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Kelly Macdonald & Faye Marsay are the Mulder và Scully of “Hated in the Nation.” Netflix
Emily St. James is a senior correspondent for, covering American identities. Before she joined in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.
This article is a recap of Netflix’s Black Mirror episode “Hated in the Nation.” There are spoilers and discussion regarding the episode’s plot.

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Why does “Hated in the Nation” work?

I’m not sure I can answer that question. The episode is overlong, at 90 minutes, especially when you can more or less predict much of what’s about to lớn happen in the very first scene, as you watch a woman’s Twitter feed fill with hateful invective directed at her. (She dies just a few minutes later.)

And yet I enjoyed “Hated in the Nation” more than any season three Black Mirror episode not named “San Junipero.”

Some of that is surely thanks lớn its crackerjack cast, which includes Kelly Macdonald, Faye Marsay, và Benedict Wong. Some of it is probably the nasty closing twist (which we’ll khuyễn mãi giảm giá with in a moment). Và some of it is the nicely inconclusive way the episode ends, with the investigation still technically in progress.

But if I had lớn guess what drew me into “Hated in the Nation,” it was probably the bees.

Watch out for robotic bees

Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker apparently hoped “Hated” would be his take on Nordic noir, the Scandinavian drama trend that has given us, among other series, The Killing & The Bridge. But essentially every critic I’ve talked khổng lồ about the episode has compared it khổng lồ The X-Files, due primarily to the episode’s very Black Mirror take on the Mulder/Scully, believer/skeptic dynamic.

Here, Macdonald plays Karin Parke, a grizzled veteran (how wonderful to have Kelly Macdonald playing a grizzled veteran), while Marsay is Chloe Perrine, a tech-savvy younger officer who is more comfortable with computers than Parke is. Flipping that believer/skeptic dynamic khổng lồ tech-savvy/virtual Luddite is a very Black Mirror way of reinventing a tired trope.

But there’s also the way the episode is scary — & scary in a bunch of different ways, no less. There’s the mounting dread of Parke and Perrine trying khổng lồ defend a victim from a swarm of robotic bees. There’s the strange sadness of the closing sequence, with all of those doomed victims slowly realizing their own fate. And there’s just the simple grossness of someone’s brain being short-circuited by a bee drone.

But let’s face it: The X-Files comparisons stem largely from the fact that the episode is focused on bees. I mean, yes, they’re technically robotic drones built to lớn look like bees & fulfill their pollination functions, in a near future where colony collapse has led to far fewer bees around the globe. But as with the alien virus–carrying insects of The X-Files, “Hated” gets a great giảm giá khuyến mãi of mileage out of the sheer alien horror of a giant swarm of insects.

But the use of bees also strengthens the point of Brooker’s script without constantly underlining it. (The constant underlining is a Black Mirror problem consistent across all seasons.) The idea of a social media swarm using a hashtag lớn single out various people for death, only khổng lồ have the bees actually carry out that death, is a great example of how much nguồn the show can gain from simply making some of its more outlandish ideas literal.

Black Mirror is about seeing how far công nghệ stretches human emotions. “Hated in the Nation” doesn’t have lớn push nearly as far as you might expect to lớn go from “social media outrage cycle” lớn “literal swarms of insects killing people.”

Black Mirror is about worlds that have ended already — they just don’t know it yet

Truth be told, I was a sucker for “Hated” from the second that first little drone bee crawled around on a flower. The deeper I got into season three of Black Mirror, the more I started khổng lồ realize that the show is, on some level, about a series of worlds where the apocalypse has come & nobody’s realized it yet.

The moment “Hated in the Nation” won me over. Netflix So it is with the drone bees. Without bees lớn pollinate plants, the plants would die, taking life on Earth with them. Thus, humanity comes up with a solution lớn this problem — as you’d expect — via its technological knowhow. But as always happens on this show, that technological knowhow just turns out khổng lồ be another way for humans to lớn kill, hurt, destroy, or otherwise disappoint each other.

Now, that underlying skepticism of tech và social truyền thông media could feel predictable here, as it does in other episodes. But it works because it’s impossible khổng lồ avoid the sick gut clench of that final twist: Even as Parke warns that the source code for the bee drone override system was too easy lớn find, everybody plunges ahead, before the “#DeathTo” hashtag can claim a major government official as its next victim. (It figures that things would really step up once the government started being threatened.)

The drones, see, have been keeping a record of every single person who used the hashtag — and sure enough, once the source code is overwritten, the switch flips, và the drones swarm all of those hashtag voters. The gun firing the “#DeathTo” bullet turns out lớn have been pointing both ways.

We know something lượt thích this is coming. The whole episode has been framed as Parke’s testimony before some sort of Parliament subcommittee into what went wrong. (Curiously, the episode seems really centered on the UK. Was nobody in other countries using #DeathTo as well?) and any time an officer is giving testimony in a police drama lượt thích this, you know something horrible went down.

But that still didn’t quite prepare me for the agonizing slowness with which the final denouement played out. I complained in my season reviews about how season three’s episodes often slowed down their storytelling when they should be speeding up, but here it worked really well.

The audience realizes why the drones have been keeping all those social truyền thông media profiles a split second before the officers vày — & then all any of us can do is wait for the bloody inevitable, which Brooker & director James Hawes drag out as long as they possibly can.

A few notes on Charlie Brooker, villain extraordinaire

If there’s a quibble with “Hated” (beyond it probably being 15 minutes too long), it’s that the villain’s plan, ultimately, is kind of stupid.

He’s hoping to lớn teach a moral lesson about the fact that words mean something, even when you’re shouting them into the social media void. But because we spend so little time with him (he’s basically a nonentity throughout the episode), the full weight of what he’s done doesn’t register as much as it could.

The #DeathTo hashtag in action. Netflix and yet the more I think about the episode, the more I become convinced that Brooker almost intends this figure as a sort of self-insertion character. Lượt thích Brooker, he’s obsessed with getting his audience to lớn consider the darker side of technology, and lượt thích Brooker, he’s full of outlandishly grand ideas. (The two even kind of look alike if you squint.) But where Brooker created a TV show, our villain sets up an elaborate system to murder people using drone bees.

There’s still a sense here of the futility of trying khổng lồ teach a lesson, of hoping that you might be able lớn get people to consider their words more carefully in any form of written communication.

Maybe the “#DeathTo” hashtag prompted some sort of national soul searching, but I somehow doubt it. If there’s one thing Black Mirror has taught us, it’s that people are irrational and spiteful and, above everything else, kinda shitty khổng lồ each other.

And yet even in this scenario — the one with the murderous robot bees, I’ll say one last time — there’s some grim sense of hope on the horizon. Perrine might not have the criminal captured just yet, but he’s in her sights, & Parke knows her former partner is closing in.

Instead of having her kill herself (as the episode head-fakes toward), Brooker lets Perrine live — perhaps to catch the villain who just might be him, perhaps khổng lồ miss that villain until another day. The answers, lượt thích so much on this show, lie tantalizingly out of reach, just around that next bend in the road.

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Black Mirror season three is currently streaming on Netflix. Read the rest of our episode reviews and recaps here.