‘Black Mirror’ Season 6 Review: All Episodes Ranked

Aaron Paul in ‘Beyond the Sea’ Episode 3 of Black Mirror Season 6. Nick Wall/Netflix

Charlie Brooker’s twisty, twisted anthology series has returned to Netflix (NFLX) for Season 6. Black mirror has long made a name for itself as a sci-fi show featuring smart, sometimes creepy observations about the state of our society amid endless technological advancements, but this season sees a few adventures in the supernatural – with mixed results. The concern of several of the season’s best episodes isn’t the terrifying technology gone haywire, but how we’ve allowed ourselves to be consumed and dehumanized by what we’re amusing ourselves with. It marks a meta shift for the series in how it appeals to the viewer, and it’s a change for the better.

All five new episodes of Black mirror are ranked and rated below, starting with the must-see stories.

Kate Mara and Aaron Paul in ‘Beyond the Sea’. Nick Wall/Netflix

1.) Episode 3: “Beyond the Sea”

Black mirror is at its best not when it drops its characters into worlds of unprecedented technological risk, but when it uses its sci-fi premise to tell deeply human stories. “Beyond the Sea” fits that brief, as it focuses on Cliff (Aaron Paul) and David (Josh Hartnett), two men on a space mission in a futuristic 1969. Both are able to return to their lives on Earth thanks to robot replicas. which they can upload themselves into, but when an unexpected tragedy strikes David and his replica, Cliff and his wife Lana (Kate Mara) agree to give the grieving man a ride in Cliff’s body.

While the circumstances leading up to the plot are a bit bizarre and quickly lose relevance, the body-swapping story is the main event. Bringing together three adults and their own heartbreaks, it serves as a meditation on loss, toxic masculinity, and the terminal boredom of being a mid-century housewife. Paul does double duty, deftly separating his portrayals of Cliff and David and creating a clear emotional journey for each, and Mara is more than game for juggling her character’s complicated relationship with her husband and his co-worker. It’s not an episode about deep space or robots or the danger they pose; it is about a difficult marriage and a man experiencing an almost insurmountable grief. “Beyond the Sea” does succumb to an overly schlocky ending (not each episode needs a crazy twist, Charlie!), but it offers a disturbing conclusion to a heartbreaking episode.

Samuel Blenkin and Myha’la Herrold in ‘Loch Henry’. Courtesy of Netflix Media Center

2.) Episode 2: “Loch Henry”

“Loch Henry” goes deep into the heart of our true crime obsession, as young filmmaker Davis (Samuel Blenkin) and his girlfriend Pia (Myha’la Herrold) head to his small Scottish hometown intent on making an impactful nature documentary. only for girlfriend Pia to find a chance in local lore about a series of vile murders. It’s not a closed situation, of course, and they discover secrets that bring them dangerously close to the crimes.

The episode bounces back and forth between a mildly tongue-in-cheek appreciation of the true crime genre and a denunciation of it. As Davis and Pia work on their film, audiences are treated to a mixed media affair, from filmed reenactments to old news reels to police evidence. The processes of shooting, digitizing and editing are shown in a montage that understands the passion and excitement behind these projects, but also shows the kind of shine that plasters true crime over tragedy. These stories are the bread and butter of many streamers, a point that Black mirror is aware of (at one point when asked, “What was that Netflix thing? About the man who killed women?” Pia knowingly replies, “Maybe limiting that”). The episode’s big twist might be easy to spot, but it does lead to a genuinely suspenseful sequence that will stand up to any slasher fave (though it ends a little anticlimactic). In the end, “Loch Henry” gives true crime buffs plenty to chew on, both as a standalone story and a warning about the personal costs of these stories.

Paapa Essiedu in “Demon 79.” Nick Wall/Netflix

3.) Episode 5: “Demon 79”

This season’s more successful supernatural episodes follows sweet-natured shop assistant Nida (Anjana Vasan) as she makes a deal with the devil – rather a deal with Gaap, a well-dressed demon played with all the underworld charm by Paapa Essiedu. The year is 1979, racist, fascist politics are on the rise in Britain, and Nida’s fellow townsmen love to step on her as one of the few brown people around. As the micro-aggressions increase, so does Nida’s own suppressed anger towards the perpetrators.

The episode is a good time, albeit not one you’d expect Black mirror. Elements of ’70s slashers make their way in to add some genre flare, from the opening credits to a grainy camera to some throwback prosthetic gore. It’s not fully committed to that kind of fun, and it certainly bogs down by its 74-minute runtime, but Vasan and Essiedu make for this season’s most-watched pairing. The episode delivers less of a message through these two figures than a twisted sense of catharsis, which is a refreshing choice.

Annie Murphy in “Joan is awful.” Nick Wall/Netflix

4.) Episode 1: “Joan Is Awful”

“Joan is Awful” follows a fairly simple conceit (for Black mirror, that is): what if you saw your life play out in front of you on TV? What begins for Joan (Annie Murphy) as a confusing recommendation about Streamberry (a sassy Netflix analogue) soon takes over her entire life – mainly because it to show her entire life, from risky text exchanges to her therapy session. Despite having the honor of being played by Salma Hayek in the TV version of her life, Joan finds her reputation rapidly deteriorating, as does her concept of privacy and autonomy.

Ultimately, the episode works on quite a few meta levels and deals with the sanctity of cinema in an industry filled with AI and algorithms. The nods to Netflix feel a little smug (Black mirror is one of the streamer’s biggest shows, after all), but “Joan is Awful” makes good points about the state of streaming. Murphy nails her character’s increasing anxiety, and the few interactions she has with Hayek are a treat. That said, the episode escalates a little too quickly, making for shaky internal logic in a show that likes to embrace the far-fetched, and the final twist feels more than a little labored. Some crazy set pieces and the star-studded cast certainly make this the big draw of the season, but it doesn’t quite live up to that standard.

Zazie Beetz in ‘Mazey Day’. Courtesy of Netflix Media Center

5.) Episode 4: “Mazey Day

“Mazey Day” is a notable departure point for Black mirror. First, it’s a period piece set in 2006 (we hear an announcement on the radio about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ first child). It introduces no new gadgets, just a reluctant paparazzo (Zazie Beetz) who makes a living snapping photos of Hollywood’s most wanted. When starlet Mazey Day (Clara Rugaard) almost goes missing, she’s offered a payday she can’t refuse to take a picture of the actress. What follows is a bout of stalking that would surprise even Britney Spears.

The fact that the episode is set in a period of celebrity culture that we’d all like to forget proves it’s a great thing, but sadly, that potential isn’t being realized. Beetz plays a woman who fully understands the parasitic nature of her career path, but her nuanced work is trampled by a truly mind-boggling twist that lacks both suspense and a genuine sense of horror. What seems like a thinly drawn metaphor about fame completely falls apart and sticks out like a sore thumb between the rest of the episodes. Ultimately, “Mazey Day” is a bad B movie – and not the fun kind.

'Black Mirror' season 6 review: Ranking the new episodes from best to worst

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