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Recap / Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation

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"The government's a cunt, we knew that already."
"I didn't expect to find myself living in the future, but here I fucking well am."

In the near-future, a police detective in London works with a tech-savvy sidekick to investigate a spate of mysterious and sudden high-profile deaths linked to a social media hashtag.

Starring Kelly Macdonald as Karin Peke, Faye Marsay as Blue Coulson, and Benedict Wong as Shaun Li.

Tropes related to Hated in the Nation:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Tom Pickering, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is incredibly unpopular with the public after his decision to slash disability benefits. When the #DeathTo hashtag gains traction he quickly shoots to the top of the list, three spaces ahead of Lord Farrington, a suspected pedophile.
  • Seven Dirty Words: It uses them all, some on many occasions. Though Blue is most foul-mouthed, Karin is a close second and no character is immune. Not even the peppy primary school teacher.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The last shot of the episode is of Blue following Scholes around a corner out of sight. She may have gotten him in any number of ways, but since this is Black Mirror, it's just as likely that he noticed her tailing him and took her out instead. We'll never know.
  • Androids and Detectives: Fulfills this plot well within the lines, except instead of Blue also being an android she's just ridiculously tech-savvy.
  • Ascended Meme: When Jo Powers checks her feed, the "trending" article visible under her push notification is titled "What if phones but too much?", referring to a (now-deleted) Daniel M. Lavery tweetnote , as well as an article he wrote for The Toast spoofing Black Mirror episode concepts (which also quoted the tweet.) Doubles as an Inspiration Nod, given that the original tweet inspired the final twist in Playtest, where Cooper is killed by his phone going off at the wrong moment.
  • Attack Drone: ADIs were supposed to pollinate plants after bees die off. Turns out they can attack too.
  • Batman Gambit: Scholes's endgame is triggered by the police figuring out at least most of the scheme, and to successfully counter it. Blue realizes the last missing piece, realizing they couldn't rely on the counter Scholes had planned for, but it becomes a moot point.
  • Brand X: The social network is clearly intended to be Twitter, but is never called that and certainly doesn't look like it. Posts are referred to as "tweets" a couple times, though. However, the fact the episode is set slightly in the future could just mean it is what the writers assumed Twitter will look like then.
  • Britain Is Only London: Justified in that it's set there, but enforced in the sense that mobile phones stop working in the countryside.
  • Call-Back:
    • Jo Powers, per her husband's words, cutting her own neck with a piece of glass — Bing's threat in "Fifteen Million Merits".
  • The Cameo: Broadcaster Anita Anand features both in voiceover and onscreen as a news reporter.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Nick uses the #DeathTo hashtag to try to get a response from Scholes. Using it just once, however, is enough to put him on the cache and make him a victim of the drone attack at the end.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: For added suspense, phones in the countryside suddenly stop working.
  • Central Theme: The phenomenon of cyberbullying and online death threats.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The whole episode counts as one by virtue of containing more swearing than all preceding episodes combined.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Michael Callow, the Prime Minister from "The National Anthem", is seen to be trending on social media, suggesting the episode takes place in the same universe. Two of the hashtags the detectives find trending on Powers' computer are #Saitogemu and #MASS.
    • Blue mentions that she investigated the Rannoch killings, which Victoria Skillane was punished for in "White Bear". The case is also mentioned on a TV news broadcast at the end of the episode. The hashtag #SAVEWHITEBEARONE is also seen trending on social media. There's also a brief flash of a "#DeathTo Victoria Skillane" post.
    • A company called Reputelligant is stated to have released a program called Nosedive, both references to the episode "Nosedive".
    • The cookies featured in "White Christmas" and "Shut Up and Dance" are also mentioned in a news ticker. It reveals that the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) has ruled that they have human rights, presumably due to the fact they are replications of living people's consciousnesses, who are unaware that the cookies are not real.
    • The gaming company SaitoGemu, and their new game Harlech Shadow VI from "Playtest", are seen trending as hashtags on social media.
    • A UKN news ticker shows that the first edition of MASS, the AR implant system featured in "Men Against Fire", has been announced by the US military.
    • One page of Garrett Scholes' manifesto states "This is not a performance" in bold letters, probably another reference to "The National Anthem" where the kidnapping/blackmail plot central to the episode was revealed to be a deranged work of 'art'.
