‘Black Mirror’ Season 6: Annie Murphy & Salma Hayek Team Up for a Mind-Bending Reality Check

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

If you’re looking for a mind-bending story that’ll make you think twice about accepting terms and conditions without reading the fine print, you’ve come to the right place.

This week, Netflix released season six of Black Mirror, which features five standalone episodes that are already making headlines. One that caught our attention was Joan Is Awful starring Annie Murphy and Salma Hayek. The brand-new installment looked like a comedic glimpse into stolen identity, but it’s so much more than that.

black mirror annie murphy episode joan is awful
Nick Wall/Netflix

Joan Is Awful tells the story of an unlucky woman named Joan (Murphy), who’s stuck in a rut at home and at work. As she tells her therapist, “I feel like I’m not the main character in my own life story.”

Everything changes one night when she opens a fictional streaming service called Streamberry and realizes there’s a brand-new show modeled after her life. On-screen, Joan is played by Salma Hayek. But the first episode features everything that happened to Joan that day—word for word. The series is fittingly titled Joan Is Awful.

Understandably, Joan freaks out. But when she seeks legal help, she learns that she gave Streamberry the rights to her personal story when she accepted its terms and conditions. Joan tries to seek revenge by performing a series of stunts that will embarrass Hayek (her on-screen doppelgänger). We won’t go into detail, but we’ll give you a hint: laxatives.

black mirror joan is awful reaction salma hayek
Ana Blumekron/Netflix

This is where things get trippy. When Hayek complains to Streamberry, she learns that she, too, signed her life away when she accepted the terms and conditions. And since AI is generating her image for the show, there’s nothing she can do.

As it turns out, Hayek is just one key player in an infinite web that is Joan Is Awful. There are multiple “fictive levels” of the show—in fact, Murphy isn’t even the real Joan. The 36-year-old actress is portraying a version of Joan on the first level of this fictive universe.

So, when the real Joan opens Streamberry, the on-screen Joan is played by Murphy. And in Murphy’s version of Joan Is Awful, the on-screen Joan is played by Hayek. And in Hayek’s version of Joan Is Awful, the on-screen Joan is played by Cate Blanchett (and so on and so on). Confused yet?

The episode is a total mind trip, but the biggest takeaway is that it highlights the potentially negative impact of artificial intelligence. By accepting the terms and conditions, both Hayek and Murphy gave Streamberry permission to use their image for literally anything. And since the boundaries of AI are limitless, the streaming service used their faces to create a television show starring AI-generated imagery of the actresses. What’s next?

Joan Is Awful also warns about the risk of giving away too much personal information and how people tend to ignore positive traits and focus on things that can be used against you. This is illustrated when Fatima (Danielle Vitalis) asks Streamberry why they chose Joan Is Awful versus Joan Is Awesome. The employee responds, “We did try more affirmative content in the test cell, but we found that our subjects just didn’t buy it.” *Chills*

Be sure to tune into Black Mirror season six…if you dare.

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Senior Editor

Greta Heggeness is a California-based editor at PureWow and has been writing about entertainment since 2015. She covers everything from awards shows to exclusive celebrity...