Black Mirror: “Men Against Fire” Season 3 Episode 5 Review

Photo Credit:

If you’ve seen every episode of Black Mirror before “Men Against Fire,” it probably felt relatively familiar to you. It follows the very root of the series, which is telling unsettling, complex stories about modern society and the assaulting evolution of technology. Yet, I noticed maybe 15 minutes into the episode that “Men Against Fire” felt a little by the numbers. It’s relatively understandable. This is the anthology series’ longest season by far, and anthologies by nature aren’t all winners. The episode isn’t a dud, necessarily, but it is easily the weakest of season three so far.

Taking place in a post-apocolyptic society, we follow a group of soldiers, our story surrogate being Stripe (Malachi Kirby), as they fight an opposing force of supposedly diseased humans now known as “roaches.” The first confrontation with them shows them to be vampire-esque humanoids that are fully capable of using technology, as one shines a green light of sorts in Stripe’s eyes. This flash ends up messing with Stripe’s neural implant, which allows the military to upload tactical maps and other useful military stuff right before his eyes. But the further the implant fails, the more Stripe begins to question his reality and exactly what the “roaches” are.

Questioning reality is a common theme for Black Mirror, previously explored this season in “Playtest” and “San Junipero,” both stronger, fresher entries than this one. The story of “Men Against Fire” just seems to follow all the normal tropes. Actually, if you turn the “roaches” into the Na’vi, you have a grittier version of Avatar with a much bleaker ending.

Director Jakob Verbruggen, a House of Cards alum, shoots the episode well enough, constructing some solid close-quarters fight scenes. But this episode also lacks the style flourishes that made all of the previous four of season three individually special. The complete package just ends up feeling a bit half-baked. Still, there’s enough intrigue here that proves, even when Black Mirror is on autopilot, it’s still better than a lot of other TV shows out there. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *