Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation
Ah, the murder mystery: that most British of genres. I was delighted to see that it would feature in the newest season of Black Mirror. That being said, Black Mirror has most of the bases covered as far as genres are concerned; so far, we’ve had period drama, a spoof on horror and warfare fiction. An eclectic assortment to say the least. Hated in the Nation is a whodunit. But whodunit? The bees apparently.
Kelly Macdonald plays DCI Karin Parke, a disgruntled, experienced cop. Faye Marsay plays her new partner, Blue, the optimistic, fresh-faced rookie. Together, they form a familiar alliance – procedurals love this kind of pairing (think Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Seven). Their collaborative investigation begins with the murder of Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington), a provokingly opinionated tabloid journo. She seems similar to another ‘journalist’ known for her ‘columns’ in The Sun and The Daily Mail. She spouts hatred as a career, so her eventual offing isn’t a surprise. Later, a similarly outspoken character known only as Tusk (rappers’ pseudonyms just get weirder and weirder) dies suddenly and inexplicably. It is only then that we find out the perpetrator of the attacks. Bees.
Not just any bees though, they are mechanised, futuristic and cooler than anything I’ve ever seen. Bees from the future. Drone bees. In this Black Mirror universe, the bees are on the brink of extinction and so the job of pollination is handed over to robots. Unfortunately, they’re easily hacked. A mysterious vigilante (Duncan Pow) uses the technology to kill people in the public eye with less than favourable twitter reps. Trolls in their millions flock to the hashtag “#DeathTo”, but, in a typical twist of events, the real target of the hashtag is the trolls themselves. Each person who uses the hashtag gets a personal visit from a bee.
As silly as the premise may sound, it’s a chilling episode. True to form in its darkness and intensity, Black Mirror brings its most recent season to an end in cold and clinical fashion. The eerie atmosphere that prevails whilst watching the episode is only amplified by the haunting score; it reminded me of the Mica Levi soundtrack to the 2014 film Under the Skin. The casting of Kelly Macdonald and Faye Marsay was a sensible choice; they play well off each other in a way that feels familiar to fans of this genre.
Now, although the episode may disguise as a ‘save the environment!’ vegan dream, it’s really about a phenomenon known as ‘trolling’. Wikipedia describes a troll as a ‘person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people’, but the trolls in Hated in the Nation are going slightly further in their discord – inciting death. The truth of the matter is that this, along with many other occurrences in Black Mirror, could actually happen. And as much as I’d like to say we’re on the side of the hard-faced coppers trying to shut down the vigilante, I think the audiences (and Charlie Brooker’s) sympathies are really with the hacker; #DeathTo Trolls.
The entire third season of Black Mirror is available to stream on Netflix now.