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Black Mirror is back and ready to offer a fresh and terrifying insight into where society and technology is headed.
The third season of Charlie Brooker’s dark anthology series landed on Netflix Oct. 21; all six episodes now available to binge on — though few would encourage anyone with even a slightly nervous disposition to make that attempt.
Now boasting the Netflix Originals badge after been picked up exclusively by the streamer last year, the cult show is bigger and bolder thanks to the deep pockets of its new home. Twice the size as previous seasons (up from three episodes) and boasting an array of stars, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michael Kelly, as well as directors like Joe Wright, the latest assortment of stories will make viewers wince, shake, squirm and possibly even delete their Instagram accounts. In one unexpected episode, however, they might even feel uplifted.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Brooker breaks down the new episodes, including the one viewers will be most disturbed by, and looks back on the Black Mirror moment that foreshadowed the rise of Donald Trump (though he didn’t know it at the time).
Now that you’re working with Netflix, are you getting more Americanized? Do you say “reach out” a lot?
I have said “reach out!” It’s more things I didn’t know that baffle Americans, words like “fortnight.” They go, “What the f–– is that? Are you Sir Galahad?”
Have there been any major changes to show since the switch to Netflix?
Netflix said to us from the start: Keep doing that show. They never came in to tell us what we had to do. I knew we had a slightly bigger canvas, I should say, to work on. The running times are a little more flexible, so most of our episodes are a little bit longer than we had before. One episode [the sixth and final “Hated In the Nation,” starring Kelly MacDonald] is 90 minutes, just because that’s the way the story came out — no matter what I did, I couldn’t simplify it.
When Netflix picked it up, there was a lot of talk about the money — $40 million was touted at the time. Has it all gone into the show?
Every time I hear how much money was involved I go “f––ing hell, really?” It makes me feel like I should be driving around in a golden jet ski shitting diamonds. No, it’s all in the show. It’s not like we’re crashing asteroids into the sun, it’s not a quadrupling of the budget, but there’s a little more money to spend onscreen. And also, now, to clear a piece of music you have to clear it for every country for 15 years. One of our episodes, “San Junipero” (starring Mbatha-Raw), is set in the ’80s, and there’s shit loads of recognizable ’80s music. That cost us a lot of money.
Were you surprised how much the show took off in the U.S.?
To be honest, I was more surprised at how it took off outside of the U.K. It was heavily pirated in China! Someone sent me a link to a website where people had been leaving reviews, and there were like 15,000. It was a surprise initially that anyone outside of Britain gave a shit. You know, the prime minister f–– a pig in the first episode [of season one]. It felt quite colloquial. That doesn’t have “big tentpole summer movie” written over it.
Which episode in season three is the equivalent of the pig f—ing one, which is likely to have U.S. viewers most alarmed?
I think “Shut Up and Dance” [starring Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game)] is fairly uncompromising. Or “Hated in the Nation,” probably one of those two. Although “San Junipero” is surprising in that it’s probably not what people expect.
Given that the pig episode appeared to be something of a forewarning following allegations surrounding former U.K. prime minister David Cameron, is there anything that we should look out for in season three?
One of the stories does revolve around something that would be good — would be amazing. There’s one that is a video game technology that meddles with your eyesight, which is probably not far off. “Nosedive,” [which stars Dallas Howard] has an Uber-syle ranking system for every single human. Someone did actually try to do that last year. It’s basically a litany of warnings. But I don’t like to see it as a warning because I haven’t got the answers to anything.
Is there anything overtly political in there? Someone like Donald Trump seems like the perfect Black Mirror character.
In a way, we’ve done Trump. In the second season, there was an episode called “The Waldo Moment” which was about a cartoon character who ran for office. At the time, I thought that was one episode that I didn’t really nail, didn’t get the stakes right. But if you look at that now, it’s really quite terrifying. It’s more prescient than I realized. He’s an anti-politics candidate who’s raucous and defensive, and that’s all he is, and he offers nothing. He insults everyone and they lap it up because they’re so sick of the status quo. And then you look at Trump…
When Netflix took U.K. rights to Black Mirror, British network Channel 4 said they had nurtured the show from the start and it had simply gone for the big money. Has the recent situation involving Bake Off [Channel 4 took the rights after the BBC failed to renew] muted that argument?
They needed the money for that tent they’ve just bought! Almost certainly… I don’t know. It wasn’t quite like that — we didn’t run to someone waving a check, put it that way. I would say my view of how that panned out is slightly different from theirs. It’s a weird one. 2016 has been incredibly depressing. You’ve had horrible things going on around the globe, cultural icons dropping like flies, and now the Bake Off isn’t even going to be on BBC One. It’s mental. It’s like end of days.
As a fan of the show, are you concerned about the move?
If it was going to go anywhere else, then Channel 4 is a good one. They were really good to us. They won’t f— it up. They won’t turn it into “Nude Bake Off” until, at least, week nine.
Black Mirror season three is streaming now on Netflix.
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