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Joan Is Awful is the first episode of season six of Black Mirror. It was written by Charlie Brooker and was released on June 15th, 2023.

Short Summary[]

An average woman discovers a global streaming service has adapted her daily life - and her secrets - into a drama starring A-list actress Salma Hayek.

Full Summary[]

Joan Tait wakes up to her phone alarm. She turns it off and sits up in bed. Krish, her fiancé, reaches out to touch her and she rubs his arm.

Joan brushes her teeth and eats breakfast. She gets a notification on her phone, which she keeps hidden from Krish, who has made her eggs.

As Joan leaves for work, she waves at Mike, who is jogging by.

Joan arrives at Sonicle.

Eric asks Joan how her coffee is. She makes a face and he says he'll have them look at the machine. He also informs her that Sandy is waiting outside. She asks him for five minutes to psych herself up for it. After he leaves, she practices what she'll say. While she's practicing, she gets a message from Mac, saying he misses her and he's in town.

Sandy is upset that Joan is firing her. She's working on an algorithm. Joan says the board doesn't want to move forward with it. Sandy says without it, they need more data servers, which violates their environmental pledges. Joan continues to blame the board for the decision. Sandy just put a deposit down at a new apartment and begs Joan not to do it. Joan excuses herself from the office to give Sandy time to compose herself. Outside, Eric tells Joan that he asked Brutus to escort Sandy out. They watch as Brutus and Sandy leave.

Joan struggles to reply to Mac as she smokes outside in a stairwell. Below her, Sandy leaves with a box of her things. Joan flicks her electronic cigarette and accidentally drops it on Sandy's head. She tries to hide, but Sandy knows she's up there and tells her she's a coward.

Dr Atkinson calls Joan back.

In Dr Atkinson's office, Joan takes a sip of coffee and grimaces. She tells Dr Atkinson it's not good and shares that she once dreamed of owning her own coffee shop. Dr Atkinson asks how her job is going. Joan says it's fancy on paper, but she's just a middleman between the board and the staff below her. It feels like she's just going through the motions. Dr Atkinson asks about her home life and Joan says she's engaged to Krish. He's a great guy, but he's also a little vanilla. Even the food he cooks is bland and she's always pretending it tastes better than it does. When she was with Mac, things were more exciting. She never got over him. Then she met Krish and he was safe, so she went with it. She doesn't feel like she actually chose him. She's just on autopilot. She feels like she's not the main character in her own life story. Dr Atkinson asks if she'd like that to change. She nods.

Joan opens up a text from Mac asking if they can meet. She says yes and asks him where.

Joan meets up with Mac, who says he likes her new hair. He tries to reach out to touch her, but she pushes his hand away. He notes that she came to see him, but she did so at his request, to talk. He asks how Krish is and she says he's good. He knows she's not really into it, but she reminds him that they tried to be together for two years and it didn't work out. She's going to marry Krish. Mac broke her heart and now that she's picking up the pieces, he's back. She doesn't think she can trust him. He understands, but says what they had was real. He wants to be with her. He'll be in town for three days and then he wants her to come back with him to San Jose. She says she can't. He tells her all the perks of coming to San Jose. She says she can't leave Krish, but leans in to kiss Mac. Once they part, she says she shouldn't have come. Mac says he's at his usual suite and will be in town for three days. Joan gets up and leaves.

Joan goes home to Krish. She claims she was at a goodbye party.

Joan and Krish settle on the couch to watch something. She turns on Streamberry to choose something. They look over their options. They find a show called Joan Is Awful, starring Salma Hayek as a woman who looks shockingly like Joan. They are confused. Krish wants to watch it and Joan finally pushes play. Joan quickly realizes that it's her life, starting when she'd woken up that morning. Despite this, Joan denies any resemblance to reality, even as it shows her getting a text from Mac while eating breakfast.

Julian calls Eric into the room to show him Joan Is Awful. Eric immediately sees the resemblance.

Sandy's friend consoles her by telling her Joan was awful anyway. Sandy gets a text from another friend asking her if she's seen Joan Is Awful. Sandy pulls it up on her laptop.

Mac is on the toilet scrolling on his phone when he gets a notification about Joan Is Awful.

Joan and Krish are bewildered by the similarities between Joan's life and the show. Joan thinks Krish is pulling a prank on her. He says he didn't do anything. Joan starts to have a panic attack while watching the scene of her getting ready to fire Sandy. Krish tries to calm her down.

