What is the best episode of Black Mirror Season 6?
So, the sixth Black Mirror season dropped. I can’t say the hype leading up to it was, well, existent compared to past seasons. But it’s still Black Mirror, the comfort dystopian mindfuck of the last decade. Some episodes definitely hit stronger than others in this more horror-leaning season, but how big are the gaps? How does Season 6 expand the series?
(5) Mazey Day
Some rich actress named Mazey Day is traumatized after running over someone while she was driving high. This causes her to go into hiding. Paparazzi, including protagonist Bo, is offered $30,000 to find and obtain pictures of her. I believe that is the story I watched. So, forgive me, but how the fuck was there a werewolf in the story? (Was “Supermassive Black Hole” the tease? Am I being gaslighted?) I’m sure the one Mazey ran over might have been the source of all this. And I’m sure the werewolf was some kind of metaphor. But some metaphors should just stay metaphors.
Maybe this was just never going to work. Maybe paparazzi vs. celebrity storylines aren’t exactly what this series’ fans were clamoring for. I’m all for branching out of tech/dystopian stories, but this didactic wacky shit would’ve still been a mid episode on Cabinet of Curiosities. Move over “Metalhead”; we have something new to rag about.
(4) Demon 79
A saleslady bleeds onto a talisman, summoning a demon, who tells her she must kill three humans to stop the apocalypse. With so many racists around her, she’s got choices and no time to waste. It’s a nice tale; just the right amount of wacky to hook you from blurb alone. But the execution simply wasn’t captivating enough for Black Mirror. For the presumed grandness of it — the stakes, the moving parts, the 74-minute runtime — the story ended up being a straightforward, linear story.
On paper, “Demon 79” stands out as having a rare feel-good ending for this series, and having a light atmosphere overall. Much of the credit goes to the demon’s amusing performance and dialogue, which stole the whole show. But despite the runtime, there really wasn’t too much show to steal.
(3) Loch Henry
Davis visits his barren hometown with his girlfriend Pia, with the intention of shooting a film about an egg man. After learning about the murders that led to the decline in tourism there, Pia wants to dig into that story instead — despite the murders hitting close to Davis’ home. Just on suspenseful tone alone, this (and every episode hereafter) is perhaps more to speed with OG Black Mirror.
There is so much good in this episode. Setting-wise, this was shot beautifully, on the level of scenic hits like “Crocodile” and “San Junipero.” It’s actually a great advertisement outside storyline for the seaside locations featured here. The atmosphere created by the vast emptiness and fog was itself a necessary hook for this simple-to-follow story. There were also great actors all around. Davis’ mom rides the line of innocently creepy (‘are they trying too hard to paint her evil?,’ I frequently thought). Pia reads normal but has strangely suspicious vibes at certain times. And pub friend Stuart has great energy, giving viewers moments of respite from the stress.
Like our previous entry, however, “Loch Henry” also had a straightforward twist to it, making for a rather deflating ending. Pia’s death was almost skippable with how dark the scene lighting was and how quickly it all happened. The third act didn’t feel right without her. But nevertheless, one of the most suspenseful episodes of the entire series.
(2) Joan Is Awful
A woman named Joan sees a show called “Joan Is Awful” on a “”popular streaming service,”” where each episode bears uncanny resemblance to the day she had just had, which ruins her reputation in real life. The rest of the episode is her and CGI Salma Hayek trying to take the show down. Like “Loch Henry,” this had a promising start, an easy hook from the get-go. But the third act kicks in and it felt like they just wanted to mindfuck you. Like they had to remind you about the Black Mirror you remember.
What you were watching was a show, which Joan’s actress Annie Murphy was watching on TV and portraying; which real Joan was also living offscreen as the source material for the show. Salma Hayek was also there but CGI and played by Joan’s actress at the same time. And they could apparently end the inception by sneaking past security in a high-end building and destroying a machine. Which means all of that mental gymnastics ends with cartoon hijinks. It sounds like I hated it, but I don’t. All of it was both real and a show. As a pro wrestling fan, I should love it, but I also don’t. Something something AI cautionary tale. My brain is broken. Classic BM mindfuck with high replayability.
(1) Beyond the Sea
Two astronauts on a space mission, Cliff and David, have replicas of themselves on Earth that they can access in their ship to attempt to live with their families as normal. But after David tragically loses his family, Cliff and his wife Lana discuss sharing Cliff’s replica link with David for an hour — just an hour. The level of storytelling this episode was the Black Mirror I missed.
Strong episodes as recently as Season 5’s “Striking Vipers” and “Smithereens” were developed from the simple oh-God-this-will-not-end-well formula. “Beyond the Sea” wastes no time building the sci-fi premise of two men stuck in space while their robot replicas are on Earth. Then, it gives us the interesting proposition that is the heartbeat of the entire story. There are multiple teases before that-thing-that-could-go-wrong goes wrong, then it just happens. And finally, they trap us in the endings we imagined, literally leaving us in the dark for ages at one point. But then there’s a little swerve. Like they happened to tilt your expectations a little to the right, and there it is. It’s beautiful.
This was a perfectly packaged story, and certainly one of the best the series have done to date. “Joan Is Awful” might be a more marketable poster episode for Season 6. But with drama, suspense, and depth to go with Black Mirror tropes of old, “Beyond the Sea” is the first face of this new, reinvented Black Mirror, worth every minute of its movie runtime.