No good deed goes unpunished in Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror,’ and its episode, ‘Beyond the Sea,’ drives that point home with a brutality that leaves the audience dumbfounded. It follows two astronauts on a six-year-long mission in space who have replicas back home through which they can keep in touch with their families. It takes some expected turns as horrific things happen, and then unlikely relationships are formed. However, the ending rewrites everything you might have guessed would happen, forcing the viewer to ponder upon the psyche of the people involved in the story. It leaves us on an open-ended note. Here’s what it means for its protagonists. SPOILERS AHEAD
Black Mirror Season 6 Episode 3 Recap
It’s been two years since David and Cliff went on a two-man mission in space. During this time, they visit their families through replicas that were created before they left Earth. These replicas look exactly like them. They log into them through their tags, so they are awake on Earth and can spend time with their families when they sleep in space.
David is the talkative, easy-going one who lives in the city with his wife and two kids. They go to watch movies, and David paints their portraits and dances with his wife. On the other hand, Cliff shifted his family to a more remote location where his wife feels lonely because there are barely any people to socialize with. Cliff keeps a distance from others, and even in his marriage, it seems like things have run dry between him and his wife, Lana.
Tragedy strikes when a hippie cult breaks into David’s house. They believe that the replicas are an abomination. They go against nature and should be destroyed. Because David’s wife lived with the replica as if it were her husband, she must also pay the price. The cult kills David’s wife and children as he helplessly watches through his replica, which is also destroyed. With no means to come back to Earth and nothing to come back to, David becomes dejected until Cliff offers his own replica for him to use, allowing David to step into Cliff’s life.
Black Mirror Season 6 Episode 3 Ending: Why Did David Kill Cliff’s Family?
When David’s wife and children were killed, everything he had was taken away from him. His replica was destroyed, so he couldn’t return to Earth and be with whatever extended family he had left. He could even attend their funerals and grieve them properly because he had four more years left in the mission. He becomes depressed, and Cliff fears that he might kill himself. It is distressing because David is Cliff’s friend, but all the more frightening because if David dies, Cliff will be left to fend for himself, and he cannot do the things David can. It is a two-man mission, and both are needed for it. If one dies, the other can’t survive for long.
When Cliff presents this situation to Lana, she advises him to allow David to use his replica and spend some time on Earth, hoping it would lighten his heart. David readily accepts the offer, and as expected, the change shows after his first visit. However, it becomes clear that David wants more. He offers to paint a portrait of Cliff’s house in return for getting a weekly one-hour visit. Cliff doesn’t see any harm in it, especially if it will keep David from becoming unhinged and endangering them both.
During his visits, David notices a distance between Lana and Cliff and deduces that their relations are not good. He sees that Lana is lonely with no one around. She becomes interested in his paintings, reads the book he recommends, and is easier to talk to than her husband. A friendship develops between David and Lana, and for a moment, it looks like it could blossom into an affair. However, when David makes an advance on her, Lana rejects him. When he hits their son, Henry, for ruining the painting, she asks Cliff not to let David back in anymore. Cliff doesn’t understand it at the moment, but later, when David is on Earth, he sneaks into his room and discovers David’s sketches of Lana.
Previously, David mentioned that he could sketch anything out of memory. So, when Cliff sees Lana’s nude sketches, he assumes his wife must have posed for him. He confronts David, who reveals that nothing happened between them, and this is just his fantasy. While Cliff is outraged, David asks him to understand his situation. He reminds Cliff that he still has his family but doesn’t value them. Back on Earth, when Cliff talks to Lana, he realizes how distant he has been from her since he left and realizes that David was right.
Things get better between Cliff and Lana, but when David asks Cliff to use his replica one last time to apologize to Lana in person, Cliff refuses. To add insult to injury, he calls David arrogant, a snake, and a conman. This is his anger talking, but he doesn’t realize that David is already in a very vulnerable place. Something flipped in him when his family was killed in front of him, but he managed to come out of that dark place when he spent time with Lana. He finds Cliff unappreciative of what he has and falls in love with Lana. He is dejected when she refuses him but seems sincerely apologetic. However, when Cliff badmouths him and says that Lana feels the same, David returns to the dark side.
David believes that Cliff is mistreating him and saying all these bad things because he doesn’t know what David has been through. To make him understand that, David decided to put Cliff through the same thing. He fakes an emergency, sends Cliff out for repairs, and uses his tag to access his replica. He doesn’t use this opportunity to apologize to Lana and part with her on good terms. Instead, he kills her and Henry. When Cliff realizes that David had sent him on a fool’s errand and used his tag, he rushes back into his replica to discover what he has done.
Will Cliff Kill David?
When Cliff discovers that David has killed his family, he is horrified. It is sickening for him, especially because it all started with the intention of kindness. Lana advised Cliff to let David use his replica because she thought he needed it and it would help him grieve his family. To see that kindness repaid with such brutality puts Cliff in an impossible situation. When he returns to the spaceship, he finds David waiting for him. David gestures to Cliff to sit beside him, indicating that Cliff now understands what David went through. Now, they are on the same level.
Understandably, Cliff would want to kill David. However, things aren’t so simple. When Cliff discovered that David was turning suicidal, he became concerned not just about David but also himself. The responsibilities in the spaceship were divided between Cliff and David according to their abilities. David handled the computers and programs, while Cliff handled repairs. If David died, Cliff wouldn’t know where to begin with the computers, and if Cliff died, David wouldn’t be able to do the necessary repairs to keep the ship afloat.
The two-man mission means that if one dies, the other is bound to perish sooner or later. ‘Beyond the Sea’ leaves, it open-ended, not revealing what Cliff decides. However, chances are that he would choose to kill David. Now that he is in David’s position, Cliff has nothing to return to Earth for. He has lost everything, and just like David, he could turn suicidal. Even if he doesn’t kill David, Cliff could kill himself. While Cliff saved David, the latter has no such option. He cannot go back to Earth in the replica that was used to kill his family.
It is also possible that the authorities turned off the replica after the murder, leaving no way for Cliff to come back. Moreover, because it’s Cliff’s replica and no one knew David had access to it, the world believes that Cliff murdered his family. If he goes back home, he will be arrested. This means that all doors are closed for him, and there are only two ways his story can end. Either he will kill David and die later, or he will kill himself, which means David won’t survive for long, either.
Read More: Where Was Black Mirror Season 6 Filmed?