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This inaugural tale of political machinations and elite perversions works as a scalding satire and a nightmare of burgeoning technology gone awry, making it a perfect sampler for viewers seeking to step through the looking glass.
There is no better introduction to the show's cold-realist aesthetic.
[It's] a perfect amuse-bouche for the more elaborate, stranger courses to come. Like those early episodes of Breaking Bad, The National Anthem clearly states this is a show that will have an airtight internal logic.
Brooker turns what would otherwise be a dark comedy sketch into an astute depiction of public opinion's changing tides, and the uncanny speed with which the unthinkable enters the realm of the acceptable.
"The National Anthem" remains the story that should be used to indoctrinate viewers into Brooker's universe. The political satire is polarizing, and if it's viewed as a turnoff? A reminder that this series isn't for the faint-hearted.
That last shot shows that finding, keeping and losing love - Black Mirror's most consistent theme - has been quietly woven throughout this first episode.
The ingenuity of "The National Anthem," besides its wrenching final twist, is in its ability to make it clear to the audience that they're just as culpable as the characters in the series, forcing the entire sickening ordeal to unfold.
It's a cruel and hyper-modern farce played like a thriller - and very straight. It's also very intelligently made.
The episode is a vivid reminder of the power of popular opinion and how it can be manipulated by the media.
If you believe Black Mirror takes place in a shared world and that each episode occurs at a different point on the same timeline, "The National Anthem" is the insane event that made everything else possible. It's a warning.
What follows is a wild, tense ride through media storm, shifting public sentiment, and political calculation. It's a hard-hitting look at the way TV news and online media can bring out some of the very worst in collective human instincts.
The National Anthem may have been funny, full of razor-sharp satire and with one of TV's silliest, basest stunts at its centre, but it was also one of the scariest things you're likely to have seen this year.
Black Mirror wanted people to know what it was right out of the gate, and oh does it leave an impression.