Eric hides behind a pillow to avoid watching TV Eric. He's upset that they made him so flamboyant. Eric wonders how this could have possibly been made, while Julian is intrigued. Eric questions if Julian finds TV Eric more attractive than him.

Krish tries to orient Joan to reality and calm her down.

Sandy and her friend watch the show in the bar. They agree that Joan is awful.

Joan watches TV Joan fire TV Sandy and says she didn't say it like that, so coldly. Krish believes her.

Julian questions why Eric consoled Joan. He defends that she was upset, even though Julian thinks she was being a bitch.

Joan says they're making her look like a monster. Krish tries to say it's not so bad, but Joan knows it's bad. Joan gets a text and is horrified that her mom saw it. She realizes everyone who has Streamberry can watch it. Her dad and friends have seen it, too. Krish is horrified when TV Joan gets texts from TV Mac and agrees to meet him. He asks Joan about it and she denies it. Joan wants to turn it off, but Krish says no. They watch as TV Joan tells TV Dr Atkinson that Krish is boring while Mac wasn't. Joan tries to tell Krish that it isn't real, but he gets up and walks out.

Mac watches TV Joan says she doesn't want to get over Mac.

Krish packs as Joan tries to defend herself. He asks what she really did say if not what the show showed. Joan is silent. Krish continues packing. As he walks out, they both watch TV Joan kiss TV Mac. Krish scoffs and leaves.

Eric and Julian watch TV Joan and TV Krish try to decide what to watch. Eric says he never liked Krish and gets up. TV Joan and TV Krish are startled to see a show called Joan Is Awful, with Cate Blanchett in the role of Joan. Eric comes back to the couch.

Joan follows Krish out to the car and maintains that it's a show, that it's not real. She lies and says she hasn't seen Mac in a long time. He asks her to show him her phone to prove that she hasn't texted Mac. She says her phone is inside. He finds that convenient. He says goodbye and leaves as Joan begs him to stay.

Joan goes back inside to see the same scene playing between TV Joan and TV Krish. Joan gets a call from Mac. She throws her phone in anger.

Joan wakes to her alarm. She turns it off and cries in bed.

Joan leaves for work and Mike stops to shame her.

As she walks into work, Joan realizes everyone has seen the show. Eric says it's all anyone can talk about. Joan says her lawyer is looking into it and Krish is mad and walked out. Eric tells Joan to try to keep it together for a few minutes. Joan sees Brutus and asks why he's there. Eric says she violated her contract by talking about the data servers and algorithm that Sandy was writing. Joan says it wasn't her. It was Salma Hayek. Regardless, the board wants her out right away. He's there to help her pack. Joan gathers her things.

Brutus leads Joan back out to her car with her things. Several people watch from the same stairwell where she watched Sandy.

Joan watches more of Joan is Awful. She looks at the paper where the cover story is about the Streamberry CEO Mona Javadi, praising the success of Joan Is Awful.

Joan meets with her lawyer, who says legally, the Streamberry company is within their rights. She's surprised, too, but Joan assigned them the right to exploit her whole life. It's in the terms and conditions that Joan never read. It popped up on her phone when she signed up for Streamberry and she hit accept. For this reason, they're in the clear. Joan asks about Salma Hayek. She wants to sue Salma Hayek instead. The lawyer says it's actually a digital likeness of Salma Hayek. She licensed her image to Streamberry and it's all CGI, generated by AI. They could make Salma Hayek do anything they wanted. Joan asks how they even know what she's doing. The lawyer explains that her phone is always listening, in order to target ads to her more effectively. That's how they know. Joan says the show is making stuff up about her, embellishing things and making her look worse than she is. The lawyer says the contract even allows for that. It's watertight. Her advice it to try to ignore it. Joan leaves. She's recognized by a man on her way out.

Mac watches TV Joan meet with her lawyer. He answers a knock at the door to find Joan. He runs back to his TV and turns off the show. Joan starts crying and he hugs her. She starts kissing him.

Joan and Mac kiss in bed. He stops and tells her he can't get sexually aroused. She tries to help him, but he's worried about their interaction being on the show. Then he'll be the guy who can't get it up for Salma Hayek. People will laugh at him. Joan says the show is called Joan Is Awful. He didn't agree to be a public figure, but neither did she. He says she did. It said so on the show. Joan wraps a sheet around herself and goes back to Mac's TV. She starts watching the show where he left it off. She gets an idea.

