Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 6: Hated In The Nation review
With the final episode of Black Mirror’s third season comes a feature-length police procedural that ranks as Charlie Brooker’s most ambitious script to date. At 90 minutes, Hated in the Nation has plenty of time to cover some of the prevailing issues of today; online shaming, clickbait journalism, drone surveillance, and, bizarrely, the plight of the bumblebee. While it’s fair to say the episode is never boring, Hated in the Nation is so dense with ideas, the story struggles to carry the weight.
As a victim of death threats himself, Brooker knows how internet shame culture has only worsened with the rise of Twitter. Journalist Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington, a stand-in for human wasp nest Katie Hopkins) is the latest target for Twitter users after writing a controversial think piece, only this time the death threats are working; a few hours after she trends throughout the internet, she’s found with her throat slashed. DCI Karin Parke (Kelly MacDonald) is soon brought in and teamed up with new recruit and tech geek Blue (Faye Marsay) to uncover the mystery of how Powers died. Is someone taking ‘#deathto’ literally? Why does an infamous rapper suddenly collapse into fits backstage? And what does all this have to do with artificial bees?
Brooker described Hated in the Nation as his attempt at ‘Scandi-noir’, and there’s definitely a feel of The Killing and The Bridge in the sparky relationship between Karin and Blue, a technophobe paired with a technological whizz kid. Both actresses do great work; Marsay adds Black Mirror to her impressive résumé, while MacDonald uses a rare leading part to remind you just how lovable and feisty she can be. For an episode revolving around gruesome murders and mass hatred, it’s also brutally funny, from the ‘Fucking Bitch’ cake Powers receives to the slimy targeted Chancellor who wants to sacrifice an elderly politician (“He’s had a good life, fuck him under the bus!”). It’s a reminder that before the nightmarish thrills of Black Mirror, Brooker was one of the funniest columnists in the UK.
While Hated in the Nation is an impressively ambitious and complex narrative, not every element comes together. The episode ultimately ends up in a powerful place, but it takes a lot of baffling character decisions and rather silly set pieces to get there. It doesn’t help that the main villains of the episode are digital bees. Swarms of bees may be very sinister but since The Wicker Man remake, they can’t be taken seriously, and half the episode looks like the insect equivalent of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Hated in the Nation does eventually reveal the real big bad and their evil plan (and it’s a deliciously horrible plan), but only after a competent police officer acts ridiculously bone-headedly. It’s lazy writing, made lazier by a final epilogue that plays like an homage to far worse cop shows.
As a finale, Hated in the Nation highlights the strengths and weaknesses of Black Mirror’s latest season. Brooker’s writing is as clever, biting, and brutal as ever; his ideas have only gotten more ambitious as the budgets have increased, culminating in this long, complicated police narrative. However, there’s a feeling of diminishing returns in the stark vision of the future, the sci-fi-as-satire narratives, and the dark twists. Brooker’s ideas have gotten bigger but they’ve lost that feeling of audacity and unpredictability. Hated in the Nation has interesting ideas, fun performances, and a rug-pulling final reveal, but it also feels a little overlong, a little over-complicated, a little too ambitious for its own good. Black Mirror continues to be one of the most unique television series around, but Charlie Brooker will have to work even harder to keep it that way.
By Harry J. Ford
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