  • Cool Car: The National Crime Agency is issued with (fictional) state of the art models of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which are self-driving, equipped with all sorts of tech, and generally look like futuristic concept cars.
  • Country Matters: The c-word, as said more generally accepted in Britain, used several times.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • The moment it's established that the ADIs are being used as a murder weapon and Granular's systems had been hacked, Li should've read the investigators into the top secret program they're associated with.
    • Physically isolating Granular's servers and shutting them down along with GCHQ's back door doesn't occur to anyone either.
    • No one ever considers simply contacting the social media companies and asking them to filter the hashtag.
    • Pickering could have stayed at an underground bunker or a hospital isolation ward. Or just dump his phone and cover his face to avoid the ADIs and buy more time.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The hacker is always one step ahead of the Police and is actually using them for his endgame.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: ADIs burrow into victims' brains' pain center for maximum agony, often causing them to violently commit suicide to stop the pain before they die of brain damage.
  • Cut Apart: We are made to believe that Police is about to catch the hacker in his hideout. But then it's revealed that he was operating from a different place and fooled everyone.
  • Cyberbullying: The episode involves a lethal cyberbullying campaign in which people wish death on strangers over the Internet and the person with the most wishes against them is horribly killed via tiny bee-like drones. And then turned on its head at the end, when the drones are all sent after every single person who participated in the campaign.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: Victims often suffer this when the ADIs burrow their way in their noses and make them have their deadly seizures.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Karin initially. By the end of the episode she looks broken though.
    • Pickering gets in one too after the failure to contain the ADIs kills a bunch of soldiers on a live video feed.
    Pickering: (shaken up) What's your "plan-B"?
  • Defective Detective: DCI Karin Parke is bitter and unapprehensive about the futuristic world she lives in. She mentions that her attitude is partly due to her divorce.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: It turns out the main reason Garrett Scholes programmed the ADI Bees to be able to kill is that a girl he liked attempted suicide due to online harassment (he saved her). Considering that almost 400,000 people whose only crime was using a certain hashtag end up dead, it's safe to say the plan was overkill. It should be noted, if you look at screencaptures of the hashtag being used, that some of the people who used it were just asking what it was. That means they were killed for being curious.
    • Possibly subverted with those merely posting the hashtag and asking what it meant as the two bot accounts Scholes setup includes specific instructions on its use. Merely posting the hashtag doesn't make the user a target. The user has to post the hashtag along with the name and a photo of the person they want dead, which is what puts them in the kill list.
  • Downer Ending: A swarm of robotic bees that burrow into people's brains is unleashed upon everyone who used a particular hashtag, killing nearly 400,000 people across the UK. The only bright spot is that Blue is about to close in on Garrett who orchestrated it all, but his plan has already gone off without a hitch so it ultimately doesn't matter. And we never find out if Blue actually closed in on him or if he found out about Blue and killed her.
  • Dramatic Drop: Shaun Li drops his phone when he sees The Swarm approaching the house in the countryside.
  • Driven to Suicide: The people attacked by the ADIs do this or attempt it to stop the pain it causes. This turns out to be the motive behind the killer's actions too, as his flatmate and crush attempted suicide over online harassment she received. Blue also fakes suicide so she can find him without anyone knowing she's still alive and therefore tipping him to it.
  • Dull Surprise: The MRI techs in the hospital are spectacularly unfazed by the fact that their fancy machine just killed their VIP patient by pulling a robot bee out of his brain. Through his eye socket. Looking at their reaction, it seems stuff like that is a But for Me, It Was Tuesday event in their line of work.
  • Evil All Along: Subverted. When Blue fakes her suicide and is next seen in the same location as the hacker, for a few moments a viewer might be given the idea that she was actually his Friend on the Force but then her communication with Karin tells us that she was actually hunting him down.
  • Extinct in the Future:
    • By the time of the episode, most of the bees have been wiped out by a colony collapse disorder, forcing humanity to rely on robotic replacements called Autonomous Drone Insects to do the bees' ecosystem services. The plot is about someone hacking these ADIs to great consequence.
    • A news broadcast also reveals that the Siberian crane (critically endangered at the time of the episode's release) was just declared extinct.
  • Faking the Dead: Blue fakes a suicide and goes off to find Scholes.
  • Feedback Rule: There is a feedback when Karin first speaks into the mic at the hearing.
