Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Pause-Worthy Moments In Black Mirror

Premiering on UK's Channel 4 in 2011 before becoming a Netflix property from Season 3, "Black Mirror" is a British sci-fi anthology series. Each episode tells a completely unique story, all of which are linked by exploring the way technology impacts our lives and the potential it has to change our lives in the future.

The show has attracted some really impressive talent both in front of and behind the camera, with actors like Anthony Mackie, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Rory Kinnear, and directors including Joe Wright and Jodie Foster. Watching the episodes in the series, it's no surprise it's managed to attract so many high-caliber cast and crew, as the stories are hugely impactful and largely unforgettable.

Though each episode of the show gives us a different vision of the world, all of them hold a striking mirror to society, making viewers feel uncomfortable, horrified, disgusted, and elated — and all of that often happens each and every episode. There are some moments in "Black Mirror" that are especially illuminating, so much so that you'll need to hit the pause button to take it all in. Some are shocking, some are overwhelming, and some are truly amazing blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter eggs. These are the most paused moments in "Black Mirror."

The prime minister and the pig

Few shows start off as boldly as "Black Mirror," whose first episode, "The National Anthem," finds the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom dealing with a kidnapped Duchess of the Royal family. The only way to get them back, according to the mysterious criminal, is for Prime Minister Callow (Rory Kinnear) to have sex with a live pig on live television. Yes, really. As news breaks out of the situation, social media is aflame with reactions, and the show's wickedly dark sense of humor comes through in the way the media runs with the story, including live blogs and "a short think piece on the historical symbolism of the pig."

Viewers will absolutely need to pause — probably a lot more than once — during this grotesque and deeply upsetting scene. Callow enters a room draped in black curtains as a pig stands eating, with pornography playing on a couple of television screens. Obviously, the scene isn't especially graphic, and the act is briefly shown and barely seen. But the camera is powerfully held on the face of Kinnear, who delivers a devastating performance as he's forced to endure a horrifying feat on live TV in order to save a life. As countless onlookers watch, they go from sheer delight and disbelief to complete disgust as they find themselves watching something truly awful — a sharp commentary of the media and human desire to see shocking things.

Deleting your entire history

Memories are tricky. After a while, it can be really difficult to remember certain details as time passes, and people's conflicting views of things that happened can cause you to question what is true and what isn't. The 1st season finale, "The Entire History of You," plays with our ideas of memory, as everyone in the episode has an implant that allows people to replay every single moment from their lives in exact detail.

Liam (Toby Kebbel, who you may recognize from "Servant") lives in a beautiful home with his wife, Ffion (Jodie Whittaker), and their baby. After an evening with friends, Liam becomes obsessed with his wife's relationship with Jonas (Tom Cullen), a man she had a brief relationship with before she met Liam. Using the memory technology, Liam obsessively rewatches his wife's interactions with Jonas at the party, which leads to a shocking spat of violence and the end of his marriage.

At the end of the episode, Liam constantly replays bright, colorful videos of his wife and child, which provide a stark contrast to the reality of his grim and disheveled empty home. The technology, which purported to be essential to happiness and keeping your best memories alive and well, caused a relentless obsession that drove Liam to a life of loneliness. Unable to bear the memories of those he drove away, Liam cuts the implant out of his neck, freeing him from the endless torture of his own memories. Few episodes of television understand society's need to capture and record everything in its most minute detail quite like "The Entire History of You."

The White Bear reveal

In Season 2's terrifying "White Bear," a woman (Lenora Crichlow) has woken up. She's not sure who she is, where she is, or what's going on, but it's not long before she's chased by violent vigilantes, and hundreds of onlookers watch, filming with their phones. Nobody seems willing to help, and the woman's day turns into a complete nightmare that seems to have no end. Along with the only person who seems willing to help, they scheme to find a nearby broadcasting station and destroy it to take down the signal and bring normalcy back to their lives.

This is "Black Mirror," though, and what's the brilliant sci-fi show without a stunning twist? In "White Bear," written by Charlie Brooker, the twist is one of the biggest in the entire series. It turns out the woman's name is Victoria, and she and her fiancé kidnapped and murdered a young child. The horrifying crime resulted in a sick and twisted punishment for Victoria, who is stuck replaying this day from hell over and over — presumably for the rest of her tortured life.

The reveal comes to us at the end of Victoria's day, as an audience looks on from behind the wall. The reveal is a complete shock, and there's really no way anyone can see the twist coming. You'll definitely need to pause to take this one in, but "White Bear" does what the show pulls off better than just about anything else on television — it represents a genuine moral quandary.

A cliffside moment

So many of the moments on this list will make you pause from shock as you try and process some seriously major revelations, but this one will make you stop the episode so you can take some time to wipe away your tears. Season 2 of "Black Mirror" opens with an emotional firecracker in "Be Right Back," which is perhaps the series most emotionally resonant episode. In a heartbreaking performance, Hayley Atwell is Martha, who is grieving the loss of her boyfriend, who passed in a car accident. Thanks to amazing advancements in technology, Martha is able to have an artificial intelligence unit imitate Ash (Domhnall Gleeson). Out of overwhelming grief and the realization she's pregnant, Martha goes for it, and an artificial Ash soon comes into her life.