Joan eats a large amount of fast food, to the point where she has to force herself to keep eating. Then she drinks a bottle of laxative.

Joan drives to a church. She puts lipstick on her face.

Joan interrupts a wedding. She's dressed as a cheerleader and has a lipstick penis on her face. After she arrives, she pulls down her pants and defecates on the floor, horrifying the audience.

Joan is arrested and has her mugshot taken. She laughs and says Salma Hayek is going to hate it. The cop doesn't understand as he hasn't seen the show. Another cop comes in and says Joan's lawyer posted bail.

Joan drinks and watches TV Joan in the church.

Salma Hayek tells Gainsborough she was horrified to see herself defecating in a church. He says it's technically Joan, not her. Salma says she has her face and therefore her anus. She's Roman Catholic. Her grandmother was going to be a nun. She asks what right they have to make this. Gainsborough shows her the contract she signed with Streamberry allowing them to use her likeness for anything. Salma says she doesn't read this. That's why she pays Gainsborough to protect her. She wants them to do damage control and asks what he can do to erase the image. He says there's nothing. She'll settle for a huge lawsuit. He says there's no legal basis. They can't sue Streamberry. She wants to sue Gainsborough instead. She fires him and leaves.

Joan wakes to her doorbell ringing. She goes to the door to see Salma Hayek. She understands that Salma Hayek is mad, but welcomes her inside. Salma says they need to talk. Salma looks around and asks what's wrong with Joan that she's so disgusting. Joan says the last few days have been rough. Salma says she doesn't want to be associated with Joan. Joan also doesn't want to be associated with Joan. She's lost everything and her entire life is on Streamberry. She's sorry for what she did, but she was trying to get Salma's attention so Salma would go to Streamberry and get them to shut it down. Salma says she tried and they wouldn't do it. They lied about everything. She didn't imagine this was how it would end up. And they're paying her one tenth of what they're paying George Clooney. She's shocked that they're not paying Joan anything at all. Salma grabs the paper and says Mona Javadi is the real bad guy. Salma wants to go and break the computer that's done this. Joan agrees. She wants to break it physically. They just need to get into Mona's office. Salma can just walk in the front door because she's Salma Hayek.

Salma rides an escalator and goes to the receptionist for Streamberry. She says she has an appointment with Mona Javadi. The receptionist can't find it and gets flustered. Salma asks for a private bathroom she can use. Thanks to their show, all people can think about when they see her going into the bathroom is that scene. The receptionist has someone get her into a more private bathroom. Once she's away from them, she sneaks away.

Fatima Klaas is interviewing Mona about Streamberry's success. Lucy interrupts and says it's important. Mona steps away and learns that Salma Hayek is asking to see her. Mona says to have security throw her out. Mona goes back to Fatima to talk about Joan Is Awful.

Salma lets Joan inside. Together, they make their way through the building.

Mona talks to Fatima about the work they're doing to create new content as Salma and Joan sneak into her office. Mona says it's all possible due to the quamputer, which is just down the corridor on the left. Programs that would normally take months to make are available immediately, like Joan Is Awful. Fatima says the Joan in the show is based on a real Joan and asks what's special about her. Mona says there's nothing special about her. They were looking for an average, nobody person, to test it. It's just the beginning. They're looking to create tailored content for every single one of their members. There's even one for Fatima, which will be available to stream starting on Friday. Fatima asks why it's all so negative. Mona says they tested more positive content but their subjects just didn't buy it. Showing people their most negative attributes confirmed their innermost fears and mesmerized them, which drives engagement.

Salma wants to kill the quamputer.

Lucy asks the receptionist where Salma went. The receptionist and security have been unable to locate her.