  • For Your Own Good: Blue calls out Shaun Li on the government's use of ADIs to spy on the population. He responds that it's in the public interest to do so, since the scheme has prevented several mass murders and terrorist attacks. Regardless, any benefit gets negated after Scholes' plan succeeds with nearly 400,000 people dead and the surveillance aspect of the ADI program now presumably out in the open.
  • Green Aesop: When the bees die off, we will need to replace them with man-made drones. Unlike bees, drones can be used by the government to spy on their citizens, and by tech-savvy extremists to kill thousands of people overnight.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Jo uses a broken bottle to attack her husband and slit her throat.
  • Hate Sink: Invoked In-Universe. It's debatable how bad the initial victims are, but they definitely function as this for the population at large.
  • Headache of Doom: Tusk begins suffering agonizing pain in his head and has to be sedated. An attempt to examine the problem with an MRI reveals the cause — though probably not the way the technicians intended: an Autonomous Drone Insect had flown into his ear and started torturing his brain from the inside; during the MRI scan, the ADI is magnetically yanked out of Tusk's head, puncturing his eyeball and killing him instantly.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: GCHQ's secret surveillance program, their backdoor into the ADIs and their data is used by Scholes to enact his plan. This, in turn, exposes their program to the public and effectively destroys all the good it had done in preventing acts of terrorism and mass shootings.
  • Hope Spot: The command to "deactivate" the ADI Bee swarm is used against Karin Parke's protests that it will probably trigger the bees to go after everyone who used the #DeathTo hashtag. At first, it seems the bees truly were deactivated. Then they reactivate and do just what Parke said they would.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Karin, who REALLY doesn't like the prospect of anything in the investigation, initially brushes off the notion that social media could be the cause of the deaths, and has to have anything related to the ADI technology explained by Blue and the others.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Once it's made clear that the latest stream of murders is coming as a result of a "hashtag game", the public all but pounces on the opportunity to elect people for death. Unsurprisingly, politicians are the most targeted, and a montage of talk shows, bloggers, and similar have people trying to rationalize their decision with a sort of "Well, it's going to happen anyway, why not to someone who deserves it?" mentality.
  • Hypocrite: Garrett Scholes' rationale behind his plot is to force people to face the consequences of their actions. After hundreds of thousands die because of him, he changes his appearance and skips the country to avoid facing the consequences of his actions.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The cops discover that Garrett Scholes' old flatmate, whom he loved, attempted suicide due to online harassment. Ostensibly, his actions would involve getting back at the perpetrators of online harassment, instead of furthering the exact thing that led to the attempted suicide of his crush. Instead, the cops focus on the fact that the victims were considered bullies, and completely miss the fact that those who use the #DeathTo hashtag may be targets until the last second, when they find the cache of users of the hashtag.
    • GCHQ having a backdoor into Granlar's network and the ADIs is one thing, but there's absolutely no reason for any employee at Granular to be able to access GCHQ's networks and databases.
    • Realistically, no government agency is going to deploy a nationwide system of covert spy drones without top-tier cybersecurity measures to prevent it from being compromised. At a minimum, the government would have demanded an unstoppable global "kill switch" for the ADIs.
  • Insult Backfire: Jo, the journalist who wrote an insulting column about an activist's death, receives a cake iced with the message "Fucking Bitch" from her internet haters. She's just happy to have a tasty cake to eat.
  • Internet Jerk: Basically the focus of the episode. Even without the resulting deaths, dozens, of not hundreds of people are wishing death upon others over the internet, most simply because of disagreements on viewpoints and politics. The teacher, when confronted after the first murder (having been one of many people to use the #DeathTo hashtag against Jo), can only stammer out the weak defense that she wasn't being serious.
  • Interrogation Flashback: The story unfolds as flashbacks during Karin's hearing at the court.
  • Ironic Echo: Jo Powers was receiving hate online for criticizing an activist who had committed suicide in view of a class full of kids on a school trip. At the end, one of her online trolls, a teacher, is killed by the ADIs in front of the class.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • A very rare aversion for the series. It would seem that Scholes gets off scot-free for killing hundreds of thousands of people, but the last sequence shows that Blue has found him. Could be Played Straight though, we never saw how it went down, so it is quite possible Scholes got rid of the trail or killed Blue as well.
    • Also averted for Pickering. Although he doesn't die, a news ticker shows that he's now referred to as "former Chancellor Pickering", suggesting that he either resigned or was removed from office.
