Black Mirror Season 6 Episode 2 Review: Loch Henry

Our fascination with the true crime genre gets the Black Mirror treatment in this nasty morality tale. Spoilers. 

Photo: Netflix

Warning: contains spoilers for the Black Mirror episode “Loch Henry”

“Pretty wee thing you’ve captured.” So says Janet McArdle to her son about his new girlfriend on first meeting her. Janet, a walking cardigan with a tiny voice, turns out to know a thing or two about capture… 

Played by Monica Dolan in her second Black Mirror role after season five’s “Smithereens”, Janet lives alone, surrounded by kitsch ornaments and home-recorded VHS tapes of 1980s cosy crime series Bergerac, in the remote Scottish town of Loch Henry. She’s been a widow since the death of her police officer husband Kenny years earlier. When her student filmmaker son Davis (Samuel Blenkin) and his partner Pia (Myha’la Herrold) visit from London, it’s clear how unexciting and provincial they find Janet and her lifestyle. If only they knew. 

Over the course of “Loch Henry”, Davis and Pia find out exactly who Janet is, or who she used to be when Kenny was around. The true crime documentary the kids are making about a local serial killer unexpectedly unearths Janet and her husband’s active part in the sexual torture and murder of eight tourists in the 1990s. 

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Following that discovery, Pia accidentally falls into a river and dies while trying to escape Janet, who makes a pile of her murder trophies and home videos (Bergerac wasn’t the only thing recorded on those tapes) and hangs herself. Davis is left alone with nothing but the makings of a Bafta-winning documentary. So, asks the episode with a sigh, was it worth it?

It’s rare for Black Mirror to come down so definitively on one or other side of a question, but “Loch Henry” has very little positive to say about the true crime genre, or at least, what it reveals about people. Namely – that we’re sick little puppies frenziedly lapping up the milk of human depravity and pushing our little snouts into shit for, you know, kicks.

See the shift into slick, professional storytelling when Davis and childhood friend Stuart (Daniel Portman, always a pleasure to find in a cast) narrate the local murders to Pia. They’re not disgusted or saddened, but excited by the nightmarish events. See the crowd filling Loch Henry’s pub after the release of the hit Streamberry doc, callously wearing red masks like the one behind which driller-killer Janet tortured her captees, and feel the heat of this episode’s judgement. (“What was the name of that Netflix thing, about the guy who killed women?”, one character asks another. “Maybe narrow that down?” comes the wry reply.)

It’s also damning that “Loch Henry” describes how in the 1990s, the murders made tourists queasy enough to abandon the town. In our golden age of true crime television, however, that’s exactly what gets them flooding in. True crime TV makers may talk like Pia about honouring victims and doing justice to important stories, but really, says this instalment, there’s one thing on their minds: ratings, baby! All aboard the fame train! 

Pia’s accidental death (foreshadowed early on with Davis’ line about the dangerous countryside’s deep water) almost felt earned in the world of this story. It was a punishment for every delighted “Love it!” she exclaimed at every new, disgusting detail she learned about the murders. Though calling herself a documentarian, Pia was really no different to publican Stuart, who saw their film purely as a commercial tourist ad to pull punters into his pub.

In the subtext about the creative struggle between a desire for success and the importance of integrity, Charlie Brooker and director Sam Miller (I May Destroy You), show where selling out leads, i.e. the bottom of a fast-flowing river, or – not unlike Janet and her sick box of mementoes – alone with only trophies for company. 

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In season one’s TV talent show-skewering episode “Fifteen Million Merits”, Black Mirror worried about the harm done by the entertainment we make and watch: How it commodifies us, diminishes us, and knocks great chunks off our ability to empathise with each other. “Loch Henry” could be considered its sister episode, as a nasty morality tale about the cost of treating real-life tragedy as content.

All episodes of Black Mirror Season 6 are available to stream now.


3.5 out of 5