Black Mirror: Loch Henry
June 15, 2023 10:27 AM - Season 6, Episode 2 - Subscribe

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.
posted by ellieBOA (23 comments total)
I was a little disappointed this wasn't quite the Folk Horror riff I expected -- like, how would this show, of all shows, do Folk Horror? -- and I feel like it could have explored its ideas a little bit more. I wouldn't have objected to a longer third act that stuck with Davis for a while longer after the awards ceremony. But I did enjoy this a lot.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm convinced that Pia knew about the murders all along and this was the secret aim of the trip, and possibly the romance.

Podrick Stuart was a bit of a wanker. So was Pia.

Did I miss the part where they explain why the policeman dad had to fake his injuries and reveal the dungeon? Or where young Davis was while his parents were frequently cavorting in their snuff dungeon in another house?

Also, Davis actually knew about his parents, though didn't want to know and repressed it. That's why he was so troubled when Pia brought up the idea.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:22 PM on June 16, 2023 [4 favorites]

I'm only back because I feel a little weird about how hard I laughed when Davis' mom popped through the door to "Come Baby Come," and I want to know if it's just me. Maybe you just had to be a teen in the '90s?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:31 PM on June 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

When it gets to the end, are the events we've just seen what actually happened, or Davis' cover story?

I've only watched the first two, but the endings to both have seemed less like endings and more like set-ups. I wonder if all the eps this season are interconnected.
posted by Grangousier at 2:22 AM on June 17, 2023

I found the reveal that her note reflected an act of love/a gift for her son, rather than an act of remorse for her actions just devastating. The first "F" we see her write was clearly meant to make us think she is writing "Forgive Me", no?
posted by molecicco at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

I don't know. That bit kind of underscored how hard this episode leaned on the virgin/mother/whore trope that I think is extremely misogynist. It's one of the numerous things I really disliked about it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:33 AM on June 17, 2023

I liked this one, mainly because I think Pia and Davey were engaging and the story compelling all the way to the end. It's an interesting one for Black Mirror, in that the show tends to be pretty moralistic, but here Davis is left basically bereft. He's lost his girlfriend and his mother, and the latter is even worse because he's lost his idea of who is mother is or was. I almost wanted a bit more on that, but maybe his empty expression at the end was sufficient.

The twist I will say was fairly obvious, although I didn't guess the mother actively participated initially. It seemed almost inevitable to me that the tapes would contain the murders; that's a plot beat I've seen lots of time, although I suppose for audiences with less familiarity with VHS perhaps it wouldn't be.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:00 PM on June 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

I guess I'm slow, because I neither clued into the madonna/whore aspect (just thought she was a grumpy old fashioned mom and then there was a twist), and I fully expected the old friend bartender guy to be involved in the killings, as he seemed to walk a fine line between using humour to deflate a tense situation and just being a full on psychopath who genuinely relished in the story and had no qualms whatsoever.

The other twist I expected was that the entire town was in on it, in a more classical folk horror kind of way.
posted by molecicco at 1:54 PM on June 17, 2023 [5 favorites]

This was interesting in that the most Black Mirror-esque thing about it was the merciless dunking on Netflix, continued from the previous episode. I wonder what Netflix did to piss Charlie Booker off before this season—I’m sure there’s plenty to choose from…
posted by ejs at 3:56 PM on June 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

It seemed surprising to me that Black Mirror has only won one BAFTA, for hair and makeup in "San Junipero".

I knew the moment was coming, but it was still chilling and gross when the video tape played.

Did I miss the part where they explain why the policeman dad had to fake his injuries and reveal the dungeon? Or where young Davis was while his parents were frequently cavorting in their snuff dungeon in another house?

I don't think they quite came out and said it, but I presumed the drunk guy was getting unstable and chatty and something had to be done. As for the timing, I suppose the advantage of a sex dungeon is you can use it in the day while the kids are at school.
posted by fleacircus at 11:28 PM on June 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

That's very true. But the sex dungeon was also at another location they didn't own but frequently visited in a small town. I don't know how that was supposed to work. Booker doesn't put a lot of effort into plausibility which isn't, I think, necessarily and always a bad thing by itself — but it speaks to a certain amount of carelessness that often expands beyond where it doesn't matter into things where it does.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:31 AM on June 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Decent little hour-long crime/horror movie, good performances, mostly believable characters (that scandalously brutal murders would keep ever tourists away from a beautiful vacation destination was perhaps the biggest writing stretch), some very standard horror cliches (the VHS tapes, ugh), but ultimately didn't contain much (if any) depth of social commentary, thus ending up somewhere in the very familiar genre of your standard drizzly grey UK crime show.

So, kind of disappointing for Black Mirror.

The story was interesting enough but I kept thinking "Ok, this is Black Mirror so let's see where this goes." That it goes into the same territory as so many other similar shows - The Fall, Broadchurch, True Detective, etc - was something of a letdown. My impression is that the season so far (have only seen the first two) is taking a page from Atlanta's notebook, opening up even more possibilities than in previous seasons so you never know what genre you're going to get next (slight evidence for this is Samuel Blenkin/Davis, who did a great job as a very odd character in Atlanta's S3E5). That kind of shuffle worked decently for most of Atlanta, but I'm not sure a turn into fairly ordinary adult crime fiction fits as well for a show that made its reputation as smart near-future scifi. But ok, let's see what Brooker does next.
posted by mediareport at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

I think maybe the intended message was that the prurient interest in true crime doesn't serve anyone well.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

Well, ya gotta admit it did solve a horrific crime in this case. I'm intrigued by your suggestion that Pia knew about the murders in the area and was using Davis to get to them; it might fit with her willingness to fake evidence in the dungeon, which seemed totally unnecessary given what they already had but is of a piece with her and Stuart's prurient excitement. But I'm not sure we have much direct textual evidence that she knew and was manipulating Davis into a murder doc the whole time.Their affection and her surprise at the story in the bar seemed genuine enough, even if she then started salivating at the prospect of a true crime doc.

