Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror is a distorted look at our own society, but also robot bees hungry for honey, murder and Twitter. The beauty of Black Mirror is not only that you see new perspectives by rewatching episodes, but entirely new secrets emerge when rewatching the entire series itself. These shout-outs and references are building to something grander, as Brooker has stated that, “I think the rule is that when a character says something that explicitly refers to something else, it’s canonical.” Also canonical, the Google Homes of the future will be piloted by, like, a robot ghost version of your soul.
Since there are so many minuscule details and shoutouts hidden in every episode of Black Mirror, we tried to compile these loose references into possible theories in order to find the deeper significance of their implications whenever possible. Incidentally, sometimes a shout-out is just a neat treat for those of us who know how to properly watch a show: obsessively pausing constantly and literally holding a magnifying glass to the screen. Spoilers ahead, but why you would you reading a listicle scouring the depths of Black Mirror if you hadn’t caught up already?
15. BUBBLE BOBBLE
At the start of “San Junipero,” Yorkie plays Bubble Bobble. Wes mentions that Bubble Bobble was “one of the first” video games to have different endings, depending on whether the game is beaten with one or two players. Besides revealing the anachronistic nature of San Junipero, Bubble Bobble mirrors the episode’s plot.
In Bubble Bobble, Bub and Bob have been turned into dragons, forced to traverse 100 levels of bubble-brutality to save their girlfriends. The one-player ending states: “Bad end. This is not a true ending! Try again with your friend.” In the two-player ending, the game congratulates you as the dragons revert to their true selves and reunite with their lovers, noting that “the adventure is not over yet.” By “San Junipero’s” end, Kelly and Yorkie are transformed into digital forms – their ideal selves – reunited with their lover to start another adventure in San Junipero.
14. SHOW WITHIN A SHOW
While every episode of Black Mirror is connected, the more hardcore sci-fi episode “Fifteen Million Merits,” the first feature-length episode of Black Mirror, may actually be a form of entertainment in the Black Mirror universe – a show within the show.
An advertisement mentioning the premiere of “Fifteen Million Merits” pops up during “Shut Up And Dance,” while Toy Robots’ Hot Shots audition is seen during “White Christmas.” The adult film series “Best of Wraith Babes” appears on demand in “Crocodile,” in addition to a hotel clerk mentioning that a Hot Shots judge got caught with a rent boy. Likewise, Abi’s “Wraith Babes” advertisement appears as a billboard during the dystopian future in “The Waldo Moment.” Finally, “15M Merits” appears as the graphic novel that Jack is reading during “Black Museum,” retelling Bing’s audition in intricate detail.
13. ANYONE WHO KNOWS WHAT LOVE IS
Leading further credence to the possibility that “Fifteen Million Merits” is a story within a story, whenever someone sings a song in Black Mirror, it is more often than not “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is,” better known as the song Abi performs during her Hot Shots audition in “Fifteen Million Merits,” Black Mirror’s first feature-length episode.
Abi’s song is timeless. Bethany sings “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” for karaoke in “White Christmas,” while Raiman sings it to taunt Stripe during “Men Against Fire.”Abi’s song is also recognized by multiple characters in order to build the crowd sourced crime scene during “Crocodile,” reflecting the memetic nature of the tune. “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” is most likely the promotional song attached to the “15 Million Merits” film, essentially making Abi’s song the Black Mirror equivalent of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.”
12. COOKIE MONSTER
The Cookie consciousness transfer technology shown in “White Christmas” serves as a crucial piece of technology in the Black Mirror universe, teased as “One Smart Cookie? Click to witness the kitchen tech of tomorrow!” in a webpage ad in “Shut Up and Dance.” Most significantly, a news ticker in “Hated in The Nation” mentions that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Cookies are entitled to basic human rights. This ruling is referenced during the Monkey Doll story in “Black Museum,” wherein Rolo Haynes mentions that after the ECHR ruling, Cookies now have to be able to express at least five emotions.
Fast forward in time to “White Christmas,” and the simulated emotional response command console from “Black Museum” has been upgraded from happy and sad buttons to an intricate control panel where none of the buttons actually matter, reflecting the level of progress made in Cookie technology.