Salma and Joan sneak through the building. They find Beppe in a room, eating noodles and watching the quamputer. He goes to call security, but Salma tells him she'll break his arm if he does. She starts trying to figure out how to get into the quamputer. Joan sees herself on his screen and asks him why it doesn't show Salma as her. He says it's the variant that the Joan below her sees when she watches the show. She's not the original Joan. Source Joan is the original. She's just a Joan. He shows her Source Joan on the monitor. She's a version of Joan played by a digital likeness of Annie Murphy. She's playing an adaptation of Joan. Source Joan lives in reality. When she watches the show, she sees this Joan as her. That's the fictive level they're on, fictive level one. This is an adaptation of Joan's life. She's in a show right now. Even he is part of it. Michael Cera licensed his face, just like Annie Murphy on level one and Salma Hayek on level two. Salma objects to the notion that she's playing herself instead of just being herself. She has found an axe to break the quamputer. Beppe explains that she's just being tricked into believing she's real. Joan is angry and slaps Beppe, knocking him out. She has Salma guard the door so she can kill the computer. She uses Beppe's access badge to get into the room.

Security scours the building for them.

Joan hesitates before breaking the computer. She tries to work out everything that Beppe just said. Mona comes in and says if she destroys the computer, she'll destroy everybody inside all the fictive levels above them. Billions of souls that consider themselves to be real will die. The reality they're in will cease to exist. When Salma realizes she'll die, she tells Joan to put the axe down. Joan says she can't. Her standing there means Source Joan did it before her. It doesn't really matter what she wants because the events this is based on have already happened. It's not her decision. It's Joan's. She takes the axe and repeatedly hits the quamputer. As she does, the elements around her start to disappear. Source Joan and Annie Murphy take their places. They celebrate having done it. Joan is detained by security.

Security leads Joan out in cuffs while Annie Murphy talks to another security officer.

Source Joan tells her therapist that she's dating again and taking it slow. She's making time for herself. It feels good to be okay on her own. Her new job is far less corporate. She's her own boss. She treats her staff well and she's proud of what she does. She finally feels like she's the main character in her own life. She's still on house arrest, which comes with good days and bad days.

Joan steps outside.

At Joan's Coffee, Joan makes coffee. Annie Murphy comes in. She's also on house arrest. She and Joan are now friends. Annie orders her regular and they chat.


Notes and Trivia[]

  • The coffee Joan is drinking when she meets her therapist is from Yorkies Coffee House. This is a reference to the character Yorkie from San Junipero, and the company is later seen in the episode Mazey Day.
  • When Joan meets up with Mac for the first time in the episode, the restaurant they meet in can be heard playing the song "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)" which played a prominent role in Fifteen Million Merits.
  • When the streaming app Streamberry is first turned on several references to previous and subsequent episodes can be seen by the shows on display:
    • Both the Hot Shot and Botherguts TV series from Fifteen Million Merits.
    • True crime documentary Loch Henry: Truth Will Out from the following Loch Henry episode and The Callow Years, a six-part documentary about the Prime Ministership of Michael Callow from The National Anthem, made by the same production company, Historik.
    • Another true crime documentary on Victoria Skillane from White Bear
    • Colin from Bandersnatch can be seen on the cover for a program called Finding Ritman, and another Bandersnatch-related documentary titled MAD MIND: The Jerome F. Davis Story is also featured.
    • Series 1 of the classic sci-fi series Space Fleet, first mentioned in USS Callister.
    • A documentary on Michael Smart, a controversial right-wing politician from Demon 79 titled Smart? From Pariah to Prime Minister while Ashley Ortiz can be seen on one of the other programs at the bottom of the app.
    • A program called Juniper Dreaming is also seen on the app, which may be a reference to the episode San Junipero.
  • Sandy and Mac are shown using the Smithereen social media app from Smithereens.
  • While Mac is browsing through the Smithereen app, he can be seen going through posts and feeds from USN as well as ones from Lacie Pound from Nosedive and Tusk from Hated in the Nation. A post from USN also mentions UK Prime Minister Michael Smart from Demon 79.
  • The fast food Buster Burgers that Joan eats are from the fast food chain Barnies BBQ, which was first featured as Kenny's workplace in Shut Up and Dance.
  • The whiskey brand Joan mixes with laxative and drinks is called Callister's, a reference to the episode USS Callister.
  • Joan seeks help from a law firm called Skillane Legal. This may be a reference to Victoria Skillane from White Bear.
  • The first newspaper that Joan reads contains an article that states that the Grain from The Entire History of You is apparently going out of style. The same newspaper also has an article about the TCKR company, first introduced in San Junipero.
  • A post-credits scene shows Source Joan entering the church and defecating on the floor.


Episode Stills[]

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