From the episode’s IMDB.com page citation:
“A young couple travel to a sleepy Scottish town to start work on a genteel nature documentary – but find themselves drawn to a juicy local story involving shocking events of the past.”
Think what you will, but not all of ‘small town America’ is baseball, hot apple pie, and Jimmy Stewart.
To be fair, I can say this because, yes, I grew up in a small town in the middle of the great American plains. This was at a time when, sadly, industry was disappearing from an awful lot of small places that weren’t fortunate enough to have a passing interstate; so the employment – and future prospects – for a whole generation of youth – basically, my generation – was quickly disappearing. No matter how many new companies and/or businesses could spring up overnight, there’s just no replacing a major manufacturer shutting down … with the elimination of, say, three, four, or five hundred jobs. When little cities close up shop, they pretty much close up shop for good … and the resulting pain is felt for years.
This is the kind of place pictured in Black Mirror’s Loch Henry: a once prosperous and perhaps idyllic tourist trap lost its share of the local wealth when one of its residents – Iain Adair – turned out to be a closeted serial killer. As you can imagine, those longtime visitors opted to head to other (safer) destinations in the days ahead, so Loch Henry’s shops and restaurants and pubs were forced to shut their doors once and for all. With no prospects for a future, even the residents began moving far and away, setting their sights on greener pastures and leaving the once hustling and bustling little jaunt behind in the rear-view mirrors. Those who remained? Well, they got by, mostly on the kindness of themselves and what few others who passed their way, but it’s indeed slim pickings for an existence if Loch Henry is one’s final destination.
So it ain’t hard to imagine just how a darkness might take hold in such a quaint hole, and that’s the substance of this particular installment to the popular Netflix streaming anthology. When a former resident comes back home to visit his mother, he and his videographer girlfriend slowly stumble onto the idea of producing one of those ‘true crime’ podcasts examining the circumstances of the local legend. The setting is perfect, and the town’s cultural unraveling is exactly the kind of thing audiences are attracted to, so it would seem that history is not quite finished with the loch. Pulling back the layer of time – and uncovering a few still-lingering connections to what went down that fateful day – only produces questions that may or may not deserve to be answered. Either way, it becomes pretty clear early on that something remains in place, and this disturbance just might prove to be the death of them.
The problem with both watching and reading as many mysteries – true crime and otherwise – that I have practically guarantees I’m likely to see the strings being pulled along the way; and that’s exactly why I struggled with enjoying a good deal of Loch Henry. Too much of its details unspool in a theatrically obvious way – or, if not obvious, then far too formulaically – and I suspect that many who discover this hour are likely to find it predictable. While its performances and production details are all spot on, there’s just no obscuring the central recipe strongly enough to maintain the level of suspense and/or disbelief required to make it as compelling – nor as fresh – as needed.
Sometimes a good yarn is just … well … a different ball of yarn.
Black Mirror’s “Loch Henry” (S06E02) was produced by Charlie Brooker and company in cooperation with Netflix. The episode is currently available for viewing on the streaming giant. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought the accompanying sights and sounds were exceptional from start-to-finish.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being entertained quietly by “Loch Henry.” As a kinda/sorta polished riff on society’s long-established fascination with true crimes and unsolved murders, it functions quite nicely as an amiable yet mildly ominous distraction. Rest assured: as I’ve come from a small town, I’ll guarantee each of them has their own share of secrets best left unexplored. But as there’s just nothing different to the formula – and you’re pretty much assured of there being some twist likely coming before the inevitable conclusion (this is Black Mirror, after all) – the final estimation is reasonably easy-to-predict even if you’re watching with one eye or one hand tied behind your back.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the entire sixth season of Black Mirror is presently available to me as a current Netflix subscriber, and I was provided absolutely no advance screening of any episodes in exchange for a complimentary review.