[This article contains major spoilers for “Black Mirror” season six.]
After a four-year absence, “Black Mirror” made its widely anticipated return with season six in June 2023. Comprising five episodes, the new season deviates somewhat from the traditional “Black Mirror” style.
JOAN IS AWFUL
The most advertised episode, “Joan Is Awful,” is reminiscent of the show’s typical style. It follows Joan, an average blue-collar worker, who is tasked with firing an employee at her business. She returns home from work that day and finds a show titled “Joan Is Awful,” a series based on her life starring none other than Salma Hayek.
As the show continues, people in Joan’s life become increasingly angry with her, resulting in everyone ostracizing her.
When she seeks help from a lawyer, they tell her there are no solutions, as she (and every other user) signed her life away when she subscribed to Streamberry. Too bad she didn’t read the terms and conditions.
This episode displays a glimpse of Netflix’s self-awareness — though it does not touch on the exponential price increase over the past few years. It also brings up the topic of “cancel culture,” as Joan endures serious repercussions for the show’s exaggerated depiction of her attitude, personality and decisions, including getting fired from her job.
As the show unravels, they reveal Joan to be an unfaithful partner, an echo of real-life scandals such as the Try Guys incident. This episode poses questions about modern morality and the implications of life persistently under the digital microscope. It has resonated with fans, potentially earning a spot among the classic “Black Mirror” episodes.
“Loch Henry” had beautiful cinematography and acting but barely felt like a “Black Mirror” episode and ended up feeling like an extension of “Joan Is Awful.”
The episode’s predictable plot revolves around college students investigating a serial killer but lacks the suspense and fear factor that Black Mirror traditionally excels at.
When Davis, one of the main characters, says something along the lines of “nobody could hear us for miles out here,” it becomes clear what went (and was about to go) down. The long frame of the mask hanging in the hallway was also quite obvious.
The ending was the only aspect that could categorize this episode as a part of “Black Mirror,” but because it was connected to the previous episode, it made it seem like an afterthought.
BEYOND THE SEA
Another anticipated episode, “Beyond the Sea,” stars Aaron Paul as Cliff Stanfield, an astronaut in a space station. Stanfield and his colleague, David Ross, have different bodies on Earth that they use to spend time with their families. One day, Ross’ family is attacked and murdered by a cult.
After spending quite a decent amount of time in space, he fantasizes about Stanfield’s wife. The show seemed to be going in the direction of Ross taking over Stanfield’s body and replacing him entirely, but instead he kills Stanfield’s wife and son. Ross imposed his forced fate upon someone else. However, this time it wasn’t a stranger; it was his friend. The story revolves around themes of morality, identity and the blurred boundaries between reality and illusion in the isolation of space.
A critique of celebrity culture and paparazzi ethics, “Mazey Day” falls short with its lackluster execution. Like “Loch Henry,” this episode became another bland horror project.
This episode deals with the pressure and stress of fame and the toll it takes on celebrities’ mental health. Even though the actress Mazey turns out to be just a werewolf, the overarching metaphor is clear. Seeing how the paparazzi reacts to Mazey’s transformation shows they are the actual beasts, as they exploit people’s privacy for their benefit. Even so, it feels like “Black Mirror” is reusing plot-lines and stories that have already been told before. To reiterate, the streaming service fell short in their execution of this episode.
Unexpectedly hilarious, “De-mon 79” might have landed a spot in the S-tier list. What appears to be another horror morphs into a rather dark comedy.
With its seventies aesthetics, “Demon 79” is an example of a well-executed genre switch within the season for “Black Mirror.” This episode was so enjoyable that even the gruesome murder scenes can bring about laughter. The main character stabs and blunders her victims but seems laughably uncomfortable doing it, adding to the comedic flair of the episode. With the addition of the demon, it’s the perfect setup.
The final ranking of the episodes is as follows:
1. Joan Is Awful
2. Demon 79
3. Beyond the Sea
4. Loch Henry
5. Mazey Day