Black Mirror is kind of like the 21st century’s very own version of The Twilight Zone, complete with storylines about smartphones, smart homes, social media, virtual reality, augmented reality, robots, dating apps, cyberbullying, hacking, and just about every other new technology that’s been invented since Rod Serling’s seminal science fiction anthology series went off the air. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has been produced in an era of serialized TV dramas and interconnected cinematic universes that share characters and storylines. There’s less of a market today for shows where every episode is a totally closed off installment that stands on its own. Still, Brooker has remained defiant that that’s his show and that’s how it’ll stay, and he’s managed to build up a huge fan base for it over time, which is admirable. But he’s also thrown in some Easter eggs to suggest to fans that these episodes all take place within the same fictional universe. This year’s season 4 finale “Black Museum” seemed to tie the whole series together, but there had been neat little Easter eggs before that. TV is a great place for Easter eggs – just look at Merle’s blue meth in The Walking Dead. So, without further ado, these are the 10 greatest Easter eggs from the four seasons of Black Mirror.
10. Pig-banging Prime Minister Michael Callow got kicked out of a zoo
In the very first episode of Black Mirror, “The National Anthem,” the British Prime Minister is instructed to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television in order to secure the release of a princess who’s been kidnapped. The PM in this episode is a fictional character named Michael Callow, but he was clearly cast to look like David Cameron, who was the Prime Minister at the time, and funnily enough, a full four years after this episode first aired, Cameron was wrapped up in what the British media termed “the Piggate scandal.” See, it was alleged that, during his college years, David Cameron had engaged in sexual intercourse with a dead pig as some sort of frat initiation ceremony. Isn’t that just the darndest coincidence? “The National Anthem” was not the last we heard from Callow. On Lacie’s social media feed in “Nosedive,” there’s a top trending post by Callow that reads, “Just got thrown out of the zoo again :(” – that’s a very sly nod to the pilot episode. It’s not on the nose enough to be clear what it means, but it does subtly reference the show and open itself to a lot of questions. Was he there trying to have it off with one of the animals now that he’s got a taste for it? Is that his fetish now and he needed the pig incident to realize it? Is he trying to joke about this thing and take it in his stride? So many questions from just one tweet.
9. The UKN news network
A good way for TV shows to tie their fictional universe together is by having the characters in that world watch a fictional television network. This helps the show to exist in its own world. There’s the Interstellar Network News in Babylon 5. Everyone in Springfield gets their news from Kent Brockman. Everyone in Quahog gets their news from Tom Tucker. The same goes for Black Mirror, in which the fictional TV news network UKN is featured in almost every single episode (except for the likes of “Metalhead,” which don’t feature any TV screens). If there’s a TV on in a scene in Black Mirror, you can almost guarantee that you’ll get a glimpse of a TV newscast on UKN. UKN is portrayed as being as big of a media outlet as BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News – albeit reporting far stranger stories. It all started in the first episode, “The National Anthem,” in which the media coverage of the day’s events and the reporters behind it play a huge part in the narrative. The UKN broadcasts serve as more than just an Easter egg in the episodes they’re in. In some cases, it can be used to foreshadow events in the episode. For example, in “Be Right Back,” a UKN broadcast on the dashboard of the van in the opening sequence as Ash and Martha are driving reports the scientific breakthrough of creating lifelike human skin. This breakthrough comes in handy when Ash dies and Martha wants him back.
8. All the “White Bear” media coverage
The “White Bear” case can be seen plastered all over the media in other episodes – in the world of Black Mirror, this thing has press coverage to the extent of a Kennedy assassination or an O.J. Simpson murder trial. As Joe watches a TV news broadcast in “White Christmas” to get the details of the train crash that killed his ex and the mother of his child (or so he thinks), the screen features the headline: “Victoria Skillane appeal bid rejected,” placing that episode somewhere between her arrest and her sentencing to be tortured in an amusement park for the rest of her life as a tourist attraction. Furthermore, there’s a news headline on a computer screen in “Shut Up and Dance” that says, “Victoria Skillane Trial Latest,” so that one – which was conceived by Charlie Brooker when he decided to create an episode that could take place today and not in the near future – takes place shortly after Blue Coulson from “Hated in the Nation” cracked the case and the couple were arrested. A lot of the best Easter eggs in Black Mirror episodes provide updates on the events of earlier episodes – this is a great example of that.