I think there's even less direct evidence that Davis had some childhood suspicions that his parents were sadistic sexual torturers, but both possibilities are plausible extensions of what we're shown, and interesting to think about. In Davis' case it's just as likely he picked up the uncomfortable vibes whenever folks talked about the murders in his presence, which doesn't go as far as actual suspicion but may account for his reluctance.

I will say that Pia's death as possible punishment for her prurient interest would bother me some. At the time it seemed excessively dramatic; I get that it does help to leave Davis as bereft as possible at the end, and highlights the irony of his mother's unnecessary suicide, but killing a character of color to emotionally wrench a white guy is a bit of a cliche. If the show wasn't so good at inclusion in general, it probably would have bugged me more.
posted by mediareport at 3:49 PM on June 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

All good points.

I just really didn't like this episode — I think the intended criticism of true crime opportunism was muddled past intelligibility.

The only thing I actually liked a lot was Mum's obscenity laden tantrum after Pia ran away. That was well-written and performed. Pia's death was gratuitous, but you gotta hand it to the foley artist.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2023 [5 favorites]

Was hoping for some Touch of Cloth references. Did I miss them?
posted by snofoam at 6:51 PM on June 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I thought this was superb. I am also loving the naked aggression towards Netflix and their endless appalling true crime docs and dramas.

…a show that made its reputation as smart near-future scifi

It is a show that made its reputation as satire. Brooker is a satirist. The “future” element that is often used in Black Mirror has only ever been to serve the satire.

It then got picked up for a US audience by Netflix and US audiences appear to see Black Mirror almost as a different genre to those in the UK. I can’t quite articulate what I mean here, but I don’t think anyone in the UK would come away thinking this was anything other than a really vicious satire of Netflix’s exploration of victims of crime.
Certainly seems to be the case with Netflix themselves who are leaning into the Streamnerry alter ego, which just seems bizarre.
posted by chill at 1:43 PM on June 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Just so my last comment isn't mis-construed, I'm not saying US audiences are *wrong* for absorbing Brooker's work in a slightly different way to a UK audience, in the same way that there may be meanings and context I miss when I, say, read a Russian novel, or listen to US rap, yet I can still enjoy it. It's just interesting to me to see an aspect of British culture travel abroad and be viewed with eyes that don't have the same cultural grounding, and thus respond to it differently.
posted by chill at 1:58 PM on June 23, 2023

Was hoping for some Touch of Cloth references. Did I miss them?

There was a Cunk reference tucked away in there
posted by devon at 2:24 PM on June 23, 2023

Just watched this. One aspect which struck me is that the BAFTA they win isn't his. Someone else has made a documentary about his story. He's lost everything.

I thought it was a little slight, tbh, but enjoyable enough.

I did not realize that that was John Hannah until the credits rolled.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:27 AM on July 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Davey is Oedipus.

More specifically, the title character in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, who, upon finding a mysterious rot despoiling the land, endeavors to investigate the cause ...
and discovers a horror in his family past that destroys him.

This episode may be not so much satire, but old-school tragedy.

More learned folks than I could probably expand on that thought.
posted by skoosh at 10:05 AM on July 13, 2023

I get that all the people around Davis are being incredibly cavalier about what has been a foundation-shaking revelation for him. That the documentary makers will gain the cooperation of people involved in these tragedies by promising that they’ll treat their traumas with tenderness and emotional complexity — and usually, I think, delivering on that promise — yet among “true crime aficionados” the stories tend to scratch a more primeval itch that has little to do with tenderness.

I’ve heard it said that some people watch soap operas because it helps them recognize the dissonance between the happily-ever-after stories we present to others… and the love-is-hard compromises that we make in real life. And horror, famously, seems to work for some people as an outlet for all manner of anxieties, whether reality-based or otherwise. So I take the episode’s point that true crime ends up commodifying human trauma for people who need to know, for whatever reason, that the world can be a fucked-up place.

But I think that this episode is doing the thing that Black Mirror sometimes does. The power of this episode is not in the message conveyed by the satire, but in the tactical narrative twist of what Pia discovers on that VHS tape. That gut punch paid off no differently in this episode than how it would've been done in Loch Henry: Truth Will Out. For the show to pivot from that revelation to the trailer for the in-universe documentary… felt like not much of a pivot at all, and it made me think they were trying to have it both ways.

It feels a bit like Natural Born Killers: depicting a bunch of fucked-up, violent shit, then claiming that its message is actually that the commodification and glorification of sociopathic behavior is bad, thereby implicating the audience as accomplices. But I’m not an accomplice; you’re the one who invented all this stuff and asked me to watch it.
posted by savetheclocktower at 1:57 AM on July 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I guessed that the cop father was involved and that the tapes would be relevant, but I was honestly surprised by the Mom reveal and that dinner with the mask hanging up on the wall freaked me out.
posted by Julnyes at 10:33 AM on July 20, 2023

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