More intel on Black Mirror season 3 has been released, this time from the mouth of the man himself, Charlie Brooker. Tasked with giving Entertainment Weekly a spoiler-free breakdown of each of the first six episodes, the creator and showrunner nonetheless tells us plenty. “There’s probably a slightly wider scope, and it’s probably more idiosyncratic than before,” Brooker tells EW, which might be code for the fact that fewer of the episode premises are explicitly science fiction, instead examining topics as varied as coming of age in the 1980s, the military’s use of drone technology, and video game technology, and the subgenre of “Scandi-Noir thrillers” like The Killing. “You can’t pick which [episode] best represents the season—they’re all outliers.”
With that in mind, here’s what we know about the first six “outliers”:
- 3×01 “San Junipero”: When the loglines from the first three episodes got released last week, I joked about “San Junipero” being a time travel tale. Instead, it looks to be actually set in the 1980s and to be a coming-of-age drama “with a Black Mirror undertow,” in which Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis’ characters arrive in a California town “synonymous with sun, surf, and sex.” Could this be the female-centric companion to Stranger Things we’ve been desperate for? Though honestly, it sounds as if there was no intentional connection with Netflix’s other creepy nostalgia hit: Brooker said it “would be funny to f–k” with the viewers who thought that the show would automatically be Americanized, hence the Cali setting.
- 3×02 “Shut Up and Dance”: EW nodded to 1×01 “The National Anthem” (a.k.a. the one with the prime minister and the pig) as similar in tone to this episode, which is the “most grounded” of the group. In this “kitchen sink nightmarish thriller,” a withdrawn 19-year-old finds himself in league with some “shifty” men against a mysterious person who has lured them all into an online trap.
- 3×03 “Nosedive”: Here’s one of those classic Black Mirror premises that are just a tweak beyond current life: In this timeframe, a popular social media app ranks each and every minute social interaction. Bryce Dallas Howard plays an insecure office worker obsessed with upping her ranking to catch up to (or eclipse?) her elite friend (or frenemy?) Alice Eve. I have no idea how this is going to get dark, unless it maybe goes the way of that recent movie Pulse, with having other people dictate your interactions—and the risks you’ll take—for greater points… but I know it will get under-your-skin dark.
- 3×04 “Men Against Fire”: Here’s something unexpected—a Black Mirror parable that starts with tech and then winds up being about something else. “It stemmed slightly from thinking about drone attacks and how technology is alternating the face of warfare,” Brooker says, “but it’s not about drones.” I’m gonna guess it’s about the “vicious feral mutants” (compared to the zombies from The Walking Dead) that a rookie soldier must defend frightened villagers against when he’s posted overseas. So… maybe it begins like 2×02 “White Bear,” which seems to be about people too busy photographing a tragedy to actually help, but then blossoms into an even more disturbing story.
- 3×05 “Hated in the Nation”: Kelly MacDonald is the police detective who, along with her geeky sidekick, investigates a series of murders linked to social media in the series’ first-ever 90-minute episode. I am here for this.
- 3×06 “Playtest”: The season finale sees a globetrotting video game aficionado visit Britain to test out a new, “mind-bendingly sophisticated” video game technology—virtual reality, most likely. (Poor thing looks so psyched in the photo above. If only he knew.) Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg helms the season finale, which Brooker calls “our Evil Dead 2” for its suspense and tension.
Netflix ordered 12 episodes in all; it’s unclear when the latter six will premiere. Black Mirror premieres on October 21.