Reel Thoughts: ‘Black Mirror’ season six is a mixed bag


Illustration by Lillian Ali

Season six of “Black Mirror” was a long time coming. Its previous season came out in 2019.


There was a time when “Black Mirror” was lauded as cutting-edge television, but “Joan is Awful,” the sixth season’s premiere, is a tacky, outdated caricature of the show, muddled with one-dimensional characters and an uninteresting twist.

The titular character, Joan Tait (Annie Murphy), suddenly finds her life in disarray when she becomes the subject of a drama series, “Joan is Awful,” starring actress Salma Hayek as herself. It’s an ironic twist of fate for a woman who told her therapist that she didn’t feel like the “main character” in her own life. 

Streamberry, a Netflix-esque streaming service, deploys CGI to release the show at record speed using personal data from Joan’s devices. The episode essentially answers the question, “What’s the worst that could happen if I skip through the Terms and Conditions?”

But it doesn’t do much else. The technology takes up too much narrative space, leaving little room to flesh out the characters. Joan is moreso a device to explore the bleak digital premise than an actual person. Her emotional gamut is narrow, spanning from hapless frustration to explosive anger. Hayek’s appearance as herself in the episode is little more than a cameo, and it is clear that our familiarity with the actress is meant to do much of the character building.

Is it enjoyable? At times, yes. But it’s a far cry from what “Black Mirror” used to be.

—Jaharia Knowles



Black Mirror’s explosion in popularity came from the disturbing aesthetic of its early seasons. Many have avoided the show for that reason, while dedicated fans remain entranced by its dark side.

Regardless, the show’s appeal comes from an ability to portray reality and gradually twist it into different genres. As “Loch Henry ” reflects, the show’s capacity for this is only heightened by set design and charming acting, which all capture the horror aesthetic in the midst of the Irish countryside.

They give the episode a lonely feeling that explodes by the sad, creepy ending. But “creepy” to describe Black Mirror is a compliment to the writers, who achieved the heavy but hypnotic effect with each of our protagonists’ interactions.

That’s all to say that this latest season is no different despite the lack of technology. The slow-burning first act introduces some cool characters that make the Black Mirror twist at the end truly gripping.

In this episode, the writers excelled at  achieving that skin-crawling feeling that something isn’t quite right, which pairs well with the lonely landscape of Ireland and the sinking feeling as the characters learn about the ghost town, and the many things it’s hiding. 

— Kederang Ueda



Season six of “Black Mirror” was disappointing. “Beyond the Sea” was its saving grace. 

Set in an alternate 1969 — where technology is far more advanced than it was in its historical counterpart — “Beyond the Sea ” follows astronauts Cliff Stanfield (Aaron Paul) and David Ross (Josh Hartnett) as they embark on a six-year deep space mission. The twist? They can split their time on Earth and space via life-size replicas of themselves with keys that assist in the transfer of consciousness.

With the replicas on Earth and the real-life Cliff and David up in space, there’s little the two men can do when tragedy strikes. Navigating through the aftermath of this tragedy brings unimaginable horror to both men. “Beyond the Sea” is a masterpiece that succeeds in capturing the devastating yet captivating feelings other famous episodes of “Black Mirror” like “The Entire History of You” and “Shut up and Dance” evoke. 

The episode combines the past, present and future. Like those iconic episodes of “Black Mirror” past, “Beyond the Sea” makes its viewer think long and hard about technology’s place in our society, and what they can do to mitigate its potential impacts.

— Nicole Markus



The newest season of Black Mirror presented some solid gems that departed from the show’s darker tone. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “the most technophobic” and still, “…more human than ever before”.

The episode “Mazey Day” emerges as the best representative of this creative decision by the writers. In it, we follow Bo (Zazie Beetz) , a disillusioned paparazzi photographer, hunting to capture a photo of actor Mazey Day.

Portraying genres and aesthetics has always been a strong point of the show, with each self-contained episode allowing more attention to details like set design, lighting and subtext. The vast Irish wilderness in “Loch Henry” highlights the isolated position of the characters and heightens tension, and the cinematography and sets in “Mazey Day” do the same. They capture a supernatural aesthetic that frames the climax in a creative light.

“Mazey Day” provides a reworked formula that is rewatchable and offers valuable lessons in times when public attention seems misguided. The depiction of themes like nature and the negative effect of celebrity media come through as we follow Bo and Mazey Day, watching their fates intertwine in a beautifully ironic twist.

— Kederang Ueda



While other season 6 episodes like “Loch Henry” break from the show’s usual themes and cinematic style, “Demon 79” is perhaps the furthest director Charlie Brooker strays from his comfort zone. Well, that’s because it’s not “Black Mirror”.The episode’s title sequence reveals early on that it was produced by “Red Mirror,” the Netflix show’s companion label that leans into the retro horror genre rather than the usual futuristic sci-fi.

The episode follows Nida Huq (Anjana Vasan), a young sales assistant who is forced to commit unthinkable acts to avoid armageddon after inadvertently anointing a cursed talisman at her workplace. 

The 74-minute season finale gives Vasan ample time to shine with a gripping performance that highlights the actress’s wide dramatic range. It doesn’t hurt that Paapa Essiedu brings the supernatural period piece much-needed comedic relief as the self-doubting novice demon Gaap, who co-opts Bobby Farrell’s likeness to soothe the distraught Huq. 

Not only does “Demon 79” benefit from strong performances and distinct cinematography, but its story provides rich commentary on Cold War-era nuclear hysteria and the sinister effects of xenophobia and isolation. It delivers the satisfying,  perplexing ending that “Black Mirror” fans have come to love.

If “Demon 79” is a harbinger of future “Red Mirror” content, viewers have much to look forward to.


— Jacob Wendler


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