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Mick Joest

Black Mirror Season 6: Breaking Down Joan Is Awful's Twisty Ending And What It Means

Salma Hayek in Black Mirror on Netflix

Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Black Mirror Season 6 episode "Joan Is Awful." Read at your own risk!

Black Mirror Season 6 is now available with a Netflix subscription, and if you're here right now, you undoubtedly have some questions with the season opener "Joan Is Awful." Annie Murphy and Salma Hayek delivered an episode Twitter can't stop talking about, but if those reading this were a bit lost by what happened at the end, I totally get it. It was a trippy episode, but easy to understand after reflecting on what exactly happened after that big twist. 

Below, we'll dive into the real story behind "Joan Is Awful" and how it impacted the ending. It goes without saying that you should not read any further if you're not wanting to be spoiled on the big reveal of the episode, nor any other relevant details that will spoil a first viewing. With that out of the way, let's dive in, and talk about this wild episode of Black Mirror

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Real Story Behind "Joan Is Awful"

Annie Murphy spent the bulk of the episode attempting to prevent Streamberry, the streaming service also featured in the "Loch Henry" ending, from using its algorithm and CGI technology to instantaneously make dramatized episodes of her day with an AI version of Salma Hayek playing a version of her. Eventually, Annie decided that the only way to make progress toward this goal is to do something so outlandish that the real Salma Hayek will be upset that her AI version was seen doing it on television. Annie decided to load up on fast food and laxatives and bust in on a wedding while in a cheerleader outfit, then proceeding to soil herself. 

The stunt worked, and after a heart-to-heart with Salma Hayek, the two devised a plan to sneak into Streamberry and stop Joan Is Awful from broadcasting. During their plan, they ran into a tech named Beppe, who is watching Joan on a screen. Joan is confused by what she's seeing, until Beppe explained that she's also a "Joan" on Joan Is Awful, and is the star of the show watched by the original Source Joan. 

Just as Salma Hayek (or an AI likeness of her) is playing a version of Joan, in the Source Joan reality, Annie Murphy (or an AI likeness of her) is playing the part of the Joan we've been following in the episode, and as we watched it unfold, her choices and actions have been following those of the Source Joan. 

The Joan and Salma Hayek the viewer followed is part of the "Fictive Level 1" universe. What's essentially happened is that every time a Joan sees Joan Is Awful, a new fictitious universe is created. It's recursion and seemingly stretches out into infinity with an untold number of Joans ahead of the "Fic 1" Joan who is just above the Source Joan. 

It's a little confusing at first, but once the reader has some time to digest it, it's not too hard to understand. 

(Image credit: Netflix)

"Joan" Was Unable To Stop Destroying The Quamputer

Toward the end of the Black Mirror episode, Joan and Salma finally made their way to the "quamputer," which was a mysterious scientific device responsible for maintaining all the Joan Is Awful shows. Joan entered the chamber with an ax but was quickly informed that if she destroyed the quamputer, she'd cease to exist along with everyone else in her universe. Joan seemingly tried to hesitate, but because Source Joan destroyed the quantum computer in her world, this Joan had no choice. Joan broke the computer and erased her reality from existence. 

We then see Source Joan in her real life and actress Annie Murphy, of Schitt's Creek fame,  as herself. Source Joan is placed on house arrest for her actions at Streamberry, as is Murphy, whose choices and actions presumably informed those of Salma Hayak in the events we watched transpire throughout the episode. The episode ends with a scene revealing that Source Joan started her own coffee shop and became friends with Murphy after everything that they went through. 

For those curious about what all Source Joan went through, it's assumed that it played out similar to what we saw go on, but with slight exaggerations. Just as Salma Hayek's Joan did things a little more extreme or different than what we saw actually occur with Annie Murphy's Joan, it's likely that Source Joan's actions were not quite as extreme. I mean, the crapping in the church part definitely happened, though. We know this because if you stick around for the very end of the episode, you'll see the actual Joan carry out the wild scene herself. 

(Image credit: Netflix)

Does "Joan Is Awful" Confirm That All Black Mirror Stories Take Place In Fictional 1 Universe? 

There's a funny little bit in "Joan Is Awful," in which Joan and her boyfriend are looking for something to watch, and we get a bunch of Black Mirror references. Fans might've realized they reference the second episode of Season 6, "Loch Henry," another episode with an ending we just had to talk about

A look at the title screen will reveal that there is a reference to Will Poulter's Bandersnatch, which had a wild number of possible outcomes and endings. There's also a documentary titled "The Callow Years," which is a nod to Prime Minister Michael Callow, the subject of Black Mirror's very first episode. These are just a few of the many easter eggs of the episode, which point to one obvious conclusion. 

Does "Joan Is Awful" confirm that all of the stories of Black Mirror exist within the "Fictional 1" universe? I guess that's not entirely a weird concept to grasp, considering we're all aware that Black Mirror is a television show and not real life. Of course, if that were true, then wouldn't it mean that Source Joan was a part of our reality and that this is real? Maybe it's best if we don't think this one through too much. In any case, it's one of the best episodes of Season 6 and one I'm sure viewers won't soon forget. 

Black Mirror Season 6 is available to stream on Netflix right now. Binge the entire season, or maybe pace it out because we have no idea if or when more episodes will appear on the 2023 TV Schedule.

Stream Black Mirror on Netflix.

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