Black Mirror Season 6 Episodes, Ranked From Worst to Best

8 minute read

Ready to feel bad about technology? No, it’s not the daily dump of real, terrifying AI news. It’s Black Mirror! After a four-year hiatus, creator Charlie Brooker has returned to Netflix with five new episodes of his dark anthology. As usual, the bag is mixed and the guest stars—Salma Hayek! Aaron Paul! Zazie Beetz!—major. But, in a puzzling development that will nonetheless surely come as a relief to some, Season 6 is significantly less “What if phones, but too much?” than its predecessors. There will be ample time to unpack that vibe shift once you’ve watched. For now, I’ve ranked the episodes from worst to best, to help you prioritize your viewing.

5. Episode 4: “Mazey Day”

Zazie Beetz in Black Mirror season 6Netflix

Welcome to the early 2000s, when the tabloids were cutthroat, the public’s appetite for messy young women was peaking, and the unholy alliance of smartphones and social video had yet to democratize celebrity surveillance. Our protagonist is Bo (Atlanta breakout Zazie Beetz), a paparazzi photographer who’s overcome by guilt when she snaps a C-list actor having a tryst with a man, the images lead to his public outing, and then he kills himself. Determined to get out of this predatory line of work but desperately in need of cash, she lets a fellow pap (Top Gun: Maverick’s Danny Ramirez) talk her into chasing one last, huge payday. The first photo of starlet Mazey Day (The Rising lead Clara Rugaard), who has vanished from the public eye following a car crash, will sell for $30k—or $40k if it makes her look like she’s strung out.

Like the majority of episodes in season 6, “Mazey Day” is set in the past. It has no link to technology unless you count the telephoto lenses favored by Bo and her colleagues. Its dystopia of choice is the Hollywood of the recent past. But given all the recent reconsiderations of mistreated figures from the era (see: Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Brittany Murphy), not to mention the generalized Y2K nostalgia now afflicting our culture, Brooker’s commentary on such exploitation feels like too little, too late. As a result, just about every plot twist is predictable. The big one that isn’t—you’ll know it when you see it—is simply too random to make much of an impact. The belaboring of relatively obvious points has always come with the Black Mirror territory. “Mazey Day” doesn’t have that problem because it is, in the end, pretty pointless.

4. Episode 2: “Loch Henry”

Black Mirror. Myha'la Herrold as Pia in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Myha'la Herrold in Black Mirror season 6Nick Wall—Netflix

In present-day Scotland, Davis (Samuel Blenkin from The Witcher: Blood Origin) and his girlfriend and collaborator Pia (Industry star Myha’la Herrold) stop for a quick visit with his mom on their way to shoot a nature documentary. “This is going to be a story about one of the last remaining holdouts against the commodification of nature,” Davis proclaims. Of course, since this is Black Mirror, you know he’s about to have that quaint idealism shattered to smithereens. The damage begins when Pia asks why his picturesque hometown, Loch Henry, isn’t a tourist destination—and finds out that a series of grisly murders took place there in the late ’90s. In fact, Davis’ late father, a police officer, was wounded in the course of apprehending the killer. As far as Pia is concerned, they have no choice but to dump the nature doc and make the kind of prestige true-crime series that the show’s Netflix analog, Streamberry, is sure to snap up.

If “Mazey Day” looks back at the particular brand of media-driven cruelty that suffused pop culture a generation ago, then “Loch Henry” fixes its satirical gaze on its exploitative equivalent in the present. And Brooker’s takedown of true crime—a genre that has already been parodied and problematized ad nauseam—feels almost as redundant, if not nearly as belated, as his takedown of paparazzi. The episode is partially redeemed by an intense performance from Herrold and a few genuinely observant jabs at the arty aesthetics of streaming-era crime docs. But then the glib ending comes along to overwhelm everything you might have enjoyed.

