While not every episode of Season 6 of Netflix’s Black Mirror quite hits the mark, it ends up being the show’s riskiest yet, with several excellent ideas.
Black Mirror is a show that’s always prided itself on its twisted storytelling and prophetic visions of humanity’s future, and season 6 is arguably its most pessimistic and bitter so far. The sixth season of this anthology series is filled with stories that shine a spotlight on numerous dark corners of society, from humanity’s obsession with ‘true crime’ to our reliance on streaming services and media consumption. And while none of the episodes ever reach the greatness of the show’s best, they’re all solid entries into this ever-growing portfolio of short stories. As always with Black Mirror, the quality varies pretty strongly from episode to episode, so it’s easiest to tackle them individually.
Black Mirror Season 6 Ep. 1: Joan is Awful
Season 6 of Black Mirror opens with a real winner, bringing some much-needed comedy into the series for a meta-textual analysis of streaming services, data protection laws, and the idea that our lives are becoming nothing more than ‘content’ to be consumed. The story follows a young woman named Joan, who quickly finds out that every detail of her life is being dramatically reenacted on a TV show about her. This episode recpatures the sharp satire of stories such as Nosedive and Five Million Merits from earlier seasons, blending an incredibly topical message with a story that’s also dripping with comedy and genuinely aims to make the audience laugh at its own absurdity. Joan is Awful easily ranks among Season 6’s best, mastering the dark comedy that’s always been at the heart of Black Mirror.
Black Mirror Season 6 Ep. 2: Loch Henry
Loch Henry couldn’t be more different than the episode prior, but it still feels like quintessential Black Mirror with its intense filmmaking and sickening plot twists. It’s an incredibly dark story about a young couple who start making a documentary about a local serial killer, but their investigation leads them to some even more nauseating discoveries. While it’s not as technology-focused as Black Mirror’s stories usually are, Loch Henry takes aim at how dangerous the sensationalization of ‘true crime’ has become, almost serving as a warning against the entire subgenre of entertainment. It’s the best episode of the series, and it proves that Black Mirror can effectively drift away from its technological roots without necessarily going as bold as some of the later episodes do.
Black Mirror Season 6 Ep. 3: Beyond the Sea
Beyond The Sea is another (and unfortunately the last) great episode of Black Mirror’s sixth season. It follows two astronauts on a mission in space, who have been replaced on Earth by identical replicas of themselves whose bodies they can possess from a pod on the ship – but things go severely wrong when one of the replicas is destroyed. It’s just as intense and engaging as you’d hope for a Black Mirror episode to be, but it’s also very mature in its themes of technology (and consciousness) progressing beyond the need for a physical form. Aaron Paul delivers an astounding performance that ranks among the show’s best, bringing all the emotion and ferocity that brings this story to life.
Black Mirror Season 6 Ep. 4: Mazey Day
Mazey Day is where Season 6 of Black Mirror unfortunately takes a major step down, and it’s a real shame because there are elements of this story that work pretty well in theory. It’s a cautionary tale about the parasitic nature of paparazzi, doing everything in their power to profit from the suffering of celebrities. There are elements of Nightcrawler in this story that work really well, and if the writers had stuck to this idea and brought those themes out more vividly, it could’ve been something special.
But the episode takes a major turn in the final act that just doesn’t feel warranted or logical, and definitely doesn’t feel like Black Mirror. This season is clearly trying to depart from the theme of technology that’s basically characterized every other episode of the show, but Mazey Day just felt like a little too much too fast. The 40-minute runtime never gives the story an opportunity to go anywhere interesting, leaving the episode feeling dull..
Black Mirror Season 6 Ep. 5: Demon 79
Demon 79 is a slight improvement over Mazey Day, but it still comes nowhere near the season’s first three episodes. It’s technically set outside the world of Black Mirror, serving as an in-universe movie about a young girl who summons a demon that forces her to kill three people in order to prevent the apocalypse. The highlight of the episode is Paapa Essiedu’s hilarious performance as the demon, who spends most of the story in a ‘70s disco get-up that works wonders for Demon 79’s sharp sense of humor.
The eighty-minute runtime doesn’t mesh great with the simple story, actually ruining a lot of the tension that it tries so hard to build – which is surprising when the story’s stakes literally involve the destruction of the planet. There was lots of potential in Demon 79, but it needed a much more focused script that would have let its ideas shine before it could rank anywhere close to Black Mirror’s best.
Black Mirror Season 6 is now available to watch on Netflix.