Charlie Brooker’s show Black Mirror is an anthology series, which means that each episode presents standalone tales that ostensibly shouldn’t be connected to each other. And for the most part, that is indeed the case.
When Inverse spoke with Dan Trachtenberg, the director of Season 3 episode “Playtest,” he confirmed as much: “I often asked Charlie if all the episodes were set in the same reality as different slices of the same future of ours,” Trachtenberg said. “I think for him, they’re not.”
And yet, as with everything else connected with Black Mirror, it’s not exactly that cut and dry. When reporters brought it up to Brooker himself during a conference call on Thursday, he suggested that there is indeed a connective tissue running through the show.
“They’re connected by a string. It’s a psychological universe. Sometimes we deliberately draw a direct link between episodes. Sometimes we do it because we love dropping in things. It adds to the dreamlike quality,” he told said. “It’s a nice bonus for people who have been watching the other stories.”
Indeed, there are plenty of funny little nods to older episodes in the new season, which we have collected here for those willing to go down a very twisted rabbit hole.
In the social media ratings board Lacie uses throughout “Nosedive,” dozens of names swoosh by, and eagle-eyed Black Mirror fans should be delighted by the name Michael Callow. He was the former Prime Minister who was forced to give the business to a pig on national TV by cyberterrorists in the iconic episode “The National Anthem.” Considering what happened between Callow and the animal in the previous episode, his “Just got thrown out of the zoo again :(“ post is the funniest and most disturbing moment the series. The sad-face emoji makes it even sadder.
Later in the episode Lacie hitches a ride with a few bizarre-looking fans of a little show called Sea of Tranquility, which is another sly connection to “The National Anthem.” Sea of Tranquility is the “HBO moon Western” the special effects expert worked on who was called in to digitally remove the Prime Minister from his pig predicament.
The 8-bit symbol on top of the Saito Gemu contraption that transforms into the hit-the-gopher AR game features the logo — and tattoo design — from “White Bear.” If we’re really trying to connect things, that could mean that it could be the company responsible for the tech for the “White Bear Justice Park” from the Season 2 episode.
While this isn’t specifically an easter egg, reoccurring actors are rare for Black Mirror. Cooper’s London friend Sonja is played by Hannah John-Kamen — that’s the same actress who played Selma Telse, the first winner of the American Idol and X-Factor send-up show Hot Shots in “Fifteen Million Merits.” Perhaps “Playtest” is showing parts of Selma’s lost past?
The magazine Sonja shows Cooper, which features Saito Gemu CEO Shou Saito on the cover, includes a sneaky reference to a company called Granular, the same folks behind the autonomous killer bee drones in “Hated in the Nation.” The subtitle reads: “How the AR tech measures up.” The answer, we find out, is not very well.
“Shut Up and Dance*
“Shut Up and Dance” is absolutely jam-packed with easter eggs, seemingly all from one computer screen. The racist CEO caught up in the anonymous troll game looks at a news page featuring easter eggs from four previous Black Mirror episodes.
The “One Smart Cookie” advertisement in the top right references both the consciousness replicating cookies and the kitchen that traps main character Joe in “White Christmas.” The middle bar says Prime Minister Michael Callow from “The National Anthem” is getting a divorce (his wife must have been really turned off by his pig-doinking), while the bottom-right references the ongoing trial of Victoria Skillane, the woman forced to relive the same day in “White Bear” as punishment for murdering a child.
The top-left touts the premiere of 15 Million Merits, though the actual title of the show from the Season 1 episode called “Fifteen Million Merits” was Hot Shots.
Kenny, the surprisingly twisted protagonist of the episode, has a Waldo sticker on his laptop. Waldo, of course, is the annoying CGI bear that becomes a political celebrity in “The Waldo Moment.” This means Kenny is the kind of kid who actually would vote for Waldo, which is sadly not the worst thing about Kenny.
As far as we can tell, there’s no little winking easter eggs connecting “San Junipero,” the standout episode of Season 3, with any other episodes from the show. It’s possible TCKR Systems, the company whose hallways of servers uploads your consciousness to the cloud after you die, is referenced in passing in the Saito Gemu offices in “Playtest,” but we haven’t found it yet.
“Men Against Fire”
The only link between “Men Against Fire” and other Black Mirror episode is when future soldier Raiman sings Irma Thomas’s “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)”, the same song that Jessica Brown-Findlay’s character Abi sings on Hot Shots in “Fifteen Million Merits.” Maybe Raiman is a Hot Shots fan and couldn’t get the song out of her head from watching the show?
“Hated in the Nation”
Theory: Blue Coulson left her cyber-crime desk job behind because of the Ian Rannoch case, referring to Victoria Spillane’s fiancé from “White Bear” who helped that character murder children. Maybe we’ll see characters from both episodes pop up in future seasons.
Karin Parke watches TV early on in the episode, and the news ticker mentions that the military has announced the “MASS Project” seen in “Men Against Fire.” It also features a blink and you’ll miss it reference to Shou Saito.
Always be on the lookout for reference dumps when social media screens pop up in Black Mirror. Case in point: The shot from above featuring three separate easter eggs surrounding the “#DeathTo” hashtag from “Hated in the Nation.”
It seems Callow from “The National Anthem” is still Prime Minister and his administration’s chancellor is the one that ends up targeted by the killer bees. The other hashtag, “#FREETHEWHITEBEARONE” refers to an online push to free Skillane from the “White Bear” construct, while “Harlech Shadow V” references the video game Shau Saito develops in “Playtest.”
UKN seems to be Black Mirror’s stand-in for ubiquitous 24-hour news networks, or just the BBC in general. It’s on TV here and also in “The National Anthem” and “White Christmas.”
In the episode’s coda, the UKN news ticker says Skillane’s case is thrown out of court, referencing the potential for the “White Bear” character to reappear in later episodes. It also mentions the Saito Gemu CEO announcing an immersive new gaming system, the same one that Cooper fatally tries out during “Playtest.”