Most people indeed dream about having their “main character” moment, but they don’t hope to see their lives play out like a drama for the whole world to see and judge them by. Black Mirror Season 6 starts with a bang that is on point with its self-aware humor. As always, the episode is mind-blowing in many ways, and the absurdity of it all somehow makes it extremely real. The show, as we know, picks on some very primal fears we have, specifically of technology and any kind of advancement in the world of the internet. Let’s dive straight into the first episode, Joan Is Awful.
What Happens In Episode 1?
A woman named Joan wakes up in her mundane life and goes through her daily business, dissatisfied because she doesn’t feel like a main character. Every time her fiance Krish makes food for her, she responds with “hmm” because she finds even that too bland, but she’s safe with Krish, so she doesn’t want to ruin things for them. In the middle of all this, her ex-boyfriend Mac (interesting choice of name) keeps texting her, and she’s somehow tempted to reply to him. At work, Joan is upset because she needs to fire someone. She’s got a high position at work, but she’s essentially just a link between the board and those who work under her, with nothing to do for herself. We learn about these true feelings of hers when she speaks to her therapist after a long day of work. Seeing how she’s feeling, Joan decides to text Mac back and meet him. She wants something passionate again, like how it used to be with Mac, but her life is going so well, so it would be a sin to change that. But it’s rather easy for Mac to get back on Joan’s mind, and she kisses him before realizing that she needs to get back to Krish and that this is all wrong for her.
When she gets home, Krish has prepared yet another bland dish for her, and they try to figure out what to watch on the platform Streamberry (which is a replica of Netflix, of course, and the different shows are titled the same as Black Mirror episodes). After scrolling a little bit, they stop in surprise when they see Salma Hayek in a TV show titled “Joan is Awful.” Salma has the same hairstyle as Joan and the same suit that she currently has on. Krish is intrigued and begins to play the show. Joan thinks it’s a joke or a prank at first, but then she starts to have a panic attack when she realizes it’s quite real. Everybody she knows is watching the show and sending her messages regarding it, and the employees she was interacting with in the day are also watching their own lives play out on screen. But of course, this is Joan’s story, and she’s the main character, so let’s focus on her. Krish hears the awful things Joan says about him to her therapist and decides to leave her. She can’t fathom the fact that he would do that based on a TV show that might have taken some liberties in adapting her daily life. Krish gives her one last chance to show him her phone, but she’s unable to do it, proving the facts on the television. The next day, Joan was fired from work because classified information was shared in the show, and she essentially breached her NDA. Additionally, the show also showcases Salma Hayek’s Joan watching a TV show in a TV show about her own life with Joan, played by Cate Blanchett (yes, it’s Inception but on crack).
Joan then tries to talk to her lawyer about how Streamberry could do such a thing, and she plans on suing them. Unfortunately, she can’t do anything because she’s accepted the terms and conditions of the streaming giant without reading them, and they’re safe from any and all liability. Joan’s next resort is to try and sue Salma Hayek for impersonating her, but it’s not really Salma on the screen but a CGI-deep fake version. In fact, the whole series is CGI. Joan’s only choice now is to endure this ridiculous turn of life events. After spending some time with Mac and having a difficult time, she decides to take matters into her own hands and do something that is actually awful. She eats a ton of burgers and takes a laxative to then go and defecate at a wedding in Church! Of course, this would get Salma’s attention on her and hopefully get this to end once and for all.
Unfortunately for her, Salma can’t do anything either because she, too, has a contract that she hasn’t read through. Salma decides to visit Joan instead, and they come to the conclusion that they’re both being treated terribly by the streaming giant. They decide to breach the Streamberry CEO’s office and destroy the source of this all, the “quamputer.” Their plan goes well, and they overhear the CEO, Mona, talking about how the “Quantum computer” works. She also mentions the fact that no one is interested in seeing happy stories, but everyone prefers to see themselves in a negative life (a dig on the kind of content we consume, including dystopic grim shows like Black Mirror of course). According to Mona, the computer will be able to generate autonomous creative content soon after these “real-life” adaptations.
‘Joan Is Awful’ Ending Explained
When they enter the room with the computer server, the two of them encounter a computer nerd with Michael Cera’s face. He tells them that nobody is allowed in there, and he’s about to call the police, but Salma is quick to shut him down. Joan, on the other hand, watches the screen, and she sees herself on the screen. This doesn’t make sense because, according to her lawyer, the streaming giant is only able to record her life through sounds. Michael explains that they’re actually in a “fictive level 1”, which is the show that the “real Joan” watches. To put it plainly, the Joan we’ve been seeing this whole time is also an actress. She’s actually Annie Murphy’s CGI version, who thought she was real because all the characters made by the computer believe they’re real. Annie now decides to destroy the computer, and while Mona and everyone around her is trying to stop her, she realizes it doesn’t matter because the “real Joan” would’ve already done it.
We’re taken back to the real world now, where the “real Joan” gets arrested for destroying property, etc., but she looks awfully satisfied. The real Annie is there too, and she smiles at Joan before she’s taken away. Joan Is Awful ends with Joan living a more content life, where she’s dating again and running a cool coffee shop. She’s her own boss and is even friends with Annie while they’re both under house arrest because of what they did at Streamberry (or, we could assume, Netflix in the real world). Joan finally had a main character moment.
Joan Is Awful is extremely self-aware in terms of Netflix being the main character. The episode reflects the fear that AI might be taking over everything related to the industry. With the writer’s strike and the way things are turning out, this episode definitely hits home. It’s also a great reflection of the effect of social media, making everyone want to have their “main character” moment or “life” without realizing they’re already living it.
What Happens In End Credit Scene?
There’s also a hidden end-credit scene in Joan Is Awful where we see the real Joan go to a church and follow through with her plan and get recorded by all the people at the wedding, meaning she actually did have to do that to get Annie’s attention. So now, the real Joan probably went through a lot of shaming online, but she’s still satisfied with her life finally after having gone through a whole lot of “awful” things.