Black Mirror season 6: All episodes reviewed and explained

Black Mirror. Annie Murphy as Joan in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Black Mirror. Annie Murphy as Joan in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023. /
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It’s been four years since the last new season of Black Mirror, but finally, the cautionary sci-fi horror anthology series is back! Season 6 boasts some of the most ambitious and star-studded episodes of the series to date. Black Mirror has long had a reputation for edgy, mind-bending storytelling that puts everyone who watches it on edge. Has season 6 delivered yet another win for the series?

Join us on a journey into the terrifying depths of creator Charlie Brooker’s imagination as we review and explain all five episodes of Black Mirror season 6. There will be SPOILERS from this point on.

Annie Murphy in Black Mirror season 6. Image courtesy Netflix
Annie Murphy in Black Mirror season 6. Image courtesy Netflix /

Episode 1: “Joan Is Awful”

Black Mirror season 6 starts out strong with “Joan Is Awful,” which is easily the most meta episode of the season (and, in my opinion, the best). The episode stars Schitt’s Creek alum Annie Murphy as Joan, a businesswoman who returns home from work one day to discover that Streamberry, Black Mirror’s analog for Netflix, has created a documentary about her life. And we’re not talking about a broad-strokes documentary, but a creepily accurate, if exaggerated, recreation of Joan’s day minute by minute, starting with the very day she discovers the program.

This episode is packed with chaotic joy. Not-Joan is portrayed by Salma Hayek, who is the first of many actors referred to by their actual names in the series. The first episode covers the awkward firing of an employee, Joan’s therapy session, private texts and a secret meeting with an ex-boyfriend; needless to say. How could all of these things appear on a TV show? Joan is furiously curious.

Of course, everyone in Joan’s life watches Joan Is Awful (the in-world program), and of course it leads to all sorts of issues, like her fÍance Krish (Avi Arad) leaving her after finding out about her secret rendezvous with her ex. The worst part: when Joan tries to pursue legal action, she’s told that the Terms and Conditions she signed for Streamberry permit them to use her image, likeness, and any data they gathered. They gathered data through her phone, thus the real-time recreation of events.

And the kicker: the company is also using Salma Hayek’s image in a similar manner. The entire program is CGI-generated. And because Joan did the thing most people do and just clicked through all the terms and conditions on her various devices, there’s legally nothing she can do to stop it.

Black Mirror season 6
Black Mirror season 6 /

“Joan Is Awful” is a rotating door of gloriously hilarious celebrity cameos

While “Joan Is Awful” has a bit of a slow-burn opening that relies heavily on Murphy’s performance, things soon shift into high gear when she decides to take action. Her idea is that if she does something incredibly embarrassing that then appears on the show, Selma Hayek will be mortified and personally intervene to keep Streamberry from using her likeness. To this end, Joan dresses up like a cheerleader, draws a d*ck on her forehead with lipstick, chugs a bunch of liquor and laxatives, and then barges into a church in the middle of a wedding and poops in the aisle. It’s a standout scene, for obvious reasons.

The episode then shifts to Salma Hayek’s perspective, where we discover that she is similarly wrapped up in a legal battle which prevents her from stopping Streamberry from using her likeness however they want. Hayek gives an absolutely brilliant performance, using her celebrity status to badger her lawyer into submission and commanding the scene whenever she’s onscreen. When she arrives unannounced at Joan’s house and realizes that she hasn’t even approved the TV show, the two then team up to go to Streamberry headquarters and trash the servers.

It’s all just as outrageous as it sounds; the buddy cop dynamic between Hayek and Murphy is amazing. They discover the dark secret of the Joan Is Awful show: there’s no big reason that Joan was picked for the program, she’s simply a normal enough person that Streamberry deemed her to be a good test subject for their new AI-driven programming. It’s revealed that they could generate a similar program for anyone using their service, and that they’re skewing the programming negative using descriptors like “awful” because it drives more engagement. It all hits pretty close to home.

After a run-in with Michael Cera, we get the episode’s last big twist: Annie Murphy herself is a CGI likeness of the real Joan (played by Kayla Lorette). She realizes at this point that all of her actions are things which are already done by the actual human Joan, who we’ll call “Source Joan” as the show does. With that in mind, Murphy shatters the quantum computer (goofily referred to as the “quamputer”), setting Streamberry back millions and destroying their hopes for this sort of AI-fueled programing.

The scene then shifts, and we see that Lorette’s Joan went through with this in her own life, aided by none other than actor Annie Murphy in the place of Salma Hayek.

It’s a lot to process, and it’s just the first episode!

Black Mirror season 6
Black Mirror season 6 /

The episode ends with the real Joan picking up the pieces of her life and finally feeling like she’s “the main character in her own story.” It’s a surprisingly heartwarming ending for Black Mirror, and I thought it fit with the lighter tone of the episode. Annie Murphy (the actor) shows up in the ending too, showing how both of them have remained connected despite being under separate house arrests for their infiltration of Streamberry.

“Joan Is Awful” exemplifies the type of timely storytelling which has always been one of Black Mirror’s biggest strengths. It’s a fantastic way to start the season.

Black Mirror Bullet Points

  • It’s nice to see Annie Murphy make the leap from something light and comedic like Schitt’s Creek to Black Mirror. She still leans into comedy, but she also portrays the crushing anxiety of her character’s life spiraling out of control.
  • Annie’s fÍance Krish is played by The Walking Dead’s Avi Nash. He just appeared in Silo as a love interest, so it feels a little like he’s being typecast. Don’t hate it! He does it well.
  • I also loved to see Ben Barnes pop up as Joan’s ex Mac in the Joan Is Awful show. Because of course he would be the actor whose likeness is used for a steamy tryst.
  • When Salma Hayek’s version of Joan logs onto Streamberry in the TV show, the Joan in that version is played by Cate Blanchett. There’s a pretty hilarious line later in the episode where Annie Murphy’s Joan asks Hayek how Cate Blanchett would feel about some of their actions, to which Hayek snaps, “Fuck Cate Blanchett!”
  • And speaking of hilarious lines, “That wasn’t me, that’s Salma Hayek!” is up there too. There are so many funny lines in this one.
  • Salma Hayek’s contract says Streamberry is allowed to use her likeness “up to and beyond defecation,” which is why they can keep the church-pooping scene.
  • Speaking of that church scene, if you stick around until after the credits, you’re treated to a brief clip of “Source Joan” going through it. The scene with “Source Joan” is nowhere near as triumphant as Murphy’s version, due to how the AI tweaked things to be more dramatic for TV.
  • It’s a little weird that this cautionary tale of a streaming company abusing AI for profits is produced by Netflix. Streamberry could only exist as it does in the series with Netflix’s blessing, even as the show takes some very pointed shots at the company.


“Joan Is Awful” is classic Black Mirror, a story about the intersection of technology and morality in modern society with some wonderfully mind-bending twists. But a huge part of what makes it so good is the sheer chaotic glee of the A-list cast involved, and the razor-sharp writing. The timeliness of this episode is stunning given all the recent AI discourse. It deserves to be counted among the show’s finest hours.

Episode grade: A+