kill Your Friends”), is filled with touch­stones of the decade, from video games to mu­sic.

In “Men Against Fire,” di­rected by Jakob Ver­bruggen (“House of Cards”), two sol­diers (Malachi Kirby and Made­line Brewer) of the fu­ture use tech­nol­ogy to pro­tect fright­ened vil­lagers from an in­fes­ta­tion of vi­cious feral mutants.

The se­ries is known for its sur­prises, so it’s best not to give away too much. There is a “Twi­light Zone” vibe to the se­ries, so you’re al­ways wait­ing for the twists.

And in a real-life twist, Faye Marsay — who plays the techie in “Hated in the Na­tion” — an­nounced re­cently she is quit­ting so­cial me­dia. While her “Game of Thrones” role has brought her fame, she has found fans now want to know too much about her and have be­come too in­tru­sive. Is that an episode for next sea­son?

LAU­RIE SPARHAM - NET­FLIX

Faye Marsay, Jonas Karls­son, Es­ther Hall and Kelly Mac­don­ald in “Black Mir­ror.”

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