7. The pregnancy test in “Be Right Back” and “White Christmas”
The near future technology in the pregnancy test that has an animated baby face appear on it when it’s positive appears in both “Be Right Back” and “White Christmas” – and in both cases, the pregnancy becomes integral to the plot. In “Be Right Back,” the pregnancy is the catalyst that Martha needs to respond to the email from the A.I. version of Ash, which leads her down the road to having a real life version of him made with synthetic flesh. And in “White Christmas,” it’s infinitely important to the progression of the story, because Beth doesn’t want the baby and Joe gets mad at her for not consulting him about it and they get into a huge fight and she ends up blocking him. And then he follows her and realizes that she’s kept the baby, and every Christmas, he goes up to her father’s house to see the child, and year by year, he gets to see it grow up. But because the block extends to offspring, he can never actually see the child – until Beth dies and the block dies with her, at which point he realizes that the girl is half Asian and therefore not actually his, and Beth had an affair while they were together all those years ago, and Joe’s whole life shatters around him and drives him to murder. So, yeah, it’s pretty important to the story.
6. The EDGE magazine cover
In the season 3 episode “Playtest,” a traveler named Cooper – played by Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt – is strapped for cash and takes on an odd job where all he has to do is test a new video game for the Saito corporation and he’ll get paid a ton of money for it. Obviously, since this is Black Mirror, it’s nowhere near that simple and he ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for (namely, death). Before he signs up, he sees a picture of Shou Saito, the CEO of the video game company he’s going to be working for, on the cover of a magazine called EDGE. Apart from the foreshadowing of this episode’s story in the strapline “Fear Him” being written under the name of the man who will essentially kill Cooper, there’s also some foreshadowing for two other episodes in the season. There’s a reference at the bottom of the cover to Granular, the company that made those pesky robot bees from “Hated in the Nation,” and a featured piece on TCKR, the company behind the virtual world in “San Junipero,” entitled “Inside TCKR: Turning Nostalgia Into A Game.” Everything means something in this show, doesn’t it?
5. The Hot Shot ad on Joe’s TV in “White Christmas”
If a filmmaker or screenwriter is truly brilliant, then if they have a scene that is as simple as someone flicking through various channels on their television, they’ll have something important come on that TV in flashes. Edgar Wright did it in Baby Driver, showing clips like the music video he directed that inspired the movie and the scene in Monsters, Inc. that Baby later relays to Doc in order to calm down his suspicions. In “White Christmas,” Black Mirror overlord Charlie Brooker does it with his self-contained fictional universe. For starters, there’s a newscast by the fake news network UKN that reveals a lot of Easter eggs about various characters and storylines with things that were left unresolved in earlier episodes. And then there’s a commercial for the talent competition series Hot Shot, which was featured prominently in the plot of “Fifteen Million Merits.” There’s a further reference to Hot Shot in the season 4 episode “Crocodile,” in the scene where the insurance claim investigator is looking into the hotel across the street and the concierge says the hotel’s policy is not to reveal the identity of guests, since an incident involving one of the judges from Hot Shot.
4. The planet names in “USS Callister”
The season 4 premiere episode of Black Mirror, the Star Trek homage “USS Callister,” instantly emerged as a classic installment of the show. It was engaging, it was exciting, it soul-crushing, it was mind-bending, it was full of dark humor – it had everything that makes a fantastic Black Mirror episode. So, fans instantly fell in love with it. The episode also has a brilliantly menacing antagonist who starts off as a sad guy who you feel sorry for, before realizing he’s a total psychopath. The same could be said of Victoria Skillane, the woman from “White Bear” who we begin the episode empathizing with before discovering that she filmed her boyfriend torturing and murdering a six-year-old child. This parallel is probably why there are so many references and Easter eggs that call back to the “White Bear” episode, mostly in the names of the planets. One of the planets is called Skillane IV, a clear reference to the Victoria character. This is the planet where Robert Daly and Nanette Cole go for a swim. Also, the planet that Valdack escapes to is called Rannoch B, which alludes to Iain Rannoch, Victoria’s boyfriend who killed the child and then committed suicide in prison after being apprehended and convicted.
