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Black Mirror’s Sixth Season Makes Odd Choices, But Entertains Regardless

I’m not sure how to feel about this new season of Black Mirror, the British-made anthology series that delves into near-future dystopias with sci-fi technologies. After a 4-year break, is it a show that plans to break new ground or is just wallowing on the shell of its predecessors?

Without spoiling its plot twists and revelations, it seems like the five episodes we’ve seen are veering towards the fantastical route, far beyond even entries like Bandersnatch and San Junipero that at least have their own dystopian tech hooks. Here? It seems like its creator and writers are really throwing things out of left field on what a standard Black Mirror episode should be.

Left Turn Away From Alburquerque

Nevertheless, the five episodes here are worth your time, even if these plot turns can get out of hand and aren’t as insightful as the first few seasons. “Joan Is Awful” is a satirical look at streaming services, AI content generation tech, and fine print horror stories rolled into one. featuring stellar performances by Annie Murphy and Salma Hayek.

“Loch Henry” is a look at how streaming service documentaries with shock value come to fruition, with the backdrop being a Scottish town being the center of it all. It asks the question: ” how far would you go for prestige for your student film?” and delivers harsh results that just hits close to home for some. The nebbish Samuel Blenkin carries the show alongside Daniel Portman as the enthusiastic tagalong and veteran John Hannah as a broken and dejected bystander in the metaphorical maelstrom.

“Beyond The Sea” explores the concept of astronauts on a mission who agree to use replicants back on Earth to keep their respective families company and placated, exploring the downfalls and also setting it in an alternate 1969. Clearly Aaron Paul, Kate Mara, and Josh Hartnett carry the entire episode due to the events that take place and the fallout that’s expected; typical of any Black Mirror episode that explores the synth human idea.

“Mazey Day” is a tale from the perspective of a US-based paparazzi group looking for a major scoop after hearing about an actress that went AWOL after a filming session overseas. Zazie Beetz leads the cast as the cameraperson who grew a conscience, given the scummy nature of being in the paparazzi line of work, but somehow went back to the fray due to financial issues. The enveloping tale ends up having quite a twist in a completely different genre, which is welcome.

Hell In A Handbasket

The last episode, “Demon 79”, is clearly an homage to 70s British-produced horror films like “The Omen”, but with a slightly comedic twist and some soul-searching on the nature of being a good person. Anjana Vasan carries the episode home with her portrayal of the meek main character who ends up taking a stand (albeit in the most extreme example) with Paapa Essiedu stealing the show as her new friend Gaap.

So far, only three out of the five episodes dabble with the dystopian tech angle that Black Mirror has categorized itself, with “Mazey Day” and “Demon 79” being the obvious outliers. Perhaps this is due to creator Charlie Brooker and his team’s vision to somehow break away from tradition in the most outrageous way possible. Does it work? Well, I did enjoy my time with all the episodes, though the hard-hitting thinking and soul-searching on my end were for “Beyond The Sea” and “Loch Henry”. The rest? They served their purpose as being entertaining off-kilter anthological entries from a team that is clearly burnt out of delivering masterclass episodes in their earlier runs. “A” for effort at least.

 

Final Score: 70/100


And because listicles are still in fashion, here’s the ranked list of Black Mirror Season 6, in order of profound messages of tech-gone-wrong and dystopia setting, entertainment value, & relevant drama/fallout:

#5: Mazey Day.
#4: Demon 79.
#3: Joan Is Awful.
#2: Loch Henry.
#1: Beyond The Sea.

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