Top 5 Episodes of Black Mirror

I’ve previously reviewed all the episodes of the show (save for Banderdash Choose Your Own Adventure episode, which I should rewatch at some point I think) here:

Season 1&2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Season 6

But there has now been 27 total episodes of the show which feels like the right number to do a Top 5 episode breakdown, right?

Season 1 Episode 3 – The Entire History of You

This was the reason I fell in love with this show. The core idea of being able to record your life is both so simple and so ripe with possibilities that I’m somewhat paralyzed by the very idea of it. Like so many Black Mirror episodes we are led down a destructive path where the search for the truth gets in the way of being happy with your current life. While we all believe we would like to live in a world where every secret could be revealed to us, I’m not sure we could ever be prepared for the quiet truths. The truths that are spoken about us when we are not around. I think about the handful of times in my own life where I got a peek at a private moment where someone spoke their truth about me. You’d like to believe it will always be good things, but sometimes their version of reality can make you reassess your own version… and not always for the best.

Perhaps sometimes ignorance is truly bliss?


Season 2 Episode 1 – Be Right Back

I read an article the other day that this very idea is now being used via an app. That we could recreate a loved one through all the various writings, postings, videos, and basically anything where there might be a digital version of you. Something built out of a empathetic need to help people grieve doesn’t seem like it would be bad. But I can only wonder how hanging on to those who have passed in this way could never be mentally or emotionally healthy over the long term. Part of the process is the letting go portion, but it would be too easy, too convinent to just keep talking with them. Convincing yourself that this is them, when all it really could be was a empty doppleganger.


Season 3 Episode 4 – San Junipero

Sometimes Black Mirror shows us the positive side of technology. I mean, it can’t always be bad, right? Here it’s the idea of living forever in a virtual world with the people you love. Like many advances in tech over the years, allowing the elderly or disabled have a somewhat normal life, this one literally can not only do this while they are living out the last few years of their lives… but it also can be a permanent place for their minds to live on after their fleshly bodies are gone. Is that something you might want? And if the answer right now is no, what happens when you realize the end is much closer than your beginning? Who could fault someone for chosing to start fresh? And who’s to say that if your mind can survive in such a way, that your soul might join it in this new afterlife?

Season 4 Episode 1 – USS Callister

On Star Trek they have a Holo Deck which allows the crew to have some recreation time while onboard the ship. It creates environments as real as anything they can imagine. And pretty much any episode which ever featured the Holo Deck ended up having something go wrong (or at least all the ones I can remember). So it is very fitting that we have a homage to Star Trek where the Holo Deck in question is basically a recreation of a starship. However, in this version of things, it isn’t the holograms who are the problem, but the one who programmed it in the first place.  And in this particular episode, the all-powerful creator allows that very same power to lead him down some very dark paths.


Season 4 Episode 4 – Hang the DJ

I’ve written a book about Soulmates (currently editing it), so the idea of having a program decide not only who your lifelong partner will be, but also how long your other relationships might last… feels very much on point. Again, we have to ask ourselves what truths do we want to know. Is it better to fall in love with the hope the person is our ONE? Or would you rather know you will be with a person for a couple of years before it winds down? For many people, I could see not wanting to bother with the shorter relationships because we want to have that fairy-tale relationship. But without those other entanglements to help us grow as people, how will we get to the place we need to be for our ONE?



Season 6 Episode 5 – Demon 79

One that is less about technology advancements and more about the lengths someone would go to in order to save all of those around her. This one played with ideas on both delusion, trust, and again… the truth of the matter. So many times we find ourselves going down a path because it feels like the only path laid out in front of us. Too many times we lament not being able to make changes to our lives. Here, in this story, Nida has this horrible task thrust upon her. Does she change? Can she change in order to save the world? How much of your soul would you make forfeit? Is there a limit you might go?

And what if it was all in your head?


Black Mirror does a great job of not only asking very open-ended quesitons, but it also manages to show you a version of events where whatever the technology might be, it could lead you down the wrong path. And I think this is important. With everything we create we should still ask ourselves what did we mean for it to be used for and what negative things might it be used for. The show doesn’t say don’t advance… it just wants us to look before we leap.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

Community Rewatch

Years ago one of my friends told me about a show on network tv. And by telling me, I mean that he ranted and raved about it nearly every time we talked. He used terms like “the greatest show of all time” and “no really, it’s the greatest show of all time” and “seriously, what is it going to take for you to watch it?”

Now, my tv habits are both helped and hindered by the greatness which is a DVR. And no matter what we do, our DVR normally teeters on the brink of disaster at any given time. That not so glorious feeling when you look at all the wonderful shows you’ve recorded and realize that unless you watch tv non-stop for the next month, you’ll lose 5.7 seasons worth of shows as new recordings do away with stored ones. It’s so bad that I often wonder how the hell all my friends are able to watch all the shows they do watch.

Hey, have you started watching this new show The Witcher? Hey, what about Ozark? Or What We Do In the Shadows?

Or a thousand other shows. Don’t they realize the DVR is full? I have shows I can’t even begin to get through and you’re offering me more shows?

So when, all those years ago, my buddy brings me the first season of Community on DVD out of the blue (I mean, I guess I could have expected it from all the clues, but I never requested it)… I did what you do. You thank them, bring it home, and then place it on the stand beside the tv… and forget about it. Probably 3 weeks later, when I still hadn’t watched it, he requested I bring it back (apparently he needed to rewatch it another time?).

So our tale might have ended, were it not for the randomness of Hulu actually having the show a couple of years ago. And for whatever reason, I decided that then was the exact time to begin watching this show that somehow didn’t last but my friend loved.

