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5 Black Mirror Episodes You Should Watch Instead Of The Pilot

Because the "Pig Episode" is a polarizing choice.

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We've all heard of Black Mirror, the critically-acclaimed sci-fi anthology series that explores alternative not-so-distant futures, where a new technological advance has drastically affected our everyday life - and not necessarily for the better.

Chances are, if you have access to a Netflix account, you've at least watched the show's pilot episode, "The National Anthem."

Netflix / Via

It's also known, more commonly, as the "Pig Episode." For . . . reasons.

The pilot is objectively well-made, with an interesting - though admittedly disturbing - plot line. Our generation is no stranger to dark TV dramas, but "The National Anthem" ends with a . . . squeamish scene that divides viewers into one of two camps: those with stomaches of steel who say, "Okay, next episode!" and the rest of us, who are understandably scarred for life and want nothing more to do with the show.

The catch-22 is that, well, the first season is only three episodes long, so there aren't many possibilities for the sequential order. Four seasons later, we have options. So for the Black Mirror virgins still out there, here are five episodes you should watch instead of the pilot.

1. The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3)

Netflix / Via

In this version of the very near future, technological advances have created and popularized an implant called the Grain, which allows people to record, replay, and share their memories on the big screen. The world building in this episode is amazing: Netflix is obsolete now that we can play our favorite TV shows from memory; lawyers are out of work since juries simply need a POV-playback confession in order to convict; and airport security is a breeze now that the TSA can simply replay what travelers have packed in their carry-ons. But these are just background details—at the center of it all is an age-old story, of a man driven crazy by suspicions that his wife has been unfaithful: uniquely twisted by this new technology that allows him to look into her memories.

2. Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)

Netflix / Via

“Be Right Back” showcases the gentler, sadder side of Black Mirror. Coping with the recent death of her husband, a young woman purchases a service that allows her to communicate with a near-perfect AI replica of his voice—constructed from social media accounts and other electronic data. Still regarded as one of Black Mirror’s best episodes, “Be Right Back” is a beautifully tragic, thoughtful exploration of the limitations of AI as a replacement for human interaction, and the emotional repercussions of holding onto something that is already lost.

3. White Bear (Season 2, Episode 2)

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Set in present-day, a woman wakes up in an empty house with no memory of who she is, why she’s being pursued by a masked gunman, and more strangely, why everyone else is filming the chase instead of helping her. “White Bear” is a perfect introductory episode: it’s well-paced, exciting, confusing, and ends with an incredibly disturbing twist that captures the overall spirit of Black Mirror.

4. Arkangel (Season 4, Episode 2)

Netflix / Via

For children of strict parents, this episode may hit a bit too close to home. In “Arkangel,” an overprotective mother implants her daughter with a chip that takes GPS-locators to an entirely more invasive level. Not only can she pinpoint her child’s whereabouts 24/7, the mother can also access a direct feed into her daughter’s POV. Even more troubling, she has the power to blur any images that might be too stressful or disturbing for a young girl to handle: such as violence, pornography, or something as simple as a cut on her finger. Similar to “Be Right Back” and “The Entire History of You,” this episode is an effective example of a piece of technology that, despite its good intentions, can easily lead to emotional harm or stunted mental maturity.

5. Hang the DJ (Season 4, Episode 4)

Netflix / Via

As a commentary on the woes of modern dating, Black Mirror creates a reality where every new relationship comes with a predetermined expiration date. The episode is a bit of a poor man’s “San Junipero” (which became a critics’ darling last season, and single-handedly made “Heaven is a Place on Earth” a gay-anthem), but “Hang the DJ” is still a welcome departure from Black Mirror’s typically depressing MO. Also, the central couple of the episode has a sweet, genuine chemistry that simply warms your heart. It’s not necessarily the show’s most inventive concept, but is still an interesting commentary on online dating and our growing reliance on technology.

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