Black Mirror is back to give us all nightmares about technology running amok. Season 6 of the Netflix anthology series, which just dropped today (June 15), may prove to be the most divisive yet.
Like The Twilight Zone before it, Black Mirror uses science fiction stories to illustrate disturbing facets of human society. Creator Charlie Brooker and the writers have explored everything from virtual reality to surveillance to (topic du jour) artificial intelligence.
Black Mirror season 6 reviews are mixed so far (no Rotten Tomatoes score yet). Critics are calling it everything from "most haunting so far" to "not as sharp" as previous installments. So, is it worth watching or not? Let's break it down.
What is Black Mirror season 6 about?
Black Mirror season 6 consists of five episodes, each spinning out a different yarn about technology and human nature. But this time, Brooker challenged himself by "deliberately upending some of my own core assumptions about what to expect.
As he explainted to Netflix's Tudum, "Alongside some of the more familiar Black Mirror tropes we’ve also got a few new elements, including some I’ve previously sworn blind the show would never do, to stretch the parameters of what ‘a Black Mirror episode’ even is."
As usual, Black Mirror season 6 is stacked with stars, including Aaron Paul, Salma Hayek Pinault, Kate Mara, Annie Murphy, Michael Cera and Zazie Beetz.
Here's a rundown of the episodes:
Joan Is Awful
An average woman is stunned to discover a global streaming platform has launched a prestige TV drama adaptation of her life — in which she is portrayed by Hollywood A-lister Salma Hayek.
Cast: Annie Murphy, Ben Barnes, Himesh Patel, Michael Cera, Rob Delaney, Salma Hayek Pinault
A young couple travel to a sleepy Scottish town to start work on a genteel nature documentary – but find themselves drawn to a juicy local story involving shocking events of the past.
Cast: Daniel Portman, John Hannah, Monica Dolan, Myha’la Herrold, Samuel Blenkin
Beyond the Sea
In an alternative 1969, two men on a perilous high-tech mission wrestle with the consequences of an unimaginable tragedy.
Cast: Aaron Paul, Auden Thornton, Josh Hartnett, Kate Mara, Rory Culkin
A troubled starlet is dogged by invasive paparazzi while dealing with the consequences of a hit-and-run incident.
Cast: Clara Rugaard, Danny Ramirez, Zazie Beetz
Northern England, 1979. A meek sales assistant is told she must commit terrible acts to prevent disaster.
Cast: Anjana Vasan, Paapa Essiedu
Black Mirror season 6 reviews: What critics are saying
Critics are very mixed in their reactions to Black Mirror season 6.
The Hollywood Reporter's Angie Han says the show "unshackles itself from its core premise to emerge as a less predictable version of itself," later adding, "By breaking from those old constraints, Black Mirror sets itself up for a freer, wilder, more intriguing future."
John Nugent at Empire writes, "As scathing and sadistic as ever, Black Mirror’s return tweaks the formula just enough to keep things fresh — while remaining recognisably Brookerish."
Consequence's Liz Shannon Miller calls season 6 "the show’s darkest to date" and finds it exciting to see "how the series continues to explore the essential question of what a Black Mirror episode can be."
Carly Lane at Collider writes, "In many ways, this is the most ambitious Black Mirror season that Brooker has crafted, with settings and stories that don't visually resemble anything that's come before."
IGN's Samantha Nelson says, "Season 6 of Black Mirror has more misses than hits, but at least there are two winners among the five episodes. Demon 79 shows that Charlie Brooker’s experimentation outside of the traditional Black Mirror box can pay off, while Joan Is Awful delivers some funny meta-humor that mixes well with the show’s classic dark spin on science fiction."
Outlook: Should you stream or skip Black Mirror season 6?
Whether you should watch Black Mirror season 6 depends on how open you are to change. All of the critics' reviews emphasize that the show has undergone a bit of a reboot, with less emphasis on tech-gone-wrong and more on the wounds humans make on themselves.
If you want to cut to the most-praised episodes, "Joan Is Awful" and "Demon 79" got especially high marks. Since Black Mirror is an anthology, you could just watch those (which clock in at 56 and 74 minutes, respectively) and call it a night.
Black Mirror has captivated our attention with its twisting, turning way of holding a mirror to humanity's often-horrible impulses. It's never relied on a formula; if it did, the show would be less interesting. Season 6 takes some big swings. And if they aren't all home runs, the effort is worth seeing.