  • Karmic Death: Invoked, as the ADIs would kill victims by the vote of internet trolls, and the final phase of the plan would use the same means to kill those who engaged in this form of armchair vigilantism.
  • Latin Land: Where Blue finally tracks down Garrett Scholes.
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: It turns out that the ADIs' also serve as a network of tiny Surveillance Drones, complete with facial recognition technology... Which allows them to be turned into lethal weapons by Scholes.
  • Manifesto-Making Malcontent: Scholes's manifesto being nested in the files of the ADIs was his signature on the ADI attacks being an act of sabotage, and for Blue figuring out his real plan right at the very end. Unfortunately for her, Li had other priorities at the time.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Karin when asked about her visit to the ADIs headquarters.
    Assistant: You're after information on our Project Swarm ADIs?
    Karin: That's right.
    Assistant: Any particular reason?
    Karin: Yes.
  • Mechanical Insects: After the bees went nearly extinct, many countries utilized Autonomous Drone Insects (ADI for short) to carry out pollination. These drones are capable of self-replicating and building hives on their own, with these hives featuring 3D printing devices (which falls short, as they are unable to make honey). They are also used by government to spy on the populace, and were hacked to kill anyone who was voted to be killed on Twitter through the use of the #DeathTo hashtag. However, the real targets are not the hashtag targets, but those who used the hashtag.
  • Mr. Exposition: The developer of the ADIs is very forthcoming with background information on the project.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Shaun Li, more concerned with protecting the chancellor and short on time and options, triggers the "deactivate" function immediately after Blue figures out the plan and warns him not to do it. Just as Parke warned, the trigger sends out ADIs to kill hundreds of thousands of people. It's implied at the end that he's seriously in for it before the inquiry commission.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Jo Powers is an obvious expy of Katie Hopkins, as both are controversial journalists who write incendiary and bigoted articles simply for the publicity.
      • The title of her article, "SPARE ME THE TEARS OVER THIS "MARTYR"" is styled after an infamous piece written by Hopkins's Daily Mail stablemate Richard Littlejohn: ''Spare us the 'People's Prostitute' routine...'', which was similarly criticized for callousness in regards to the 2006 murder of five women working as prostitutes in Ipswich (Littlejohn himself was repeatedly a target for take thats in series creator Charlie Brooker's earlier work TV Go Home).
    • Chancellor Tom Pickering appears to be based on real life former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who also made the controversial decision to cut health benefits in addition to introducing unpopular junior doctor contracts with the NHS.
  • Nordic Noir: What the episode was inspired by.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tom Pickering is feeling a bit of relief when he hears Shaun Li's plan of taking him to a bunker instead of a "secure house" that the 3rd victim died in. They're feeling even more confident when they watch live footage of a demolition squad bombing a hive. Then they watch in horror as the ADIs retaliate and kill the soldiers...
  • Orifice Invasion: How the ADI victims die. The first two have ADIs crawl into their ears (somehow without noticing) and then burrow into their brains until they're Driven to Suicide by pain beyond imagination. The third victim suffers a nose invasion instead, followed by a relatively merciful death after just a few seconds of thrashing around.
  • Phone-Trace Race: They try to trace the hacker's position after another one of the drones goes offline but fail.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: The mass murder happened and Karin became completely broken about it, but Blue was able to track down Scholes and may possibly bring justice to him. Emphasis on possibly, this is Black Mirror after all.
    • Also for White Christmas. The news declares that cookies have been granted human rights, suggesting an end to cookie!Greta and cookie!Joe's ordeals.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The plight of Clara Meades is modelled after several real life incidents of an individual being mass-shamed following the release of photographs that portray them performing acts perceived as disrespectful, in particular the case of Lindsey Stone.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: People are attacked by swarms of rogue bee drones.
  • Self-Immolation: The disabled activist Gwen Marbury did this in protest against cuts to disability benefits, for which Jo Powers harshly criticizes her in her column.
  • Serious Business: Evidently there are some things that the British public are all pretty agreed upon are asshole things to do, like being unnecessarily mean to a child who idolises you and disrespecting the war dead (especially at the Cenotaph with poppy wreaths abound). That last one, especially, is very realistic.
  • Shout-Out: Tess Wallender is one for Nordic Noir detective Wallander.
  • Sinister Surveillance: It turns out the ADIs were secretly being used by the British government to spy on the public. It is also revealed that the National Crime Agency has access to a Citizen Database, where the details of every resident in the UK are stored. Scholes hacks into the NCA through their backdoor and uses their data to build his kill list.
