Black Mirror, the TV series that revolutionized science fiction in the days of streaming, returns exclusively on Netflix with the season 6 consisting of five new episodes created and written by Charlie Brooker, the mastermind behind the British show created for the broadcaster Channel 4 and subsequently ‘absorbed’ by the entertainment giant.
While retaining its anthological nature, with each episode self-contained and a different star cast from episode to episode, and coming after a hiatus of a full four years from the disappointing triptych consisting, between 2017 and 2019, of Black Mirror 4, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Black Mirror 5, Black Mirror 6 confirms that ideas are definitely finished and that the only way for the series to survive left is to change, to mutate, to evolve.
It does so as usual with lots of stars (Salma Hayek, Aaron Paul, Josh Hartnett, Zazie Beetz) but also a few ideas, some of which are particularly happy, however: longtime fans are still likely to be disappointed, because the change of course is not drastic, more so.
Black Mirror is dead, long live Black Mirror
If the concept behind the first historical episodes had been to Telling the relationship between modernity and the unchecked evolution of technology, bordering on the territories of science fiction and theUncanney Valley and imposing itself in the entertainment landscape as a real turning point not only for TV but also for cinema, in the years Black Mirror has progressively embraced pure science fiction accommodating to well-established strands and situations in the imagination of fans.
Between one Terminator of the discount and another and filler episodes of rare anonymity seen in previous incarnations of the show, season 6 of Black Mirror at least has the courage to cut the bull’s-eye view And take the ultimate step toward the final transformation: of the five planned episodes, only a couple have anything to do with science fiction, and only one of them can be directly related to our world and trigger a reflection on the present.
The first, titled ‘Joan is Terrible‘, is a meta-parody of Netflix, the world of streaming and the ‘live life’ of social media, but it never manages to become anything more than a simplistic The Truman Show version 2023. The second, which is then the third installment in Netflix’s planned order, is ‘Beyond the Sea,’ the story of two astronauts from the 1960s who while traversing the cosmos can ‘return’ to Earth thanks to synthetic bodies that can accommodate their consciousnesses (but in this case the link to our present is very subtle, not to mention unimpressive).
The disappearance of science fiction
The other three episodes, however, do not belong to science fiction at all. They do not even accidentally deal with the typical themes of the series and indeed sink well into the horror genre, so much so that they may well belong to the list of subjects discarded from Guillermo Del Toro’s anthology series, the outstanding Cabinet of Curiosities.
This batch starts with the second episode, ‘Loch Henry,‘ an anesthetizing investigative mystery about the world of true-crime docu-dramas. It continues for the entertaining ‘Mazey Day(the writer’s most beloved episode, and roughly The one that most holds back the moral ambivalence typical of Black Mirror, even straying from the series’ genre of reference: for the sake of spoilers, suffice it to say that it is the story of a hardened paparazzo who sets out on the trail of a world-famous star who has decided to disappear from sight) and ends on the delusional Demon79, a version for dummies of Knock at the Cabin by M. Night Shyamalan which seems to deliberately close the season on atmospheres that have nothing to do with the series’ past and its sophisticated origins.
It may be that TV shows like Scission and Devs have been able to shake up the so-called ‘high sci-fi’ that Black Mirror wanted to monopolize or that the Palme for TV science fiction of the year will go hands down to Mrs. Davis by Damon Lindelof (here is our review of Mrs Davis), but this sixth season felt more like a change of course in the making, also thematically rambling, than a totally completed work. Whether it will be able to mark a ‘Black Mirror is dead, long live Black Mirror‘ type of revival only time will tell.