3. Blue Coulson solved the Jemima Sykes murder
The season 3 finale “Hated in the Nation” is the longest episode of the show – it’s basically a feature length movie. It’s also the closest episode to a police procedural, as it sees Kelly Macdonald’s veteran detective DCI Parke get paired up with the ambitious, young, tech savvy Blue Coulson to figure out what’s going on with the #DeathTo hashtag and the ensuing deaths. In the episode, there’s a moment that seems throwaway in which Parke asks Coulson why she left forensics, and she explains that she’s the one who solved the case of Jemima Sykes’ murder by deciphering Iain Rannoch’s “souvenir folder,” which was filled with pictures and videos of the torture and murder of the six-year-old girl that had been taken by Rannoch’s girlfriend Victoria Skillane. This is the case from the season 2 episode “White Bear,” which is considered by many to be the show’s best. There’s another Easter egg relating to the case in “Hated in the Nation,” as a news headline on the TV in one scene says, “Victoria Skillane in jail cell suicide attempt.” Rannoch managed to successfully commit suicide while he was in custody – Skillane was not so lucky, and now, she lives out every day with an erased memory and gets tortured by vengeful tourists.
2. Prime Minister Michael Callow’s wife divorced him
“The National Anthem” was not originally supposed to be the first episode of Black Mirror. The initial script for the pilot episode of this new Twilight Zone, as written by Charlie Brooker, was about the military, but the network rejected it – and it seemed as though the show might not go ahead at all. So, he quickly wrote a new script that was based on an old idea he had for a short story. It was originally about Terry Wogan, but for the new TV script, Brooker made it about a fictional Prime Minister named Michael Callow. We don’t get an awful lot of closure at the end of “The National Anthem.” We see that Callow went through with it, and that everyone was so engrossed by the live TV feed that they didn’t notice that the princess was released early, and that it was all an elaborate art piece. But we didn’t really get to see what happened to Callow. We saw his wife putting on a happy face in public and giving him the cold shoulder at home, but nothing definitive. It’s not really fair of her, to be honest. It wasn’t his fault – they were going to kill the princess! But hey, that’s the cold world of Black Mirror for you. Anyway, we do get that closure with yet another Easter egg in a future episode, when there’s a news headline in “Shut Up and Dance” that claims that Michael Callow is getting a divorce from his wife. Yikes.
1. All the stuff in “Black Museum”
The season 4 finale “Black Museum” is rammed with Easter eggs. There’s more Easter eggs in “Black Museum” than an Easter egg hunt in a church yard. In the titular museum, the exhibits include the smashed up tablet computer from “Arkangel,” one of the robot bees from “Hated in the Nation,” the artist who turned out to be behind the plot in “The National Anthem” and then killed himself, the hunter’s outfit from “White Bear,” the blood-soaked bathtub from “Crocodile,” and the DNA scanning machine with Tommy’s lollipop in it from “USS Callister.” There’s a ton of Easter eggs in the plot of the episode, too – the hospital is called St. Juniper’s, the guy with his wife in his brain reads a graphic novel called “Fifteen Million Merits,” the two lab rats that the neural transmitter is experimented on are called Kenny and Hector, which are the two guys from “Shut Up and Dance,” and the tech company behind the technology in “Black Museum” is called TCKR – the same company behind the immersive VR consciousness technology in “San Junipero.” There are so many Easter eggs in “Black Museum” that it’s easy to lose track if you stop looking for Easter eggs and start following the plot.