3. Episode 1: “Joan Is Awful”

Black Mirror. Annie Murphy as Joan in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Annie Murphy in Black Mirror season 6Nick Wall—Netflix

Fresh off the AMC meta-comedy Kevin Can F**k Himself, Annie Murphy stars in the Season 6 premiere as another harried 30-something woman who finds herself living in a TV series. Like the episode, the show is titled Joan Is Awful; Joan and her fiancé (Avi Nash from The Walking Dead) spot it one night when they’re looking for something to watch on, yes, Streamberry. The couple is shocked to find a lightly fictionalized reenactment of the not-particularly-great day she just lived through—with Salma Hayek portraying Joan. So, uh, what exactly is going on here?

“Joan” is about as prototypically Black Mirror as this season gets, sending Joan down a rabbit hole of infinite personalized content and touching on several other buzzy issues in contemporary tech ethics. With that in mind, you might anticipate some chillingly astute insights—and if so, you’ll be disappointed. But there’s plenty of extremely-near-future surrealist fun in the vein of Being John Malkovich here, with a great cast that also includes Michael Cera, Rob Delaney, and Himesh Patel. If you’re following the streaming wars, it’s also exhilarating to see Brooker take shots at the people who sign his checks; I gasped at the sight of a Streamberry executive who bears an unmistakable resemblance to Netflix CCO Bela Bajaria.

2. Episode 5: “Demon 79”

Black Mirror. Anjana Vasan as Nida in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Anjana Vasan in Black Mirror season 6Nick Wall—Netflix

A typographically intense opening credit sequence and grainy, desaturated visuals straight out of ‘70s video nasties herald an episode that might be the most conspicuous outlier in a season full of them. Set in 1979, this “Red Mirror Film” follows a lonely, young department-store shoe saleswoman, Nida (We Are Lady Parts star Anjana Vasan), whose isolation is exacerbated by the rise of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in her Northern English town. When Nida, banished to the store basement to eat her biryani, accidentally activates a talisman, a fledgling demon (played by Paapa Essiedu from I May Destroy You and The Lazarus Project) appears to guide her through the human sacrifices she must perform in order to prevent an apocalypse.

You didn’t miss the connection to technology, the future, or even this show’s other abiding obsession, mass media; there isn’t one. This is occult horror—and if it wasn’t for that category error, “Demon 79” would easily be my favorite episode of the season. (Couldn’t Netflix have packaged it as a standalone movie from the creator of Black Mirror?) Brooker co-wrote the screenplay with Ms. Marvel writer Bisha K. Ali, and the result is equal parts funny, scary, and smart. There are buckets of blood and righteous vitriol and a surprisingly crucial scene involving Boney M.’s bizarre Eurodisco hit “Rasputin.” Vasan and Essiedu have wonderful chemistry. This is also the one episode whose ending I actually adored. It just isn’t Black Mirror.

1. Episode 3: “Beyond the Sea”

Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Aaron Paul in Black Mirror season 6Nick Wall—Netflix

If you’re craving a heartstring-tugging episode in the tradition of Black Mirror highlights like “Be Right Back” and “The Entire History of You,” look no further. Brooker’s 80-minute opus is going to seem very familiar, at first, to anyone who watched last year’s Oscar-season scandal magnet Don’t Worry, Darling. Happily, the actual premise is quite different: two astronauts (Aaron Paul and Josh Hartnett) in an alternate 1969 spend their every idle moment in the spaceship they share hooked up to machines that transmute each man’s consciousness into a robot on Earth that looks and sounds just like him. These so-called replicas allow them to literally be in two places at once, snoozing in outer space while spending precious time with their families on the ground. Then Hartnett’s David suffers an unspeakable catastrophe and Paul’s Cliff consults with his wife (Kate Mara) on how he might ensure that David is able to complete their delicate mission.

“Beyond the Sea” does what just a handful of other standout Black Mirror episodes achieves: It uses a particular technological advancement as the catalyst for drama grounded in the complexity of human emotions and relationships. In that respect, and in its wistful tone, it reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s poignant sci-fi novels Never Let Me Go and Klara and the Sun. While Mara and Hartnett are also good, Paul is stellar in a role that’s more demanding than it initially appears. The ending is sure to be divisive; in all honesty, it wasn’t for me. But ultimately, how you react to the final minutes is a matter of taste. I can’t say Brooker didn’t earn them.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at