There’s a certain weight of expectation added whenever TV shows, of any kind, air ‘feature length’ episodes. More time, it’s assumed, has to equal better viewing. While Black Mirror has previously aired a 90-minute episode, ‘White Christmas’, that was 90 minutes including adverts, and the remaining 75 minutes were spread across three separate (albeit connected) parts. ‘Hated in the Nation’ meanwhile, was effectively an 89-minute Black Mirror film. And it certainly delivered.
The episode was, as had been suggested in the build-up to the new series, a ‘Scandi-noir’ style cop drama, following DCI Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) as she investigates the murder of Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington), a columnist who presumably signs cheques under the name ‘Katie Hopkins’. What we weren’t told, but probably could’ve guessed given its Black Mirror, is that it was slightly more than that.
A theme of my reviews this season has been the topic of ‘owning’ your twist, of making the episode about more than just the reveal. While the early drip feed of clues about the ‘ADIs’, the artificial bees propping up the countries (and the planets?) ecosystem, was a bit heavy-handed, it didn’t take long to get past that, and put the technology at centre-stage. It was then, of course, that it stopped being Charlie Brooker’s take on, say, The Killing, and started to become his take on Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Owing perhaps to the lengthened nature of the episode, there were so many incredible moments packed into ‘Hated in the Nation’. The scenes as Parke and her ‘shadow’, Faye Marsay’s Blue Coulson, try to protect Clara Meades (Holli Dempsey) were thrilling. But more significantly, the climactic sequence, and the one most evocative of Hitchcock, as the ADIs swarm and zone in on the 300,000 targets, was downright chilling (owing much to the musical accompaniment).Then again, picking moments out of such an episode perhaps does it an injustice. Even if earlier episodes this series had a more intimate emotional punch, ‘Hated in the Nation’ was arguably the most complete episode the show has had. In every sense, it just worked – as a police procedural, as a dystopia, as a social allegory.
Indeed, by coincidence more than anything, it’s the most immediately relevant episode we’ve had. While the show is always fundamentally familiar, the influences on ‘Hated in the Nation’ were barely in the rear view mirror. Chancellor Tom Pickering’s orders to ‘shut down’ the ADIs, regardless of environmental and economic impact, to save his own life, came as this week’s political debate was one of similar expediency concerning more specifically the potential expansion to Heathrow, but also more broadly the continued referendum fallout. And, that we should be so reliant on artificial interference in the mould of the ADIs to maintain the environment isn’t so farfetched (even if the validity of such salvation might be), given the news in the past month that we have passed the 400ppm carbon dioxide threshold, for good.
Indeed, even if the inspiration for the episode was Brooker’s own brush with the baying mob back in 2004 – when he wrote jokingly in The Guardian effectively asking for someone to assassinate George W. Bush – the vitriolic discourse surrounding the incoming child refugees is an accurate parallel too. I’m often wary of over-politicising films and television (even if the idea of apolitical material is questionable), yet where Black Mirror and its ilk are concerned, it exists to asks questions, and to ignore the issues raised is to do the show a disservice.
Overall, ‘Hated in the Nation’ was a superb finale to this run – slickly produced, brilliantly acted, and highly germane to the world in 2016.