The spectrum of quality across episodes of Black Mirror is shockingly wide. Some episodes crest the highest levels of quality in the science fiction genre, while others are bad ideas poorly executed. Several outlets have ranked the episodes across each season. Praise and condemnation tend to be handed out universally. Some entries, like “Hated in the Nation,” have the questionable accolade of landing near the middle of most polls.
“Hated in the Nation” is the longest episode of Black Mirror to date. Its director, James Hawes, is well-known in the world of British TV. He went on to direct “Smithereens” for the series’ fifth season. The episode is crafted in the style of Nordic noir, inspired by authors like Jo Nesbø and TV shows like The Killing.
What is Black Mirror’s ‘Hated in the Nation’ about?
On January 2nd, 2019, Twitter user @maplecocaine published the immortal words; “Each day on Twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it.” The statement, widely seen by users as the most succinct summary of social media ever written, refers to the tendency of a single figure of record to attract 24 hours of online hate that seems to drown out all other news. That tweet was published three years after the release of “Hated in the Nation,” but the episode addresses the same concept. Brooker wrote the script with an eye toward John Ronson’s classic So You’ve Been Publically Shamed and the negative attention he received for mentioning presidential assassins in the same breath as George W. Bush. “Hated in the Nation” follows a pair of detectives who work to solve the murder of several Twitter main characters.
“Hated in the Nation” is told through the framing device of a public tribunal. London Detective Chief Inspector Karin Parke is asked to explain her role in a murder investigation. The victim is a conservative firebrand named Jo Powers, who earned widespread public hatred after attacking an environmental activist for self-immolating in protest. Parke works alongside a rookie named Blue Coulson as she seeks Powers’ murderer. Parke and Coulson track down a school teacher who sent Powers a cake decorated with expletives and discover the popular hashtag #DeathTo. The next day, a similar fate befalls a rapper buried in hate after insulting a young fan. He’s killed in an MRI machine when a strange metal object tears its way through his eye.
The foreign object in the rapper’s skull is an ADI or autonomous drone insect. The government unleashed millions of these ADIs to replace the near-extinct bees that pollinate plants. The detectives interview engineer Rasmus Sjoberg, who discovers an ADI that behaves strangely. England’s National Crime Agency sends Shaun Li to aid the investigation. Coulson has the technical knowledge to track down the beginnings of the #DeathTo movement. A massive network of bots operates the hashtag with the promise of killing the most mentioned target. The detectives track down the latest main character. They try to defend her, but the drones claim another victim.
How does ‘Hated in the Nation’ end?
Coulson determines that the ADI identify their targets through facial recognition software. Sjoberg is forced to admit that the ADIs were designed to spy on the entire population simultaneously, exposing the nation to possible attacks and rendering privacy outdated. The public discovers the ADI murders, sparking an intense debate around the DeathTo hashtag. Viewers find that they can alter the target. The moral imperative of using this power for good becomes a hot topic. A Chancellor becomes the next #DeathTo icon. Parke meets Tess Wallander, a former employee of the tech company that invented the ADIs. She reveals that she once attempted suicide after a wave of online hate.
The man who saved her was Garrett Scholes. An online manifesto with a geotagged image leads the detectives to his safe house. The detectives raid his hiding place and discover his hacking equipment. Coulson investigates Scholes’ computer and finds a file containing the personal information of every user of the DeathTo hashtag. Li orders Sjoberg to shut down the system, but it activates. The ADIs kill all 387,036 users of the hashtag. Scholes empowered online hate to punish it with deadly force. Parke testifies that Coulson died by his own hand. Shortly after the tribunal, Parke gets a text from Coulson, informing her that he’s tracked down Scholes.
“Hated in the Nation” isn’t anyone’s favorite episode of Black Mirror, but it’s a solid premise with decent execution. The length might not be justified, and the subject might be par for the course, but there are interesting ideas that shine through. Scholes may be on the loose, but his place in the narrative is more important than its ending. The twist is clever, but it leaves a lot to be explored. “Hated in the Nation” will force viewers to question their involvement in online hate and its knock-on effects.
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