Now Reading
Why “Beyond the Sea” stands out in Black Mirror Season 6

Why “Beyond the Sea” stands out in Black Mirror Season 6

Black Mirror prides itself on being forward in its hypotheticals of almost familiar societies in the hands of technology and human nature. Halfway through its sixth season, the episode “Beyond the Sea” captures this very premise, making the series’ four-year break worthwhile.

Dropped only this June, the new season explored more than just near-future dystopias. It exceeded the expected usage of machines and systems in favor of its characters’ natural selfishness and greed. The genre-bending plots ranged from celebrity werewolves to the immoral exploitation of murder cases in media, and befriending devils.

In Black Mirror’s blackest sea

Beyond the Sea, set in the 1969 US, tells the story of astronauts Cliff (Aaron Paul) and David (Josh Hartnett). In an alternate timeline, they use their replicas—a machine of their likeness—when they are not physically needed in their ship. Cliff and David transfer their consciousness through personalized dog tag links they lodge in an insert in their separate quarters. While their physical bodies are asleep in space, their replicas roam the Earth, together with their families.

They went along fine, until the signature Black Mirror’s first dark twist comes to play. While sleeping in his replica, David was attacked by a cult that strongly believes that having replicas is unnatural. This brought about the tragic end of his family, and the destruction of his replica disconnecting his only link to Earth. Having nothing and no one but the dark sea that surrounds him sends David into a rut.

Out of decency and kindness, Cliff decided to let David use his link and replica to be able to feel Earth again after weeks of mourning. And in return, David decided to commission a painting for Cliff and his family, using his replica for a week. Although predictable and a bit cliche, this resulted in David wanting to have Cliff’s family life believing that he deserves it more. Enraged when he found out, Cliff confronted David regarding his advances to his wife. In the end, David never let the argument go and acted out his revenge resulting in an even gruesome ending.

Cutting through waves

More than the technical execution of the plot, what’s more applaudable in this episode is the acting of the main characters. Aaron, Josh, and Kata Mara (Lana, Cliff’s wife) compliment each other’s performances. With the assistance of the alive and well-written dialogues, every argument, exchanged glances, and jabs felt natural but calculated. Aaron remarkably encapsulated the souls (well, consciousness) of both astronauts—the smug but deeply caring persona of a father of the household, Cliff, and David’s melancholy after getting to walk on Earth again which momentarily turned into selfishness and greed. Honestly, just give the man his Emmy.

The pacing toward the end twist seems like a painful ride into a tragedy. In this sense, the predictability of the incoming scenes comes off as intentional. It lets you know what would happen, lures you to your harrowing conclusions, then delivers you to a striking blow.

See Also

Beyond projections

Speaking of intentions, though noticeable to a trained eye, the show’s creator made a couple of bookish references as an extension of the scenes and dialogue. 

For instance, Lana’s book that appeared in a couple of scenes, Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel “Valley of the Dolls”. In summation, this novel centers around a female friendship in New York City, dealing with marriage, loneliness, and mental health struggles. This can be interpreted as Lana’s clinging to their old city life before moving to their secluded home. Regarded by David in the first part of the episode as “quite the butterfly” this correlation to the Dolls can further mean the misinterpretation, miscommunications, and disconnect between Cliff and Lana—which she finally voiced out in the later part of the episode, before its tragic ending.

Although not directly, the book “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” which David recommends to Lana at one point, is an early projection of the episode’s harrowing conclusion. The Moon is a 1966 sci-fi novel where a lunar colony rebels against oppressive impositions of Earth. It is an ultimately libertarian narrative of wanting to be independent of Earth. Relatively, by the end of the episode, we find Cliff and David solely cut off from Earth by the design of David’s greed and violence.

“Beyond the Sea” is far from a perfect Black Mirror piece. It may not be “San Junipero”, “Nosedive” or even “White Christmas” but it embodied the perfect message, from Charlie Brooker to his viewers. Amongst the misses from this season, Black Mirror is still capable of inciting fear and disbelief, since day 1.

Scroll To Top