Did you like the idea of CSI: Cyber but wish it was made by people who had used a computer? Are you a fan of European TV Noir, but not into its bright and sunny view of humanity? Then strap in for the final episode of Black Mirror Season 3, “Hated in the Nation.”
WHAT’S THE IDEA HERE?
Social media witch-hunts vis–à–vis the tropes of a police procedural.
Journalist Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) is found dead in her home. After penning a controversial article and receiving countless death threats, almost all of Britain is under suspicion. After all, there was enough hatred and the hashtag #DeathTo seemed to spread the blame around.
DCI Karin Parke (Kelly MacDonald) is put on the case and partnered up with Blue (Faye Marsay), a recent transfer from the Cyber Forensics division. As the details unfold and more deaths result from #DeathTo, which turns out to be a game that visits a violent and painful murder upon the person named under the hashtag the most, our team races against the clock to uncover the person behind this all and stop his surprisingly intricate plot.
Spoiler alert: They do.
HOW’S THE IDEA WORK?
Yeah, “Hated in the Nation” has a surprise largely in the fact that it isn’t necessarily loaded with a left-field twist or a last minute turn of the knife.
Through and through, “Hated in the Nation” is a procedural and one well-versed in the language of those shows at. The investigation plays out largely like you would expect. A few false suspects that slowly unravel. A little time to get to know the victims. Brushing up against those who have an interest in holding the case back or a need to speed the case up. Interviews of witnesses and suspects while people go about their day. For anyone who’s seen Law and Order, this should be really familiar.
Actually, not entirely true. This show is cribbing less from American cop shows and more from European, very specifically Scandinavian, detective shows. The moody lighting with the ominous music that keeps everything foreboding and dark. A generally pessimistic outlook on humanity with even the heroes being world-weary and worn-out. There’s something more misanthropic in general about it, the concept that its detectives are holding back the darkness rather than beating it.
Which works for Black Mirror as an idea, sure. But there is something very different about “Hated in the Nation” as an anthology episode, and I’m not sure I’ve quite put my finger on it. Near as I can tell, it’s that this doesn’t feel like it’s own discreet thing. This isn’t a stand-alone story, it feels like the beginning of something, a glimpse into a larger idea.
The fundamental problem of this one is that it’s not a great individual episode. As an individual episode, it’s kind of unremarkable formally. It’s solid, but solid can be killer for the remarkability of a single story of something. It plays out as one would expect and keeps moving forward (this thing doesn’t feel like 90 minutes), but there’s nothing that ever pushes it over the top.
What works in its favor though is that I have the smallest inkling the intention of this one wasn’t as an individual episode. This feels like a show pilot and on those terms, I really do like it.
Partially because I actually really enjoy the show “Hated in the Nation” is setting up. A dark, misanthropic police procedural that focuses on the unique crimes brought to us by a world slightly in the future? Broadchurch with computers everywhere? Like, sign me up. While not Brooker’s most insightful look into the viciousness of the mob, the #DeathTo game is a remarkable way to reframe the “Get this person out of the public sphere” movements that so often seem to crop up on Twitter and provides a strong flavoring to a subject Brooker has tread enough.
Partially because I also like the characters. There’s not much to them yet, but the chemistry is good and I can easily see room for development. They also do get to (later on) work with a detective played by Benedict Wong. For those of you unfamiliar with Benedict Wong, he is a national treasure and a show that can have him in my life all the time is a necessary thing in the Golden Age of Television. In fact, I propose that the Golden Age of Television didn’t start until Marco Polo because it featured Benedict Wong. That’s the only reason.
Look, it’s not the best thing, but “Hated in the Nation” is a reasonably enjoyable episode of television and one that could easily be something more. It’s an enjoyable, well-versed procedural stuck in the middle of a bunch of singular stories. Get a spin-off, get Benedict Wong, and let’s get this thing going.
We’ve come to the end of Black Mirror Season 3 and it’s time to go back to that original question I posed in my review of “Nosedive”:
With bigger stars, bigger worlds, and a wider reach than ever, does Black Mirror keep its uniquely bleak voice intact?
Yes and no.
No, but not out of a bad thing. This season didn’t reach the consistent heights of the first two, but it was also willing to alter and compromise its voice for artistic growth. It allowed itself to show different satirical shades. In one glorious moment, it really allowed us to hope in a way few shows have.
Yes, because Black Mirror is still like nothing else. Brooker and this show still have a vital and important television voice, and Netflix have given him and it the chance to spread it even further. At the end of this season, I’m dying for more, and that’s what matters.
This season had one of the best episodes of Black Mirror and one of the worst. But no show reaches so far out every time, and there’s nothing quite like it even at the lowest point.
Season Grade: B+
- Fifteen Million Merits – A+
- San Junipero – A
- Be Right Back – A
- White Bear – A
- The Entire History of You – A
- White Christmas – A-
- The National Anthem – A-
- Nosedive – B+
- Playtest – B+
- Hated in the Nation – B
- Shut Up and Dance – B-
- The Waldo Moment – C
- Men Against Fire – C