And he was right.

I devoured the show with multiple nights worth of episodes burning into the odd hours of the night. You know that lie you tell yourself “one more episode” and then suddenly the sun is coming up outside… that’s what we were dealing with. In fact, I might have been better served to take my time with the show, but much like that desert, you’ll just have one more bite until the whole damn thing is gone.

Which brings us to Netflix and their decision to begin showing Community. And how I now see articles and videos and posts about this great show as more and more people discover it (or rediscover it). It came to Netflix on April 1 of this year, and I allowed myself 2+ months to try and really enjoy it… appreciate it for the amazing piece of work it is. And because I love lists, here are my five favorite episodes of the show.

5 – Geothermal Escapism (Season 5, Episode 4)

If one episode showed how weird the show could get, this might be the one. A game of Hot Lava (you remember playing that as a kid, right?) goes the only way that it could… to the point where a whole new society straight out of Mad Max appears. Yes, it is beyond over the top, but the fact that everyone is treating things soooo seriously throughout the episode makes me wonder if they shouldn’t have done even more episodes like this (they did may of them through the 6 seasons to be fair).

Just the idea that within only a few hours a whole new society complete with sayings about their mythology appears within hours of beginning the game is absurd and wonderful.

4 – Cooperative Calligraphy (Season 2, Episode 8)

How well do we know our friends? How much do you trust your friends? And what happens when that trust is broken?

This episode is all started by Annie’s missing pen and her demands to know who took it, and really devolves into what do you know about other people. Are you willing to forgive your friends their mistakes? Is the power of having your circle more important than anything else or is it something that without trust there can not be anything else? It’s not one of the flashier episodes, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.

3 – Remedial Chaos Theory (Season 3, Episode 4)

Multiple timelines… I really shouldn’t have to say anything more.

The show takes such a simple idea of a bottle episode where the gang are at Abed and Troy’s new apartment and uses it to show us how the group works only when they all allow each other to be themselves. So many times around people in our lives, whether they are friends or co-workers or family, it feels like you can’t always let them all the way in. You must keep your secrets because otherwise you’ll be judged for them. But this episode is about seeing where things go when those truths are exposed and then learning (at least the audience learns, having seen all the timelines) that the group really is best when they are together and not worried about all the other stuff.

2 – A Fistfull of Paintballs/A Few More Paintballs (Season 2, Episodes 23 & 24)

At the end of season 1, the school descended into madness in the form of a paintball game. It was something so crazy and outrageous, I’m honestly surprised that the following season they went back to the well. You’d think there was no way they could possibly top it… but they instead lean into the format by making it both a Western and then a Star Wars parody in the second episode. And here’s the thing, whenever Community goes off into these odd tangents where the world kind of morphs into something else, you realize that yes, it is a tv show, but who cares because it is too much fun.

1 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Season 2, Episode 14)

If all that happened was the main characters played D&D for twenty minutes that might have been enough for me. Even the idea of showing some form of D&D on TV seems strange to someone who grew up during the whole Satanic fear that went on in the early 80s. To have it on network TV… just boggles the mind.

Yet, that’s not all it does. They play a game but there is so much heart contained within because the student they add to the table “Fat” Neil is clearly suicidal at the beginning of the show. He begins giving away his stuff and the game is a last-ditch effort to try and show him that there are people who care about him.

And again, if that’s all it was, it would be a good episode… but what pushes it to my number 1 is Chevy Chase as Pierce who plays the role of villain in the episode. His own selfishness and ego push the group to their own limits the whole while allowing the viewers to get a glimpse into his own reasons for doing what he’s doing.

Just amazing stuff.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

5 Animated Short Films Everyone Should See

Special Friday Edition!


I watch a lot of movies.


Let me clarify. From the comfort of my couch, I watch about five grown-up movies every week (Latest top picks: Gone Girl. The Wolf of Wall Street.  Latest disappointments: Foxcatcher. Monuments Men.) But in that same one-week span, I also gobble up about seven kids’ movies. Minimum. You name it, my 4-year old and I have seen it. I look at my DVD collection these days, and my favorite Scorsese flicks are buried under an ocean of Wreck-it Ralph, How to Train your Dragon, and Big Hero 6.

This is not a complaint.

Look. I like most of the kids’ movies these days. I even love a few. But the real treasure, and something both junior and I have recently discovered, are the awesome mini-movies appearing at the ends of almost every Disney and Pixar title. These things are amazing. For me. For the kid. For everyone.

And here are five of the best. Click each one to follow the Youtube link:


La Luna. About a little boy, his dad, and his grandpa. They go to the moon. With brooms. And beards. No one says a word. It’s beautiful.


Paperman: my personal favorite. Another short during which no one says a word. I’m the world’s biggest anti-romantic, and yet this one somehow budged my black little heart.

Legend of Mor Du

The Legend of Mor’Du: It might help to watch the full film ‘Brave’ before seeing this, but it’s hardly mandatory. My kid loves this little 6+ minute short more than more feature films. Not surprising considering how dark it is.


Feast: About a dog, his owner, and tons of good food. I think maybe 10 words are spoken. If dogs were always this fun, I’d have one.

Silly Symphony

Silly Symphony. This one goes wayyyyyyy back. It’s ridiculous fun. And naturally, being full of dancing, prancing skeletons, it’s more than a little weird.

Seriously. Check these out. They’re as good as the feature films they appear with. And sometimes they’re better.

PS: Tessera is currently looking for weekly and bi-weekly bloggers to contribute.  Interested? Need free exposure? Get in touch!

See you next week!

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of the Coffee Table Philosophy series