After a 3-year absence, Black Mirror made a surprise return to Netflix this month. The latest season of the dark, technology-based anthology series features 5 brand new episodes with a host of famous faces, however, a change in thematic direction of the show is an area of contention.
The first episode, Joan is Awful, stars Annie Murphy as Joan, who lives a dull life in an unfulfilling relationship with her safe fiancée and in a job she hates. She discovers that her life has been made into a series on the streaming site Streamberry starring Salma Hayek, with the first episode following the same day she’s just lived through. As her life deteriorates, Joan joins forces with an unlikely ally to bring down the streaming giant.
Loch Henry follows couple and film students Davis (Samuel Blenkin) and Pia (Myha’la Herrold) as they visit with his mother Janet (Monica Dolan) in the Scottish countryside. They learn about a notorious local serial killer who was apprehended by Davis’ policeman father years earlier and decide to make a true crime documentary about the story. However, after being encouraged by a production company to find some new footage, the pair soon discover more than they bargained for.
Aaron Paul and Josh Hartnett star in Beyond the Sea as two astronauts Cliff and David, who are on a six-year deep space mission. Back on Earth, their families have been left with mechanical replicas which the men can inhabit to live their real lives when not working on the space station. After a horrific event leaves David without his earth replica, Cliff allows him to use his, which he soon comes to regret.
Mazey Day stars Zazie Beetz as Bo, a paparazzi photographer who renounces her career after taking revealing photos that drove an actor to suicide. However, after rising star Mazey Day (Clare Rugaard) disappears from public life following a hit-and-run incident, a $30k reward is put up for the first photograph of her and this proves difficult for Bo to resist, with surprising consequences.
The final episode, Demon 79, follows sales assistant Nida (Anjana Vasan) in 1979 as she’s subject to racism and discrimination. One day she finds a talisman in the store’s basement that unleashes a demon named Gaap (Paapa Essiedu), who tells her she must kill three people within three days to prevent the end of the world.
I have to state that I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, or more specifically, the first few seasons. The later series have been a bit hit-and-miss for me and I’m afraid season 6 is more of the same. The cast is phenomenal, and it’s great to see some rather unexpected faces, especially in Joan is Awful. As always, there’s some pointed social commentary, from digs at paparazzi and streaming sites (kudos to Netflix for poking fun at themselves) to more serious overtones focusing on racial conflict. The plotlines themselves are also incredibly interesting and entertaining, some darker than others and some definitely more predictable than others.
My biggest problem with this season is that it doesn’t feel like the Black Mirror I know and love. For me, Black Mirror is meant to be a very dark, dystopian, satirical take on technology and this season just isn’t anywhere near as dark and gritty as the earlier seasons. There are certainly some dark themes, but nothing particularly mind-blowing or standout and some of the plots aren’t entirely dissimilar to something you’d see in a crime thriller or sci-fi. It doesn’t help that a least a couple of the stories involve supernatural elements, one episode even rebranding itself as ‘Red Mirror’, and while I absolutely love the supernatural, for me it seems out of place here.
Season 6 of Black Mirror is overall a consistently good run of episodes, all entertaining and engaging in their own right. However, it’s missing that general feeling that originally made Black Mirror so brilliant.
Where to Watch
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!