The celebrated Netflix series, Black Mirror, has featured compelling and innovative stories. These stories have depicted largely dystopian themes of technology’s destructive impact on society since its inception in 2011. Black Mirror returned for season 6 on June 15, four years after the last installments were released in 2019. The new episodes feature an all-star cast, including Salma Hayek, Aaron Paul, and “Schitt’s Creek” star Annie Murphy.
Throughout its 27 episodes, the anthological series has produced some of the most thought-provoking and mind-blowing cautionary tales. These tales show how both new and old technology, can be used to exploit people, manipulate culture, and alter natural concepts of the human experience.
Things feel a little different in Black Mirror season 6, with the sci-fi elements stripped back to a surprising extent. Three of the five episodes are set in the past, one feels like it’s in the present. Only one feels like it might be futuristic.
Some episodes do a better job of wrapping those central themes into a riveting narrative than others. Here are all five episodes of Black Mirror season 6 ranked by the premise, plot, and overall impact from worst to best.
Black Mirror Season 6: Episode 4, ”Mazey Day”
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Though, things start well enough, with its premise centering on a cash-strapped paparazzi taking a photo of a troubled actress. This happens as there are rumors in the press surrounding her possibly struggling with addiction. However, Mazey Day is set in the 2000s, and no fundamental sci-fi elements are to be found here. It does look at the media, the entertainment industry, and the power of technology.
Charlie Brooker‘s feeling on the subject is clear in the first few minutes of the aughts-set episode. A pap scores images of a closeted actor with his male lover. Despite the star’s pleas, the photographer, Zazie Beetz sells the photos. The outing leads to the celebrity’s death by suicide. That tragic ending comes full circle by the conclusion of the episode, after a twist a little less centered in reality and more in mythology.
It’s not bad for the first two-thirds. Further, it benefits from being the shortest episode of the newest season at just 40 minutes. Thankfully, it does not feel needlessly padded out the same way the other episodes can. But the reveal towards the end is easily the silliest, goofiest, and most downright laughable Black Mirror’s ever thrown at the audience.
Black Mirror Season 6: Episode 1, ”Joan is Awful”
Joan Is Awful falls short in its punchy humor and uninspired dialogue that border on Marvel-esque. The initial hook of this episode is one of if not the strongest of Black Mirror season 6. However, the justification for several key plot developments doesn’t necessarily add up or pay off on its gripping premise.
In the first episode, Murphy’s Joan finds out that Streamberry is creating a TV series based on the things she does in her life. It included spilling the very private moments she’s never shared with anyone, and would never want anyone to find out about. The episode is mostly a dark comedy before the twist at the end, which will make your jaw drop. But, it isn’t quite at the level of bizarre as Black Mirror’s greatest episodes.
Black Mirror Season 6: Episode 5, ”Demon ’79”
You can quickly feel conflicted about the final episode of Black Mirror’s latest season, Demon 79. It is an entertaining episode and has a streak of dark humor throughout that feels reminiscent of the very funny pre-Netflix seasons.
In “Demon ’79,” Vasan stars as a shop-girl in 1970s Britain, where she constantly has to deal with racism from her boss, coworkers, and pretty much everyone around her. In the basement, she accidentally wakes up and becomes bonded to a demon (played by Essiedu). The demon tells her she has to kill three people or the world will end. Things get more complicated as she and the devil argue and try to carry out their plan, and Vasan and Essiedu have great chemistry together.