Open Netflix at any given time, and the “trending” menu is inevitably peppered with true crime — tales of murder, cults, scandal, and beyond, all rendered with a stylistic polish that makes binging salacious stories feel like a not-completely-trashy experience. Black Mirror knows you can’t tear your eyes away from true crime, a subject it puts through the wringer in season-six episode “Loch Henry.”
“Loch Henry” very specifically pokes into Netflix’s own brand of true crime — where the details of monsters, victims, and grisly evidence may vary, but the visual execution tends to share a comforting same-ness that any regular viewer will recognise. “Moody piano chord,” muses Pia (Bodies Bodies Bodies’ Myha’la Herrold), envisioning the opening shot of the documentary she and boyfriend Davis (Peaky Blinders’ Samuel Blenkin) hope will interest popular outlets like Streamberry, Black Mirror’s dead-on Netflix clone. The couple, who met in film school, head to Samuel’s Scottish hometown aiming to chronicle a local naturalist, but plans shift once Pia hears about a gruesome event that rocked the community a few decades prior. It’s not something Samuel is eager to revisit, but he can’t avoid the topic once Pia starts asking why the quaint village is a ghost town rather than swarming with tourists.
We will be discussing plot twists for “Loch Henry” below, so if you haven’t watched the episode yet, here’s your notification.
“Loch Henry” is directed by Sam Miller (I May Destroy You) and written, like all of season six, by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. No time is wasted in establishing the setting (gorgeous countryside) and the dynamics between the main characters, as Davis and Pia pull up to the cosy cottage where his mother, Janet (Monica Dolan, who played an entirely different character in season-five Black Mirror episode “Smithereens”), awaits their arrival. Despite a bit of culture clash and generational awkwardness, Janet is clearly happy to host her son and his girlfriend. These early scenes are sprinkled with nuggets that come into play later: the lingering presence of Davis’ father, Kenny, a police officer who died a few decades prior and is much-missed by his wife, but less so by his son, who barely remembers him; Janet’s stack of VHS tapes containing what appear to be every episode of 1980s British crime drama Bergerac; a vintage camcorder that happens to be around the house; and the fact that Pia can’t get a cell phone signal. At just under an hour, “Loch Henry” has to be efficient about its foreshadowing.
Though Davis is committed to their original documentary topic, you can’t blame Pia for pushing — hard — for a change-up once she hears about the area’s very own boogeyman. The tale spills forth courtesy of pub owner Stuart (Daniel Portman, Game of Thrones’ Podrick Payne) — a brash childhood buddy of Davis’ who makes jokes about pronouns and wokeness, coming across like a charming but tactless bulldozer. This lack of filter proves useful for the increasingly curious Pia, and it opens up a hell of a flashback as Davis and Stuart regale her with the details: in 1997, a honeymooning couple suddenly vanished into thin air. The circumstances were so puzzling the story briefly commanded screaming headlines, until the death of Princess Diana took over the news cycle, and that was apparently that.
“Until one day,” Pia prompts, an eager gleam in her eye, and the old friends finish the story, which picks back up in the very bar they’re sitting in now. At the time, it was run by Stuart’s father (The Mummy’s John Hannah), a man who now exists in a state of constant inebriation. One night, a regular patron named Iain Adair — a nondescript village kid — began acting strangely, making weird statements and threatening his neighbours. Soon after, the young man shot his parents and then himself, and also managed to (non-fatally) shoot the cop who’d followed him home: Davis’ father, Kenny. In the aftermath, Pia is thrilled to hear, investigators discovered Iain’s secret torture dungeon and proof of many more victims. It’s juicy, and it’s exactly the kind of true-crime tale Netflix, or Streamberry, would gobble up: “Quaint little village, but for years this Hannibal Lecter dude has been operating a death den? … The details are so awful, it’s irresistible,” Pia exclaims.
Davis takes a bit more convincing — his dad was seriously injured, after all, something he reminds Pia was “real, not fucking content” — but he comes around. Stuart is jazzed, predicting that the film will lure vacationers back to the town. “I’ve even got a drone you can use!” he crows, because it wouldn’t be a Netflix-style doc without plenty of aerial shots. He also has a trove of archival material his late mother kept about the case, which he happily hands over despite his father’s grumbling. The wheels are in motion for true-crime triumph!
But of course… this is Black Mirror, which means there’s always another shoe waiting to drop. First, Pia and Davis have to find a production team to fund their film, and the haughty exec they speak to isn’t initially sold on it. They need a hook — “something unseen, unheard, unexplored,” which is why they end up breaking into Adair’s boarded-up basement, a supremely cinematic and creepy location, toting Kenny’s camcorder for maximum Blair Witch vibes. As far as Black Mirror episodes go, “Loch Henry” is surprisingly light on technology themes. But that shoe we’re waiting on drops, big-time, thanks to some vintage tech: one of those Bergerac VHS tapes, which Pia discovers also contains irrefutable evidence that Davis’ parents — the late cop and the soft-spoken widow making shepherd’s pie in the next room — were ghoulishly enthusiastic participants in Adair’s horrific crimes. We see grainy footage of terrified victims tied up, screaming through their gags. We see Janet dancing around in a sparkly mask and latex nurse outfit, brandishing a power drill.
The foreshadowing isn’t entirely subtle in “Loch Henry,” but the suspense still manages to be razor-sharp. The story quickly shifts from “Loch Henry” to Loch Henry, a title that eagle-eyed viewers can spot on the Streamberry menu in another season six episode with some very meta themes, “Joan Is Awful.” With that unmistakable moody piano chord and those opening drone shots, the episode becomes the true-crime film itself, crafted exactly the way we knew it would be — with Davis and Pia now foregrounded as the filmmakers who stumbled on the greatest story of their careers.
Only, Pia’s dead, having accidentally perished while fleeing Janet’s house in fright. After her secret was exposed — and after she failed to chase down Pia — Janet took her own life, leaving a stack of murder mementos labelled “for your film” behind. All Davis has now is Stuart, who was correct in predicting Loch Henry would lure tourists back to the area, and the smarmy team of producers who hog the mic when the documentary inevitably wins a BAFTA — and who are already greedily plotting a dramatic series adaptation of Davis’ story.
For Davis, this is all too real, but whether he likes it or not, it’s most definitely “fucking content” now. And as it turns out, as Black Mirror pokes into the idea of tragedy being exploited for a specifically curated type of entertainment, it’s contained in one of its most nail-biting episodes to date. A secret torture bunker hidden under a farmhouse, a filmmaker with a tangential personal connection who sets out to document the story, only to discover he’s more intimately linked to it than he ever realised? You can see why Streamberry pounced on Loch Henry, and why “Loch Henry” is such an enjoyable episode. The details are so awful, it’s irresistible.
Black Mirror season six is now streaming on Netflix.
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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.
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