11. SAN JUNIPERO
In addition to Nish mentioning the overall afterlife simulation of San Junipero, Rolo Haynes mentions that he works for “Saint Juniper,” a forerunner to San Junipero during “Black Museum.” In the same episode, there’s a sign displaying TCKR, the company behind the ethically dubious technology seen during each segment. The implication here is that the ethical quagmires that Rolo Haynes’ work produces will eventually lead to the creation of “San Junipero,” the one happy ending in the Black Mirror universe.
That happy ending may only be temporary, as postcards from San Junipero can be seen in Kenny’s Room in “Shut Up and Dance,” as well as on a kitchen table in the abandoned house during the dystopian future of “Metalhead.” Maybe the machines got mad that we made them waste processing power on recreating “The Lost Boys.”
10. WHERE’S WALDO?
The cartoon bear inexplicably turned international dystopian overlord, Waldo makes several cameos throughout Black Mirror, reflecting the not-so-funny bear’s dank meme status outside of “The Waldo Moment.” One of the members of Jon Hamm’s pick-up club from “White Christmas” has the username “I_AM_WALDO,” while the late night talk show that originally hosted Waldo’s interviews can be briefly seen while Joe mindlessly flips through television channels.
Likewise, the texting scandal that originated during “The Waldo Moment” can also be seen onscreen during “Shut Up and Dance,” implying that both episodes take place in similar time frames. Finally, “The Waldo politician” can be seen in a news ticker during “Black Museum.” Keeping the counter-culture nature of Waldo consistent, the pedophile protagonist Kenny from “Shut Up and Dance” has a Waldo sticker on his laptop, well-reflecting Kenny’s neckbeard status.
9. WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
At the conclusion of “Metalhead,” we see the contents of the box that three dystopian scavengers died trying to obtain: a bunch of white (technically yellow) teddy bears. The initial implication is that the humans got the wrong box, ultimately dying for a weak “White Bear” easter egg. Bella has the box’s serial number tattooed on her hand, however, so we know this box was correct. Furthermore, it’s peculiar that the machines left a robodog to guard a box of bears in what has to be the most fortified Build-A-Bear Workshop, ever.
In “Black Museum,” we discover that human consciousness can be transferred to special stuffed animals. Given that the contents of the box were desperately sought after to help a dying child, it’s possible that the white bears were of a similar design. Otherwise, humanity has lost the ability to create teddy bears.
8. WHITE BEAR
Though Charlie Brooker intends to make a sequel to “White Bear,” multiple references to White Bear Justice Park and the punishment of Victoria Skillane have already been sprinkled throughout each season. News tickers in “White Christmas” mentioning “Victoria Skillane appeal bid rejected.” Likewise, a link can be seen in “Shut Up and Dance” regarding the trial of Victoria Skillane. Skillane and Rannoch B are also the names of the hostile planets visited during the “USS Callister.”
Likewise, Skillane’s mugshot adorned with the graphic “CHILD KILLER” is the first attraction seen flickering in the background in “Black Museum,” totally overshadowed by the hunter uniform that’s on main display. “Hated in the Nation” also has detective Blue specifically mention that she had a hand in investigating the “Rannoch killing,” in addition to the trending “#DeathToSkillane,” and the alternative,”#SAVEWHITEBEARONE.”
7. KING OF SPACE
In the Season 4 premiere “USS Callister,” Aaron Paul guest stars as gamer Gamer691, the self-proclaimed “King of Space,” who immediately asks the new crew of the USS Callister “Blow or Trade?” which is short for “blow you away or trade?” Paul’s cameo is appropriate, as most individuals will realize Commander Daly – played by Jesse Plemons, who hired a voice coach in order to better emulate William Shatner – is Todd from Breaking Bad, like, halfway through the episode.
Granted, you probably recognized Aaron Paul the second he curses; however, in contrast to this cameo, there is an intentional misdirection. Jesse Plemons’ Fargo co-star and fiancee Kirsten Dunst makes a blink and you miss it cameo walking through Callister HQ in the beginning of the episode (specifically at 09:54) as Nanette is being introduced to her coworkers.
6. RED MAKES IT GO FASTER
Commander Haly is one of two characters to wear a red uniform during “USS Callister,” Black Mirror’s loving homage to Star Trek and Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. As Trekkers know, a red uniform is essentially a space-suicide-vest, which is appropriate considering that the Commander Daly is the only person to permanently die by the episode’s end. Also, when the USS Callister finally makes the jump to the extended Infinity game, the retro-style cinematography is replaced with absurd amounts of lens flare and blue hues, referencing J.J. Abrahams’ Star Trek.
