Although Black Mirror is a dystopic concept, with most stories leaving us in a very saddened state, some of the episodes have been rather entertaining and even uplifting in some cases. However, the third episode of the sixth season, titled Beyond the Sea, is so heartbreaking that once you take out the sci-fi aspect of it, it’s just a mirror of human cruelty. Starring Aaron Paul, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Mara in leading roles, the episode shows how a man goes from victim to victimizer. Here’s what happens in this heartbreaking episode:
Each episode of Black Mirror is equated to something we might witness in the future or the technology of tomorrow terrifying the people of today. However, the third episode, Beyond the Sea, jumps back in time to the 1960s, when space missions were the most funded and highlighted projects. In one such project, astronauts Cliff and David have been sent to space for a 6-year-long project, but this is Black Mirror, so something that you’d not expect to happen is the reality in the episode. The two astronauts have been given replicas of themselves that are living on earth with their families, but since they’re not organic, the replicas don’t have any reproductive organs. The astronauts can plug into their replicas at any time from the space center and be family men until it’s time for duty or some emergency happens.
David Ross is a romantic who loves slow-dancing with his wife and playing with his kids, whereas Cliff is a man with a tough outlook on life. He doesn’t talk too much with his wife Lana, doesn’t hug her, or even spend any quality time with her. However, their personal lives had been going on at separate speeds until one night when a fanatic cult broke into David’s home because they found an inorganic replica living in the world. Not only did the fanatics (led by Rory Culkin) murder David’s wife and kids for living with a cyborg, but they also burned the replica, leaving David stuck in space in a state of agony that a normal human mind can’t comprehend.
David had become a victim of a cult for the profession he’d chosen, and his innocent wife and little kids had done nothing to deserve the nightmarish fate they were dealt. From sitting huddled up in a corner at the space station to casually walking into an area where you need a protective suit, David was slowly losing his sanity, and Cliff’s wife Lana came up with an idea. She wanted her husband to let David’s link come down to earth so that he didn’t totally go insane, and David loved the idea. You can’t help but feel awful for the man as he breaks down (as Cliff) outside Cliff’s home, realizing the full gravity of the loss he’s suffered. He’s a victim in the truest sense of the word, and he’d much rather be killed if it meant his wife and children would’ve been spared. He even agrees to make an oil painting for Cliff and his family because David is a marvelous artist, and he wants to show his gratitude.
However, these frequent visits quickly turn into more than just a friendly gesture for David, as he makes a move at Cliff’s wife and tries seducing her in a way that reminds him of the moment he spent with his wife. David doesn’t take too long to forget the gratitude he owes Cliff and his family, and he tells Lana to engage with him because her husband would never know. After almost going insane from grief, David turns into a filthy degenerate who tries seducing a woman, taking advantage of her confusion. Lana, who’d been starved of affection and had become confused because David wore Cliff’s body as a “suit,” had almost given in before she realized that wasn’t her husband. However, the moment she realized who the person behind Cliff’s face was, she darted to the other side of the room and made it crystal clear that David was not to forget that he was a guest there.
Meanwhile, Cliff found sketches of Lana by David where she’d been drawn in the nude, and rage filled his entire body. It’s a shame, then, that when Lana had asked her husband not to let his colleague come down here anymore because he’d struck their son, Henry, Cliff had taken David’s side. He let another man strike his son and considered that normal, but the moment he found drawings of his wife, he turned furious. Cliff punched David in the face, drawing blood, and made it crystal clear to his colleague that he was to never see Lana again. He added that Lana had said in no uncertain terms that the thought of David made her retch, and although we can’t say if she’d truly said so, it’d make sense for Cliff to twist the knife so that David gave up all hope of pursuing Cliff’s wife. The mistake that Cliff made, though, was pander near David’s ear that Lana was ‘his,’ again and again and that he’d be the only one to ‘have’ her.
When Cliff had to go out into space to fix a problem, he left his keycard with David, as was the rule. However, while trying to enter, Cliff panicked, thinking David had locked him out. A few moments later, he did open the door, but his keycard was missing. What Cliff found out after rushing back to earth harkens back to his time as Jesse Pinkman in “Breaking Bad.” Poor Jesse could never catch a break, from Jane’s death to Andrea’s murder. Cliff found blood in his replica’s hand and on the walls, that belonged to Lana and Henry because David had murdered them both by returning to earth as Cliff. When Cliff returned, experiencing the same pain that David had a few months earlier, the once-victim kicked a chair towards Cliff to sit down. The transformation was complete.
David had gone from being the victim of a terrible crime to the perpetrator of a crime that rivaled what had happened to him, and both men now had nobody else in the world. It’s left up to the audience to wonder if Cliff bashed David’s head in with a wrench or murdered him in some other creative wa, for murdering his entire family, but the torture that David handed to Cliff is far worse than his own fate. In case Cliff can’t bring himself to murder the man who slaughtered his child, he’ll have to look into the face of the man who’s the reason he doesn’t have a family anymore. The only way, however, that Cliff will be able to kill David is if he’s willing to sacrifice his own life because the station can’t function without two men. However, given the cards Cliff was dealt, killing his family’s murderer and then taking his own life afterwards might be a better alternative than having to look at David’s face every day till he goes insane.