Despite the AI looking, sounding, and acting like Ash, it's all too much for Martha. In a powerful but heart-rending scene, Martha takes Ash to a cliff and demands he jump off. In a stunning move, the artificial Ash breaks down and tells Martha he's terrified before begging her for a second chance. Both Atwell and Gleeson are jaw-dropping here, delivering nuanced and layered performances of a woman overwhelmed by loss and grief and a man trying to give her everything she wants. The moment is punctuated by an emotionally devastating scream from Martha — you'll definitely need to stop the scene to get those tissues out.

A symbol makes a reappearance

The symbol in "White Bear," which almost looks like a "Tetris" game piece, reappears a few times throughout "Black Mirror," but its most prominent placing comes in the special "Bandersnatch" — a choose your own adventure episode of the show. The special stars Fionn Whitehead as Stefan, who, in the 1980s, is making a video game adaptation of a fantasy gamebook where you can choose your own path, which is wonderfully reflected by the episode format. As Stefan gets further along with developing the game, his mental health begins to deteriorate, and he becomes increasingly convinced that he is being controlled by external forces that he has no say over. While the story is a great one, viewers might be shocked that the "White Bear" symbol appears in the special.

In one of the alternate endings, Stefan believes that the symbol is representative of the many narrative branches he has coded in his quest to create the game. Chillingly, the symbol also becomes a growing part of Stefan's paranoia that he is losing control over his own life — the very same delusion faced by another character in a different alternate ending. For those who love catching references to other episodes in the "Black Mirror" universe, you'll want to keep that pause button handy watching "Bandersnatch."

The wedding breakdown

"Black Mirror" has always succeeded at telling high-concept stories that feel disturbingly prescient, and few feel as close to reality as Season 3's premiere episode, "Nosedive." Bryce Dallas Howard delivers a career-best performance as Lacie, a woman who lives in a version of the future where everything is run by a sort of social credit system. Everyone rates everyone out of five stars constantly throughout the day, and those ratings can be translated into job opportunities and better life experiences. Lacie, who has an impressive 4.2 (out of 5), aspires to live in a beautiful apartment, which she can only afford if she becomes a 4.5. Her best chance for this comes from her childhood friend Naomi (Alice Eve), a 4.8 who has the life Lacie dreams of. Naomi wants her to be her maid of honor at the last minute, which gives Lacie a huge opportunity — if she can people please enough to earn good ratings, she can get the life she so desperately wants.

After a night from hell, Lacie sees her rating drop faster than she ever imagined, forcing her to go from being on the cusp of the social elite to a pariah overnight. This leads to the episode's most intense moment when Lacie finally arrives at the wedding to deliver her maid of honor speech. She's mentally and physically disheveled and shows up with a muddy dress and ruined makeup. It's here that Lacie fulfills the prophecy of the episode title and completes her nosedive, forcing many viewers to pause and take a breath during this deeply uncomfortable, cringeworthy, yet sensational moment.

What's in the video?

An ordinary day turns into a devastating waking nightmare for Kenny (Alex Lawther). The teenager receives an email with a video — taken through his laptop's webcam — of himself masturbating, presumably to online pornography. He then receives a message that if he doesn't comply with the shadowy hacker's instructions, they'll send the video to his entire contact list. Panicked and completely spiraling, Kenny follows the rules, which leads to him teaming up with another stranger as he's pushed to the limit over and over, eventually leading to yet another stranger that Kenny must fight to the death.

But when the other man he's about to fight asks "how young were they," Kenny's complete horror tells us all we need to know. He wasn't just masturbating to racy material online — he was watching child pornography. The revelation throws all of the intense sympathy built up toward Kenny throughout "Shut Up and Dance." As Radiohead's haunting "Exit Music (For a Film)" plays, we discover that the mysterious hacker leaked everyone's secrets anyway — including Kenny's, whose mother phones him in hysterics after uncovering the shocking truth.

The end of San Junipero

It's pretty commonplace for "Black Mirror" to be a hard watch, creating uncomfortable situations that often hit too close to home and presenting concepts that feel all too possible in the not-so-distant future. The big twist in "San Junipero" is that it's probably the series single most joyful episode. It tells the story of Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), two women who fall in love in San Junipero.

That said, "Black Mirror" simply can't resist a good twist, and it turns out the world of San Junipero isn't real. Or rather, it's a simulated reality in which the deceased can choose to live, others can visit, and all those who enter take on their younger bodies. As both Kelly and Yorkie are reaching the ends of their lives in the real world, Yorkie asks Kelly to stay in San Junipero with her. Kelly refuses, delivering an impassioned speech about her choice to not remain in the virtual world.

