The Pitch: If you’re a Black Mirror fan — or even just a casual viewer of Charlie Brooker’s Emmy-winning anthology series — then you’re very familiar with the emotional journey of watching any new-to-you episode: Okay, what’s this about?, followed by Oh, so is this the twist?, followed by Oh yeah, this is the twist!, followed by Oh no, now that I know the twist, what’s going to happen to these poor people?
This is because, like an SNL sketch, figuring out “the game” is a huge aspect of the Black Mirror experience, and Season 6 is as devoted to this idea as ever (as evidenced by the strict list of things critics were asked not to spoil in advance). Another huge aspect of the Black Mirror experience, though, is a wild diversity of genres and tones across every new batch of episodes — Season 6 definitely features that kind of spread, so let’s discuss each episode individually, before reflecting on the season as a whole…
“Joan Is Awful”: Easily the most meta episode of Black Mirror to date, “Joan Is Awful” explores the state of streaming media today through the lens of the titular Joan (Annie Murphy), an ordinary woman living an ordinary life… until she discovers that a streaming service has launched a new TV show which mirrors (heh) her life to a shocking degree, albeit with much better casting.
There’s a lot to unpack about what this episode, and by extension Brooker, has to say about the kinds of shows we’re seeing pop up on services just like Netflix “Streamberry” (the show’s in-world streamer — which you can explore on the Netflix home page right now). Perhaps the most genius element of “Joan Is Awful” is its casting, though, some of which you might not even properly appreciate until the final credits. It’s easily the most star-heavy ensemble of the season, for good reason.
“Loch Henry”: From heightened satire, the season shifts to a still kinda meta but spookier installment, in which a young man (Samuel Blenkin) and his girlfriend (Myha’la Herrold) return to his home village to make a documentary about one topic… only to discover a much more interesting topic in a locally notorious serial killer.
Since Black Mirror shifted from UK television to a Netflix production, the show has done its best to keep a global audience in mind while making sure at least one or two episodes per season are deeply rooted in some essential British-nesss. “Loch Henry” is very much part of that tradition, a classic example of small-town British murder drama, with love in its heart for old-school video technology.