Likewise, Shania wears a red uniform, referencing Uhura’s outfit in the original Star Trek. Not one to break tropes, Shania is also the only member of the USS to get twisted into a monstrous form, implied as her demise initially, but she gets better.
5. BRAND RECOGNITION
Just as most shows enjoy using fake brands to help fill sets (apparently Orange Is The New Black, Kimmy Schmidt and Community all take place in the same universe thanks to “Lets Potato Chips”), Black Mirror utilizes brand recognition for world-building.
Fences Pizza makes pivotal pizza deliveries during “Crocodile” and “USS Callister.” In the same episode, Daly drinks “Raiman’s brand chocolate flavored milk,” which Joe also stocks in his fridge during “Black Museum.” This brand is a call back to “Farm Girl” Raiman, who mentions that her family had a farm in “Men Against Fire.” The dating app from “Hang The DJ,” is used by Elena during “USS Callister,” and by Cooper a full season earlier in “Playtest.” Finally, the pregnancy test used during “White Christmas” is the same kind of test utilized in “The Entire History of You.”
4. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
The fallout from British Prime Minister Michael Callow’s fornication with a pig is heavily implied by “The National Anthem’s” post-credits epilogue, where Callow’s frustrated wife wordlessly ascends the stairs. The facade the two put on for the public has vanished by the end of “Shut Up and Dance,” confirmed by a news headline mentioning Callow’s divorce. Callow rebounds, as “PM Callow marries pig” can be seen on a news site during “Black Museum.” Finally, an IM from Michael Callow stating “just got kicked out of the zoo” is seen during “Nosedive.”
Granted, whether the Prime Minister actually married a pig before spreading his horizons remains dubious. Either Callow has lived for an absurdly long time, or Callow has become a timeless joke in the Black Mirror universe, most likely because the Black Mirror equivalent of Princess Diana was saved with the power of pig-love.
3. HATED IN THE NATION
“Hated In The Nation” is another feature-length episode brimming with shout-outs to huge events in the Black Mirror timeline, due in large part to the level of significance attributed to hashtags, and the killer robo-honeybees motivated by said hashtags. Trending topics seen on Powers’ computer include #SaitoGemu, referencing the game company behind “Playtest,” and #MASS, which is the company behind the augmented reality combat system featured in “Men Against Fire.”
News tickers elaborate on these trending topics, detailing that the first MASS augmented reality system is being tested, in addition to Reputelligant debuting their Nosedive app, referencing the rating driven future of “Nosedive.” Likewise, former Prime Minister Michael Callow is trending, implying that “Hated In The Nation” and “The National Anthem” take place in a similar timeframe.
2. ROLO HAYNES’ BLACK MUSEUM
Black Mirror’s Season 4 finale “Black Museum” flat-out states for non-compulsive viewers that the entirety of Black Mirror exists within a connected universe. Nearly every frame of Black Museum is a reference or callback to another episode, which includes the bloodied bathtub from “Crocodile,” the robo-bee from “Hated In The Nation,” the hanged artist from “The National Anthem,” the shattered tablet from “ArkAngel,” a roach from “Men Against Fire,” the headset from “Playtest.” Even the Blitz logo on Nish’s keychain is the same company that Lacie rents her space-jalopy from in “Nosedive.”
Shout outs include a hallway filled with mannequins and decor taken from the “Playtest” mansion and the DNA sequencer loaded with Tommy’s lollipop from “USS Callister.” Likewise, a news ticker mentions a case building against Seito from “Playtest,” as well as the parental system from “Arkangel” being pulled.
1. WE FEEL PERSONALLY ATTACKED
If you pause on the newspaper clipping that Rob gives to Mia regarding the widow waiting for her cyclist husband during “Crocodile,” you’ll notice not only that the article is from Black Mirror news outlet UKN, but also the following paragraph: “‘Of course the real question is why anyone would pause what they’re watching just to read a sentence in a printed-out newspaper article’, says a voice in your head — before advising you to go and share this finding on Reddit.”
Likewise, trying to decipher the diagnostic code in the van during “Metalhead” grants the following message for your efforts: “LOADED: \WHY.did.you.bother LOADED:\PAUSING.this.you.freak”. Now to be fair, pausing during the first-ever Black Mirror episode enables you to see the explicit demands for the filming of pig fornication and… ohh now we get why we’re freaks.
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