The sixth season of Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ presents various stories and moves into the horror genre with its fifth episode, ‘Demon 79’. Usually, ‘Black Mirror’ episodes tend to have a sci-fi aspect that acts as the plot device to create conflict for the characters. However, in ‘Demon 79,’ science fiction is replaced with the supernatural, making things more interesting. It follows the story of Nida, a saleswoman at a shoe shop, who comes across a talisman that summons a demon called Gaap. Gaap tells Nida that she needs to kill three people in three days.
Failure to do so would trigger the apocalypse and end the world, killing billions of people. He argues what is the life of three unremarkable people over the life of billions. At first, Nida is suspicious of Gaap and hesitates to take someone’s life, but after she kills her first victim, things snowball, and she ends up killing more people. In the real world, if someone argues they killed people because a demon asked them to, they would be considered mentally unstable. Does the same argument hold up for Nida? Did she imagine Gaap? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD
Is Gaap a Real Demon, or Is He Imaginary?
Several signs in the episode suggest that Nida might have made up Gaap. The fact that only she can see and hear him is the biggest red flag. If the demon is real, shouldn’t he be visible to others? Another thing that makes us question the nature of Gaap’s reality is that, for a demon, he is pretty powerless. While he encourages Nida to kill people, he never actually helps her with the murders. He pushes her buttons, but he cannot move a finger to help her when she lands in trouble. For something that’s supposed to be real, he is pretty passive.
Another thing that questions Gaap’s existence is the talisman. When Nida finds it, it only has two lines. But when Gaap appears and tells her about the sacrifices, it has three lines. When Nida is arrested, and she tells the story to the police officers, they notice that there are no lines on the talisman. The lines disappear when the sacrifices are made. Because Nida never made the third sacrifice, there should still have been one line on the talisman.
Considering all this, it is easy to dismiss Gaap as a figment of Nida’s imagination. However, the ending suggests otherwise. As predicted, when Nida fails to kill the third person, the nuclear war, which Gaap had told her about, begins. Outside the police station, everything is on fire, and a nuclear missile destroys the city. This could be explained away as a coincidence, especially considering that tension had been rising between the US and USSR, the two nuclear powers indulged in a Cold War for the past three decades. However, the fact that the war happened exactly when Gaap said it would give weight to his existence.
Another thing that proves this isn’t all inside Nida’s head is the newspaper clippings she finds in the basement before discovering the talisman. Out of the four, three are about unsolved crimes, while the last talks about the success of the May Day celebrations. One could argue that this is where Nida’s mind got the idea of killing three people before May Day and played tricks on her. But what are the chances of those exact four clippings being in the basement where Possette, the store’s founder, used to work alone? Perhaps, he, too, found the talisman and had a demon tell him about the sacrifices. Unlike Nida, he succeeded in the task and saved the world.
Why Gaap appeared only to Nida can be explained by the fact that she activated the talisman. Her blood was on it, meaning Gaap was connected only to her. His lack of active involvement in murders could be explained by the fact that his job is to corrupt people. He is in the process of initiation, which means he has to exhibit his ability to manipulate good people and turn them into murderers. If he started killing people himself, it would beat the purpose of his job.