Spoilers for all three of the new episodes lie ahead...
Happy New Black Mirror Day, everyone! Yes, the Charlie Brooker-created dystopian series has returned to our screens to provide yet another serving of light, family-friendly, oh-shit-technology-really-will-be-the-end-of-us-all entertainment.
With this fifth season, Brooker and fellow showrunner Annabel Jones have returned to the format Black Mirror adopted in its first two seasons (back when it used to air on good ol’ Channel 4) with just three brand new episodes being unleashed on the unsuspecting Netflix-viewing public.
There’s little doubt that plenty of people will have already devoured all three – Striking Vipers, Smithereens and Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too – despite them only dropping on the streaming service at 8am UK time this morning (June 5). And, at this point, we’d caution you to finish your inevitable Black Mirror binge-watch before reading on: you wouldn’t want to fall victim to idly ignoring one of those ‘Spoiler Alerts’, would you?
Part of the fun of following an anthology series like Black Mirror is that while each episode may not be obviously connected (though Brooker hasn’t denied that all of the episodes, or at least a hefty chunk of them, exist in the same deeply unsettling futuristic universe), there’s plenty of reason to believe that, actually, they are. After all, the producers of the show seem to revel in dropping in clever references, in-jokes and call-backs to previous instalments of the show, full-well knowing that avid, detail-devouring fans are going to go absolutely bananas for what we all must call Easter eggs.
And we’re getting in on the fun. It’s time to gather your TV-watching baskets, people: we’re going on a Black Mirror season five Easter egg hunt.
‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’ is, of course, in the new season
A reliable constant throughout every Black Mirror season to date, Irma Thomas’ 1964 single was first used in the show’s second-ever episode Fifteen Million Merits. Brooker told The Wrap last year that he picked this affecting song in particular because “it has the sound of a timeless haunting classic, yet wouldn’t be familiar to most viewers,” and later picked it as one of his own Desert Island Discs.
Since then, ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’ has featured in White Christmas, Men Against Fire and Crocodile. Season five’s Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too continues the trend, with the song being sung by Miley Cyrus‘ character Ashley O.
The giant news ticker on the office wall in Smithereens references the pig-fucking Prime Minister
As we already briefly saw in the trailer for Smithereens, this episode most definitely takes place in the same universe as Black Mirror‘s memorable debut outing The National Anthem. You know – the episode in which an artist-turned-terrorist blackmails Prime Minister Michael Callow into having sex with a pig on national television. Yeah, that one.
Anyway, in the dark timeline in which Smithereens motors along, Callow is still clinging onto office a remarkable eight or so years later, and, to make matters somehow worse, he’s currently locked in some sort of awful Brexit-y negotiations with the EU, too. Still, after taking part in a spot of globally-streamed bestiality, navigating a series of complex and depressing EU negotiations must seem like a doddle.
The UKN website in Smithereens references declining bees, DNA cookies and blackmail
As spotted on Reddit, Smithereens actually makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to a number of other Black Mirror episodes, too. As well as poor old PM Callow, the shot of a news page on the familiar UKN site (itself something of an Easter egg) displays a series of top stories, which include headlines about a declining bee population (Hated in the Nation), inedible DNA cookies (White Christmas, but arguably Be Right Back and USS Callister too) and the nasty end result of a bit of blackmail (Shut Up and Dance). Don’t know about you, but our egg basket is already getting pretty full.
Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too and Striking Vipers give nods to San Junipero, and the latter to Bandersnatch’s software company
Ahh, San Junipero – the best and most wholesome episode of Black Mirror to date. In fact, fans love it so much that they’re still demanding that Brooker write a sequel which carries on Kellie and Yorkie’s romance. This clamouring for a return to the kind of narrative explored in San Junipero may explain why plenty of viewers are already seeing similarities in new episode ‘Striking Vipers’.
In terms of Easter eggs, there’s a super-fan reference in Striking Vipers which definitely connects the two episodes: the makers of the Tekken-inspired titular VR game are Black Mirror‘s fictional tech company of choice, TCKR. Theorised by fans to be a later iteration of the Tuckersoft company from Bandersnatch, the glorious ’80s-set simulated afterlife of San Junipero was of course developed by TCKR.
Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, meanwhile, also doffs its cap to the almighty San Junipero when Ashley is admitted to Saint Juniper’s Hospital – the very same name of the hospital in San Junipero. The medical centre – or indeed the name of it – has also appeared in the creepy episode Black Museum and Bandersnatch.
The return of Tusk (RIP)
Complicating the timeline ever so slightly, Tusk – you remember, the unfortunate rapper from Hated In The Nation – is briefly seen on a TV in Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too giving an interview, with the host saying that he made “a boo-boo” on British TV. He just can’t be tusk-ted, clearly (sorry).
The Sea of Tranquility is revealed to be anime
Black Mirror fans have long speculated about this particular curiosity since it was first mentioned in The National Anthem, and it later popped up in ‘Nosedive’. What could it be? Well, the ‘Funtertainment Daily’ segment in Rachel, Jack, And Ashley Too has finally given us a definitive answer: it’s an anime TV show! Fingers crossed we’ll get to see a fully-fledged episode of Sea of Tranquility in season six of Black Mirror…
And to finish us off: a triple whammy in a map in Smithereens
Why plant a solitary Easter egg in one shot when you can have three? In the above close-up of an Uber-like map in Smithereens, we see Skillane Street (named after Victoria Skillane from White Bear), a shop called Raiman’s (in honour of the Men Against Fire character) and, finally, the Bandersnatch Theatre.
So stick a fork in us: we’re stuffed after discovering this fresh bounty of Black Mirror Easter eggs. But for anyone out there who wants more, you can be assured that there are plenty of other tidbits and sly nods to Black Mirror past that are spread across the three new episodes of season five – and we’ll be updating this page as we find them.