The disappointment of Black Mirror Season 6

Posted on: 3 July 2023

I’ve always loved Black Mirror. In some ways it feels like my perfect mix of a television show. I love the dark storylines and topics it seldom shies away from. I love the dystopian view of technology and its potentially hazardous effects on society. The shock value and quality of the writing. The ingenuity of the twists always leave you feeling like you’ve been through a thrill ride. Black Mirror manages to sow a seed in your brain that slowly percolates into your consciousness long after the episode finishes.

Aaron Paul in Beyond the Sea
Aaron Paul in "Beyond the Sea". Image credit: TVMaze

And then there was season 6, the latest season to drop on Netflix. Oh, the hopes were high. It had been a long wait for a new season after the 2019 release of season 5. WARNING: From this point on, this post contains spoilers.

Season 6 began with “Joan is Awful”. A light-hearted, almost slapstick story of an ordinary woman who discovers her life has been captured, modified for entertainment value, and broadcast on the streaming network “Streamberry”. This episode was OK. The simulated multi-universe-generating super computer end reveal was a good one, but it didn’t make up for the generally weak storyline. The big name cameos felt a bit forced too. But the concept did at least feel Black Mirror-esque in its ability to provoke thought and a concern for technology.

The second episode “Loch Henry” was more of a gritty police drama than a Black Mirror episode. Warm, relatable characters and a decent plot. Another typical “woh” twist towards the end, and a great sense of visual, eery dread created with the use of old film equipment in parts. And it didn’t shirk the shock value of killing off a main character. But it left me wondering if I was watching a Black Mirror episode at all. An OK standalone hour of television, but a weak Black Mirror episode in my book.

“Beyond The Sea”, the 3rd instalment, was a long one. And it felt it. Very odd pacing in this one, for a Black Mirror episode. An intriguing concept of transferring the consciousnesses of 2 astronauts on a long mission to Mars into lifelike human replicas of themselves on Earth. The harrowing nature of the demise of the first astronaut’s replica on Earth went someway to explain the mixed public reception of the technology. But I wish they’d spent more of the episode detailing some of the backstory of how the technology came to be. The final twist was a gut-wrencher and smartly done, but it didn’t make up for meandering character development in this episode. It’s also a personal struggle to see Aaron Paul as anyone other than Jesse Pinkman.

“Mazey Day” was just weird. The most un-Black Mirror episode I can think of. And again, not an awful standalone episode of a TV show, but little for a Black Mirror fan to gobble up. It follows a young, successful actress who we’re lead to believe has gone off the rails in the middle of filming a movie due to a hallucinogenic hit-and-run incident. But it turns out she actually fell victim to the mythical curse of the werewolf, and periodically transformed at the turn of the full moon. Captivating, and gorey. But just plain weird. And, critically, not what I signed up for.

The final episode of the season, “Demon 79” may be the strangest of the bunch. And a clear sign Black Mirror is branching out from its original premise. A late 70s, Northern, working class city is the scene and the protagonist is a young, shy immigrant woman who lives alone and works in a department store. After several flashes of violent daydreams, she manages to summon a demon on her lunch break(!) Quirky characters and a fun script give this episode some life. But it’s hard to get past the absurdity of the concept. The plot plays out somewhat predictably, for a Black Mirror episode, and as we’re left wondering if indeed the end is nigh—as the Demon proclaimed— armageddon ensues and the protagonist, Nida, signs up for an eternity of perpetual nothingness exiled with the Demon, Gaap. What do we take away from this episode? To be mindful of accidentally summoning demons, for fear of potentially bringing an end to human civilisation?

Season 6 wasn’t a failure, from an entertainment standpoint, but it was a rather large departure away what’s grown Black Mirror as a cult favourite among fans. The “shit, this could really happen” plots in plain-sight modern society. Where a piece of technology augments society just enough to wreak havoc and make you question humanity. There have been so many previous episodes that have been eerily dark and visceral enough to have stayed with me. I doubt any of season 6’s episodes will.

See what other television I've been watching in 2023.