While it seems like all hope is lost for Kelly and Yorkie to be together forever, the exquisite final scene will likely leave you a crying mess, but it is oh so worth it. After Kelly passes away in the real world, we return to San Junipero, where Yorkie gets in her car and blasts "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." Yorkie arrives home, and in a delightful turn, Kelly is standing there waiting for her. They get in the car and kiss passionately, and they are set to be together forever, as we see the enormous facility where their digital lives are stored.

Daly gets his comeuppance

Clearly inspired by the magnificent world of "Star Trek," Captain Daly (Jesse Plemons) leads the USS Callister with grace, fearlessness, and poise and is loved by everyone on the ship — at least online. In real life, Robert Daly is a quiet and terminally shy co-founder of a hugely successful gaming company. When he comes home, he spends all of his time in his virtual world aboard the USS Callister, where he's cloned his real-life coworkers, putting sentient versions of them in his game world. Unlike the charming man seen in the opening scene, Daly is actually a ruthless, cruel leader who takes great pleasure in tormenting his subordinates. Daly brings a new hire at his company into his game, but unfortunately for the villainous Daly, Nannette Cole (Cristin Milioti) plans to fight back with the sentient clones to gain freedom — though the only way they can do that is to delete themselves.

Sweet revenge is brought upon Daly in a rather brutal fashion, as his crew schemes to destroy the game Daly has built while trapping him in it. Plemons delivers a performance so impressive that you almost feel bad for him, despite him taking great pleasure in torturing his shipmates. As we see Daly's body lying catatonic outside of the game, it's brutally clear that he will never return to the real world again. Instead, he is destined to spend eternity alone, trapped in his claustrophobically small ship, floating in virtual space.

Brooker's message for fans in Metalhead

"Metalhead" is a stark contrast to the rest of "Black Mirror," as it's the only episode shot in ravishing black-and-white. The episode stars the fantastic Maxine Peake as Bella, who lives in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world where humanity has seemingly collapsed, and extremely dangerous robotic dogs roam the earth. It's one of the show's bleakest and most pulse-pounding episodes, so it's not the place you'd expect to find a hilarious easter egg, but that's exactly what the show's creators have done.

Toward the beginning of the episode, Clarke (Jake Davies) breaks into a car and hijacks it. When the car screen boots up, it appears to be a bunch of meaningless jargon, but if you pause and have a closer look, there's plenty to enjoy. The bootup files are actually the names of some of the episode titles from the first two seasons of the show — "pigpoke" hilariously refers to "The National Anthem," "tehoy" is "The Entire History of You," and "white.bear" and "white.xmas" are far more self-explanatory. The best thing here is a message from the show itself, which says, "WHY did you bother PAUSING this you freak," gleefully poking fun at people like us, scouring episodes of "Black Mirror" for connections and fun little details like this one.

All the mysteries of the Black Museum

Despite making fun of viewers for pausing one episode earlier in "Metalhead," Season 4's finale practically begs audiences to have their remotes in hand, ready to hit the pause button at a moment's notice. After all, the episode is called "Black Museum," and museums are filled with fascinating relics from the past.

The episode really is a smorgasbord of riches for "Black Mirror" fans. The episode tells three different stories as museum visitor Nish (Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri in "Black Panther") receives a tour from the museum owner, and he explains the backstories of various exhibitions. As Nish and the owner traverse the museum, there are loads of artifacts and images from previous episodes. There are exhibits with mugshots of Victoria from "White Bear," the artist from "National Anthem," the DNA uploader and lollipop from "USS Callister," the game from "Playtest," dead roaches from "Men Against Fire," and one of the ADI bees from "Hated in the Nation." But wait, there's more — the destroyed "Arkangel" tablet and the bathtub from "Crocodile" are present as well. These are just the ones we noticed, and there's every chance there's even more, so keep your eyes peeled and the pause button ready.

Learning the prime minister's fate

While the credits scene in the first-ever "Black Mirror" episode, "The National Anthem," told us that Prime Minister Callow's rating was higher than before one year after the incident, it was a long time until his name was heard or seen again. In Season 5's "Smithereens," we finally get an update on the Prime Minister's status — though only for eagle-eyed viewers quick to hit the pause button.

"Smithereens" spotlights Chris Gillhaney (Andrew Scott), a driver who kidnaps an employee of a major social media company called Smithereens in a desperate attempt to speak to the CEO Billy Bauer (Topher Grace). The Easter egg comes in a shot of the office wall in Smithereens' headquarters, which features a scrolling news ticker. It turns out the prime minister, who had the horrifying task of having sex with a pig to save a member of the royal family, has been doing quite well for himself. Some eight years later, he is still in power, as the new sticker reads that Prime Minister Callow is set to meet with EU negotiators in Brussels.

While this hidden treat for fans confirms that Callow is still in power, another detail reveals that the public certainly hasn't forgotten about the pig incident, as the ticker says #snoutrage is trending. There are a couple of other Easter eggs here, with #AshleyOWembley referring to Ashley O (Miley Cyrus) — who stars in the next episode — and #SeaofTranquilityReboot, which refers to the show referenced in "The National Anthem" and again in "Nosedive."