What’s the Better Binge?: Hulu’s ‘Dimension 404’ vs. Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’
This week, Hulu released the first three episodes of the new sci-fi anthology series Dimension 404, its answer to Netflix’s popular and critically acclaimed Black Mirror. Both series are prime for a mind-bending binge watch, but which one makes for the better extended TV escape? We break them down:
Episodes: 13 episodes over three seasons; Season 4 currently in production
Netflix Description: “Black Mirror is an anthology series that taps into our collective unease with the modern world, with each stand-alone episode a sharp, suspenseful tale exploring themes of contemporary techno-paranoia. Without questioning it, technology has transformed all aspects of our lives; in every home; on every desk; in every palm—a plasma screen; a monitor; a Smartphone–a Black Mirror reflecting our 21st Century existence back at us. The series is created and written by Charlie Brooker, and executive produced by Brooker and Annabel Jones.”
Notable Stars: Jon Hamm, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rupert Everett, Domhnall Gleeson, Haley Atwell, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Brown Findlay
Best Episode: “San Junipero,” Season 3, Episode 4 is unusually optimistic and uplifting for a series that dwells in darkness, but it is Black Mirror‘s most thought-provoking and emotionally complex story. Plus, it’s got “Living in a Box” on the soundtrack! San Junipero in 1987 is a coastal town with a totally awesome club scene. There, shy and reserved Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) forms a bond with Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) that tests their understanding of life, love and the hereafter. “San Junipero” is probably an easier introduction to Black Mirror than Season 1, Episode 1, “The National Anthem,” in which the prime minister of England is forced to have sex with a pig on live television.
Deepest Question: “You want to spend forever somewhere nothing matters?” – Kelly, “San Junipero”
Season 1 Trailer:
Episodes: One season of six episodes, with Episodes 1-3 available beginning April 4 and additional episodes released Tuesdays
Hulu Description: “In the darkest depths of cyberspace, there is another world. A lost dimension, home to wonders unseen, terrors unspeakable, and stories unlike any ever told. Dimension 404 is a science fiction anthology that explores the wonders – and terrors – of our digital age. From outrageous horror comedy to mind-bending action adventure, each episode tells a weird and wild sci-fi tale where the twist ending…is just the beginning. Do not click back. Do not reload. You have reconnected…to Dimension 404. Dimension 404 is created by Dez Dolly and Will Campos and co-created by Dan Johnson and David Welch. The series is executive produced and directed by Freddie Wong, Matthew Arnold and Showrunner Dez Dolly. Distributed by Lionsgate.”
Notable Stars: Mark Hamill (narrator), Lea Michele, Joel McHale, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Hyland, Robert Buckley, Constance Wu, Ashley Rickards, Megan Mullally
Best Episode So far, the standout is Episode 2, “Cinethrax.” Patton Oswalt plays Uncle Dusty, an old-school cinephile and flip-phone devotee. Dusty reluctantly goes to see the latest dystopian young-adult novel movie adaptation with his niece (played by Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland). Dusty eschews the new Cinethrax experience and 3-D glasses in favor of his old shifter glasses that revert 3-D films into 2-D, revealing a horrific reality that no one else in the theater can see. Oswalt gets the laughs as the outdated Dusty in a fun throwback to late-night creature-feature films.
Deepest Question: “Have you kids seen any weird [email protected]# going on tonight?” – Time Ryder (Matthew Del Negro), “Chronos”
Season 1 Trailer:
THE BETTER BINGE: Black Mirror. Black Mirror is rooted in real anxieties about technology, and the plausibility of its stories becoming reality in the near future is what makes the series so frightening and compelling. There are twists aplenty, outstanding performances and a lot of shocking, provocative material that bears further thought and repeated viewing. A few episodes will give you the urge to smash your smartphone and stay off it for good.
Dimension 404 doesn’t plumb close to the depths that Black Mirror does, choosing instead to go for lighthearted fantasy with face-sucking aliens, cartoon superheroes come to life and other campy B-movie fare. While there’s definitely a place for both, comparing Black Mirror to Dimension 404 is like comparing Lost to Gilligan’s Island.