  • Sleazy Politician: Tom Pickering, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Upon hearing he is at the top of the #DeathTo list, he orders an incriminating memo from the 1980's be leaked which would further implicate Lord Farrington (a former member of Parliament, accused pedophile and number four on the #DeathTo list) as a sex offender. In response to criticism, he simply states that the man is "in his eighties, he has lived his life, so fuck him under the bus!"
  • Social Media Is Bad: The episode deconstructs online mob mentality, as the villain orchestrates murders based on trending calls for death on Twitter. Then he kills everyone who ever used the #DeathTo hashtag.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: The graphic projection at the ADI headquarters of all drones in the country going rogue.
  • Suicide by Sea: Blue used this ploy to fake her suicide. The attentive audience will have noticed at this point that they Never Found the Body, so the reveal of her still being alive comes less as a surprise.
  • Surveillance Drone: The only way Granular was able to get permission and funding from the UK government was if they built a backdoor into the ADIs, so in addition to pollination the occasional drone could be requisitioned by GCHQ to carry out surveillance work. Blue suggests that the backdoor goes both ways as Scholes uses GCHQ's data to build his kill list.
  • The Swarm: ADIs. It becomes a plot point that they're tiny enough to get through the cracks of a building, so hiding away the intended victim isn't a plausible option.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: After Karin finishes testifying before the court, Shaun Li is set to take her place with a look of dread on his face. Considering that he was the one who directly caused the ADI swarm to murder hundreds of thousands of British citizens, it's clear that he's not looking forward to explaining his actions.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future:
    • The vast majority of bees have died out, forcing countries (focused only on the UK in this case) to utilize Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs) to carry out pollination. They are also able to self-replicate, build hives on their own, with each of their hives containing a 3D printing device. (They fall just short since they can't make honey.) In addition, Granular has a vanity art piece in their foyer composed of ADIs flying in formation to create a slowly-rotating 3D rendering of the company logo.
    • It is mentioned on UKN that the Siberian crane (which was classified as "critically endangered" at the episode's release) has recently become extinct.
    • It is suggested most cars are now either fully electric or hybrid, given the quiet whirring they all seem to make when in motion. Driverless cars are much more common, but still not quite the norm. Blue casually mentions she can't wait until driverless is fully phased in, as she doesn't have a driver's license. Li's agency car is fully autonomous, with the "driver's" seat being a pilot chair facing the other passengers (similar to concept cars from Real Life), and is operated entirely by touch screen.
    • London Metropolitan Police vehicles have a much more minimalist design, with the high visibility Battenburg markings having been removed from the police cars.
    • The British license plates shown on some newer vehicles are also accurate to the period, with registration numbers dating from around 2017 and 2019.
    • Cannabis is now legal in the United Kingdom, with rapper Tusk's friend reassuring him it's "legal over here" when he is caught smoking a joint on CCTV.
    • Both computer and phone screens are thinner and more translucent. Keyboards are also translucent and utilize touchscreens instead of actual buttons.
    • Given that the cookies that appear in "White Christmas" are referenced in the episode, it can be assumed that digital consciousness replication is now a possible feat.
    • While some episodes of Black Mirror use more speculative themes, this episode in particular is a hard science fiction. While similar Cop Shows rely on Technobabble and Hollywood Hacking, this one is a faithful Police Procedural with most of the concepts and terms Blue uses are drawn from Real Life and used in proper context; there is growing concern about technology being the vector of attack of choice for tech-savvy criminals, and the technology is spot on. The only Science Fiction that this episode really draws on is the aesthetics, and the ADIs, which is a combination emerging technologies from today, but more sophisticated and micronized. See if one of the design features of the ADIs isn't familiar: pervasive computing (of a sort), autonomous drones, 3D printing, and mass surveillance.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's unclear if Scholes' plan killed everyone targeted, given that, if warned, some people may have been able to hide their faces or try and get somewhere the bees wouldn't pursue them. This is especially true of Nick, who, from working on the case, may have had the knowledge and context to do both.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In trying to stop the ADI bees from targeting people who were "selected" by consensus to die with the #DeathTo hashtag, the task force ends up triggering Garrett Scholes' real endgame: turning the bees on everyone who used the #DeathTo hashtag.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Scholes intends to combat online abuse... by killing off a good chunk of people who are guilty of only using the hashtag.