Black Mirror (Season 6), Episode 4 “Loch Henry” Recap:
Davis (Samuel Blenkin) and Pia (Myha’la Herrold) are two film students who have come to Davis’ hometown, a sleepy Scottish village, to shoot a nature documentary. On the face of it, and perhaps due to the gorgeous vistas as the backdrop, “Loch Henry” feels very much like a typical folk horror movie. It’s opening, too, hearkens back to the typical reaction one would expect when Davis’ mother reacts with intrigue and no small amount of surprise at finding her son dating an American black woman. The cultural difference is almost visibly apparent, from the perspective of Pia as well, upon seeing VHS tapes of episodes of Bergerac, a procedural TV show. The show was a hugely popular one in their household, for both Davies’ mother and her late father, who used to be a local policeman.
The next day, before setting off to the neighboring town of Rum, where the duo would document the egg collector, they stopped at a local pub run by Davis’ childhood friend Stuart (Daniel Portman). Stuart and Davis also suffer from a cultural divide, with Stuart’s complaint about wokeness and his throwaway remark about diversity while interacting with Pia feeling like off-handed commentary about the current media discourse by Brooker. But soon, the story gets underway as Stuart complains that tourism around this part is in the dumps, and when asked by Pia why, Stuart and Davis both tell the story of the missing tourists and Iain Adair.
Here is where Black Mirror slowly starts to play with the format and almost comment on the recreations in the true crime genre of the documentary while also showing older video clippings in the aesthetic of a Super-8 camera. According to Davis, Iain Adair, a quiet farmer boy, had been responsible for the kidnappings of over eight tourists in the 1990s. He tortured them in the hidden bunker beneath his parents’ house before burying their bodies in the adjoining field.
Davis’ father, Kenneth, had been investigating the disappearance of the latest tourist couple, which led to him reaching Adair’s house in the dead of the night after Adair had been drunkenly babbling about the tourists down at the pub earlier that evening. Kenneth gets shot in the shoulder before Adair kills his parents and himself. Kenneth had been in intensive care for two weeks, but that bullet wound had led him to contract MRSA, which led to his passing. Davis and his mother indirectly blame Adair for Kenneth’s death.
Pia’s interest obviously turns to this “true crime” on account of its engaging “content,” suggesting Davis change the subject of their documentary to cover this touch of death at the heart of the small town. Davis is understandably upset, and even Brooker’s pointed and unsubtle dialogue can’t disguise the emotion of the character when he states that this is real for him and his family, not content. But to his surprise and Pia’s pleasure, Davis’ mother, Janet, agrees to the filming of their documentary, finding it a different but foolproof way to let the truth out in the open.
Stuart, too, agrees, his cynicism feeling like the closest to reality, realizing that a true-crime documentary focused on this town would bring the town back on the map for tourism, finally putting the bar back to profitability. However, Stuart’s father strongly objects to Stuart giving away newspaper clippings collected by Stuart’s late mother to Davis and Pia, arguing against digging up old graves. He even angrily protests and almost hurts his waist while trying to eavesdrop on Stuart’s interview for the documentary.
But our team gets to work, being given the green light by the production company head and also advised to dig up new material. Stuart provides the drone for the intrepid duo to create establishing shots. At the same time, Pia and Davis assemble all the footage they record and intersperse it with archival footage and newspaper clippings, scored to voiceovers by the interviewed. The trio also tries to recreate the forensic analysis of that incident by wearing hazmat clothing and using ultraviolet light to figure out blood splatter.
The moment when the trio realizes the extent of the splatter is also the moment of truth for the characters because they are suddenly reminded of what they are documenting. It is also remarkable how easy camaraderie there is between the three of them, as they jovially sing shanties while driving their vans after recording, only to get into an accident after a head-on collision.
After a sharp cut, we see Davis as the only individual who had sustained any sort of injury on account of his driving. Davis remains under care at the hospital while Stuart and Pia return to their homes. Meanwhile, Stuart tried to converse with his father, who was visibly distracted by Davis’ presence. Back at Janet’s house, Janet proposes making the shepherd’s pie while Pia assembles the final B-roll footage.
It is here that the inevitable “gothic-ness” of horror comes to the forefront. Pia realized that the numerous Baergerac VHS tapes of Janet are snuff films, and coincidentally, the tape that they had recorded contains the supposed recording of Adair torturing the tourists who had gone missing before Adair’s suicide.
They are recordings of Janet working with Kenneth and Adair to murder and torture their victims. The one we do see is rather horrifying, with Janet donning a mask before dancing into the bunker and murdering the tourists with a drill. Pia is horrified and barely manages to contain her fear as she sits at the table to eat the shepherd’s pie. She eventually leaves the house to go for a walk, but it could also be because she wants to escape, and the search for a phone signal is a bonus.
Janet, however, realizes what Pia had learned after going upstairs and seeing the tape. She then chases her down by driving and even requesting that she get back in the car. Pia runs into the forest and, while crossing the stream, forgets Stuart and Davis’ warning of the countryside being treacherous, leading to her slipping and hitting her head on one of the rocks. The stream sweeps away her immobile body while Janet searches for Pia with her large flashlight, finally screaming in frustration. We then see Janet effectively self-immolating here, leaving her tapes out for her son so that the full breadth of the truth could be released under her son’s terms before wearing the mask she had used for killing her victims and hanging herself.
Black Mirror (Season 6), Episode 2 “Loch Henry” Ending Explained:
Did Davis and Pia finally make their documentary?
As the episode skips forward in time and we see a Streamberry production logo, we realize that the “Black Mirror” element of the episode has finally entered the mostly by-the-beats folk horror genre. We realize that the events of this episode are finally being made into a documentary titled “Loch Henry,” with Davis being interviewed as the key person on which the documentary rests. We are also witnesses to the confession by Stuart’s father about the foreknowledge he had regarding Kenneth and Janet’s kink.
Ironically, the documentary wins the BAFTAs, with Davis finally getting the recognition he covets. Still, as we see his forlorn face at the afterparty and how his boss at Historik Productions ultimately takes over conversations, we realize the emptiness Davis must feel. Back in his hotel room, Davis finds a note in his pocket, written “From Mum,” which only manages to hammer home the sadness and ultimate cynicism of this whole enterprise.
Could this episode be a commentary about the commodification of personal tragedy being used to give an authentic voice to what could ultimately be pulpy thrills under the veneer of true events? It’s quite possible, and perhaps Brooker’s intention with this episode was exactly to highlight this dichotomy. It presents an interesting what-if scenario regarding Davis’ happiness as Davis attains his freedom of becoming a big-shot documentarian, Stuart manages to bring the pub back from shutting down.
We see the patrons at his bar wearing the same mask as Janet. But all this has come for Davis with the cost of the death of his love, and more importantly, a fundamental deconstruction of his life has happened. Because at the end of the day, the serial killer duo gave birth to him, and his mother ironically gives him evidence to catapult him to fame. The truth just pushed him deeper into a prison of his own making, a solitude from which he might not want to come out. And this psychological dissertation, as surface-level as it is, is what makes this episode so refreshingly quaint and thus effective.