June 16, 2023

Black Mirror Season 6 Ep 1 Review: 'Joan Is Awful' - A Meta Trip into Streaming Hell

Black Mirror Season 6 Ep 1 Review: 'Joan Is Awful' - A Meta Trip into Streaming Hell

The sixth season of Black Mirror opens with 'Joan is Awful,' which offers a thought-provoking commentary on the streaming industry's relentless pursuit of content and its impact on individuals' lives.

'Joan is Awful' goes into the dark side of streaming services and their insatiable need to produce shows and films. But the best part: it's streaming on Netflix itself! Creator Charlie Brooker isn't just criticizing, he's turning the mirror on the very company.

'Joan is Awful' is classic Black Mirror, cynical and scathing with a touch of charm. Imagine opening Netflix or Streamberry in this case, and stumbling upon a show about your own life. That's exactly what happens to Joan (Annie Murphy) after a crappy day. The series she discovers is called "Joan is Awful," starring none other than Salma Hayek. To her horror, the show accurately depicts the events of her day, including her personal struggles and even her private moments.

Directed by Ally Pankiw, the episode captures the essence of Black Mirror's early seasons. It presents a disturbingly plausible near future where technology invades our lives in unimaginable ways. It's very reminiscent of the first episode of the series, 'The National Anthem'. When Joan tries to fight back and protect her privacy, she discovers that the user agreement she mindlessly agreed to is fully legal and she has no moves to play. The streaming service can use her life story and even create digital avatars of other users like Hayek and later Cate Blanchett. Imagine a completely fabricated show where even the actors are generated from real people.


Now, let's talk about the cast. Annie Murphy, known for her role in Schitt's Creek, delivers a phenomenal performance as Joan. She effortlessly navigates between comedic, chaotic, and dramatic moments, capturing the essence of the character's distress. And Salma Hayek, playing a fictionalized version of herself, brings a delightful dose of humor to the episode.

However, 'Joan is Awful' falls a bit short in fully exploring its premise. The episode touches on intriguing ideas like A.I.-generated content, deepfake technology, and data collection, but these concepts don't have a significant impact on the plot. Most of this is in the last couple of minutes of the episode. It's a missed opportunity to delve deeper into the consequences of blindly agreeing to terms and conditions, but overall isn't a detriment to the episode.


This episode of full of surprisingly hilarious moments. Joan having an explosive incident during a wedding ceremony, which let's be honest is a bit lighter compared to where some of the show's previous episodes have gone. The scenes when Selma Hayek and Annie Murphy are in the same scene are fantastic, their comedic timing is perfect, and I fully can see a movie starring the two of them. It's a solid episode to get us back into Black Mirror after four long years. 

The highlight of the episode undoubtedly lies in its meta-ness. As the layers of fiction and reality intertwine, we discover that Joan isn't the real Joan, but rather a digital copy portrayed by Annie Murphy. It's a mind-melting revelation made even more complex when Micheal Cera tries to describe it to a copy of a copy of a person. Yeah, it gets really meta. While the initial premise of an ordinary woman watching her life unfold as a TV show is captivating, the Black Mirror twist takes the story up a bunch of notches.

In the end, 'Joan is Awful' is pretty awesome, it serves as a satirical commentary on the persistent pursuit of audience engagement by our streaming overlords. It may not be the Black Mirror episode you were expecting, but Annie Murphy's delightful performance and the unique premise make it a solid return for the iconic anthology series.

So, my friends, as you binge-watch your favorite shows, just remember that the algorithms are always watching, waiting to turn your life into the next big hit.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