21st October 2016: the date the first six episodes of Black Mirror series three are released on Netflix.
Here writer Charlie Brooker introduces each episode, telling us what to expect – and what to be afraid of.
Meet the cast of Black Mirror season 3
Features Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve and James Norton in an episode directed by Joe Wright
“An insecure office worker (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World) lives in a world in which everyone obsessively ranks and rates every tiny social interaction,” Brooker tells EW. “She thinks she finally may have found a way to rank alongside her friend (Alice Eve, Star Trek Into Darkness), who’s one of society’s elites.”
It’s your classic Black Mirror episode, right? Tapping into a column of online architecture and building it up to tear-inducing drama? Perhaps not. Brooker said it’s one of the strangest episodes he’s done: “Each episode this season is a different genre; this one is a social satire. It’s got a creepy serenity to it and won’t be what people expect.”
Features Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis in an episode directed by Owen Harris
Bit of an odd one this: it breaks the Black Mirror format of telling a tale of brilliantly horrific circumstances in the near future by being set in a 1980s beach town, “synonymous with sun, surf, and sex.” Starring Mackenzie Davis (The Martian) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Doctor Who), “it’s kind of an ‘80s coming-of-age drama with a Black Mirror undertow,” Brooker says.
“Also, when Netflix picked us up, people were going, ‘Oh that means [the show is] going to be Americanised.’ I thought it would be a funny to f**k with those people by literally writing an episode set in California.”
Shut Up and Dance
Features Jerome Flynn and Alex Lawther in an episode directed by James Watkins
The “most grounded” tale, says Brooker, this episode is set in the present day without any sci-fi elements (think The National Anthem, the prime minister pig-off story).
The plot: a withdrawn 19-year-old (Alex Lawther, The Imitation Game) stumbles headlong into an online trap and is quickly forced into an uneasy alliance with a shifty man (Jerome Flynn, Game of Thrones’ Bronn) who are both at the mercy of persons unknown. “A kitchen sink nightmarish thriller,” Brooker says.
Men Against Fire
Features Michael Kelly, Malachi Kirby and Madeline Brewer in an episode directed by Jakob Verbruggen
And we’re back to real sci-fi stuff: this episode, a military story set in a post-war future, sees a rookie soldier (Malachi Kirby, Doctor Who) posted overseas, protecting frightened villagers from an infestation of vicious feral mutants alongside fellow soldier Raiman (Madeline Brewer, Orange is the new black). And they’re searching for a new technological advantage that will save them.
“It stemmed slightly from thinking about drone attacks and how technology is alternating the face of warfare, but it’s not about drones,” Brooker says. “It’s a horror thriller, almost like The Walking Dead.”
Hated in the Nation
Features Kelly MacDonald in an episode directed by James Hawes
This episode’s a crime drama inspired by Scandi-Noir thrillers like The Killing and – and it’s a full 90 minutes long. A police detective (Kelly Macdonald) and her geeky young sidekick investigate a string of grisly murders with a sinister link to social media.
“It deals with online rage,” teases Brooker.“It starts out like a stylish standard police procedural, then takes a bizarre turn.” Who knew?
Features Wyatt Russell and Hannah John-Kamen, an episode directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Brooker at his roots: video games (he wrote for PC Zone magazine in the mid-1990s). This episode sees a thrill-seeking globetrotter (Wyatt Russell, 22 Jump Street) visiting Britain, hooking up with a woman (Hannah John-Kamen, Dutch in Killjoys) and testing the latest in video game technology – “a device as mind-bendingly sophisticated as it is terrifying.”
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Brooker notes, “Dan is fantastic at creating suspenseful and tense mood; this is our Evil Dead 2.”
Watch Black Mirror season 3 on Netflix now