Reality Is a Sci-Fi Dystopia, So 'Black Mirror' Has Nothing Left to Say in Season 6

Created By Charlie Brooker

Starring Michael Cera, Salma Hayek Pinault, Josh Hartnett, Aaron Paul, Annie Murphy, Danny Ramirez, Himesh Patel, Kate Mara, Rory Culkin, Zazie Beetz

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Sarah Jessica Rintjema Published Jun 19, 2023

Although known in recent seasons for its hit-and-miss episodes, the tech-dystopian anthology series Black Mirror is still iconic for a reason. It wasn't unusual in pre-pandemic times to hear a real-life event described as "like an episode of Black Mirror," but after a few years of lockdown-era doomscrolling and the sudden explosion of AI technology, an episode of a sci-fi dystopian future feels a little too close to home.

According to creator Charlie Brooker, that's exactly why the series took a pause in 2019, as he told Radio Times, "I don't know what stomach there would be for stories about societies falling apart." Returning now, the latest season of Black Mirror explores AI, exploitation within the true crime genre and Hollywood, space affairs and, strangely enough, demons. The show premiered with five quality episodes, but ones that ultimately lack in the substance that made the series a household name.

Three of the five episodes in Season 6 take place in the past, and while that's not inherently a weakness, it may be indicative of the series running out of gas. The first two episodes include a streaming giant called "Streamberry," parodying the series's current home, Netflix. The episode critiques the platform's relationship to the possibilities of AI, and the hollow, tragedy-exploiting nature of its many true-crime documentaries. While touching on real issues, Black Mirror doesn't go far enough. Although the message is to stick it to the man, Netflix accepts the attack with a smile, knowing that the self-criticism will only attract more streams.

The season finale is completely detached from technology, slipping into an horror-based short film where an isolated saleswoman accidentally conjures a demon that tells her she must kill three people within three days, or else the world will end. The episode is great, but it's completely removed from the point of the series, and feels like a farewell to the show's heyday.

Black Mirror is running dry, and it's not entirely the show's fault. In the chaotic year of 2023, Black Mirror might not be the right vehicle to warn us about the dangers of a sci-fi dystopia and ever-evolving tech. It may be time to make room for a different voice.

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