Black Mirror 'Demon 79' spoilers follow.
There's a chilling moment in the final scenes of Black Mirror's 'Demon 79' where it looks like Paapa Essiedu's charismatic disco-demon Gaap was just the figment of lonely shop assistant Nida's (Anjana Vasan) imagination.
After all, she did first see him winking at her from the TV as Bobby Farrell from Boney M.
"Nida is someone who is diminished daily by the world around her," Vasan said (via Den Of Geek). "She really softens the edges of herself and her personality.
"I wondered what it might be like if her mom was someone who may or may not have had any kind of mental health issues, but was loud and eccentric or didn’t quite assimilate in a way that was 'acceptable' or the norm and was maybe kind of looked at weirdly by society."
"The question mark over the whole story is, 'Is she insane? Is this her imagination? Or is this real?' For me, it was more interesting to imagine that people were saying that she was mad, but that wasn’t necessarily the truth."
The clock strikes midnight and the world doesn't Cinderella-style transform into the burning hellscape Gaap had warned her of, when she freed him during her lunch break three days prior.
But then, while the coppers outside the interrogation room chat over whether Nida's fallen prey to the prognostications of her own internal Rasputin, sirens sound in the distance – the apocalypse is indeed imminent.
Back in that interrogation room, a defeated Gaap poofs back into our realm to commiserate with Nida over a job at saving the world not-so-well done, consigning him to "eternal oblivion" at the behest of the cosmic powers that be.
A hopeful look then comes over the charming and quick-witted Gaap, as he asks: "Do you wanna come with me?"
He explains he's been "checking the small print" – something Joan in another episode from this season should have done – and there's a "loophole" for a human companion to come along.
"Into eternal oblivion?" a scared Nida asks. "Oh no, it's much worse than that," Gaap warns, wide-eyed, before cracking a smile, "It's with me." A tickle of a smile on Nida's lips confirms she's in and as missiles rain down outside, the pair walk off smiling, hand in hand, into their own version of a sunset.
With 'Demon 79', Charlie Brooker and his co-writer on this episode Bisha K Ali saved the best for last and, in what is otherwise a notoriously dystopian tech drama, managed to leave us with a subtly romantic and decidedly human final moment to close the sixth season.
Vasan, who plays Nida, smiled as she explained the unexpected ending, divorced from the doomsday scenario unfolding outside, saying: "It might sound corny, but at the heart of it is love and hope at the end."
Essiedu added: "Eternal oblivion, which is not presented as some appealing thing in the beginning of the episode, but it seems like a suddenly very romantic choice when the world is burning behind them.
"I remember Bisha saying something interesting – she was like, 'Everything is f**ked, find your person. Find your people.' And there's something kind of romantic about that."
In that context, the romance of that final moment where the worst thing in the world allows these two souls to become intertwined, is up there with the blissful reunion between Kelly and Yorkie at the end of the fan favourite episode 'San Junipero'.
Like that third season instalment, 'Demon 79' is bizarrely uplifting, with a sweetly surprising ending that leaves you thinking maybe a lifetime in limbo would be lovely.
Both have proved radical departures from the Black Mirror mould, but we can't just be quivering with despair in the corner all the time – even if we are in various forms of the afterlife.
This emotionally rooted finale owes much of its brilliance to Vasan and Essiedu's blossoming chemistry as Nida and Gaap, moving from the dark laughs of a buddy comedy to the dilated, knowing stares of a burgeoning romance.
It's an interesting journey for Nida in particular, who we first meet as a shop assistant with an underlying river of rage that bubbles up with pulpy violent visions towards those who embody the xenophobia of Thatcher-era Britain.
Catharsis comes in that final car chase of the smarmy but dangerous Tory candidate Michael Smart (David Shields) – who feels like a spiritual doppelgänger of Succession's presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken.
Nida dispatching Smart feels like the route to something better for herself, while also addressing the marginalisation of women of colour, but it turns out Black Mirror has another trick up its sleeve, since she gets the job of averting Smart's far-right government via Armageddon.
A kind of peace and antidote to Nida's quietly angry exhaustion ultimately comes with the clean slate of that apocalypse and "eternal oblivion". What's more Black Mirror than that?
"It was quite a character arc," Vasan said (via Tudum). "In the beginning, she’s just an ordinary person who’s trying to survive in a society that is very hostile to her… I talked a lot with [co-writer Bisha K Ali] about these layers of shrinkage that she subjects herself to."
"I expect it to be divisive – which is half the fun!" Brooker said about the 'Red Mirror' concept. "But I think it is absolutely tonally consistent with what Black Mirror is, even if it’s not what audiences expect. And of course 'not being what audiences expect' is very Black Mirror in itself."
Black Mirror season six is available to stream on Netflix.
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