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Black Mirror: Why Beyond the Sea’s Divisive Ending Works


Toxic masculinity plays an important role in the shocking end to Black Mirror episode “Beyond the Sea.”

Astronaut Cliff Stanfield (Aaron Paul) stands in a space suit in Black Mirror episode "Beyond the Sea"
Photo: Netflix

This article contains spoilers for the Black Mirror episode “Beyond the Sea.”

The sixth season of Black Mirror is full of shocking twists, though few feel as emotionally devastating as the ending of the third episode of the season, “Beyond the Sea.” Set in an alternate 1969 with advanced space travel and the ability to shift consciousness to a robotic replica, this episode follows astronauts Cliff (Aaron Paul) and David (Josh Hartnett) two years into an important six year mission in deep space. When they aren’t tending to the needs of the space station, the two are able to return to Earth and spend time with their families through a robotic doppelganger of themselves.

After David’s family is killed by a cult and his replica is destroyed, he slowly loses his mind until Cliff offers to let him spend time on Earth through his replica. During his time on Earth in Cliff’s replica, David starts to become obsessed with Cliff’s wife Lana (Kate Mara), so much so that Cliff essentially revokes his body double privileges. This pushes David over the edge so much so that he fakes a malfunction that requires Cliff to exit the station so that he can use Cliff’s replica to murder Lana and their son Henry – forcing Cliff to live through a similar trauma to his own.

But this brutal ending isn’t just a commentary on trauma and the vast loneliness of space, it also serves as an argument against toxic masculinity. The reason this ending feels so unexpected and shocking is because most people wouldn’t think that David would force another human to go through the emotional pain he’s been going through in the months since his family’s brutal murder. Even Kate Mara and Josh Hartnett were surprised by the direction the ending of this episode took.

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