Warning: The following recap contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know about what happens in this episode, “Hated in the Nation,” or if you really don’t like getting bees in your bonnet, you’ll want to leave the page now!
The final episode of this season of Black Mirror, “Hated in the Nation,” was written by Charlie Brooker, and is based on the showrunner’s own experiences dealing with internet harassment. The story is 90 minutes of classic pulp mystery (feature-length ain’t no thang on Netflix mang), but because this is one of the darkest sci-fi series to ever hit the small screen, technology inevitably finds its way into humanity’s bzzzzzzzzzzzness. (That will make sense soon, and oh how you’ll laugh!)The finale, which felt Fringe-esque but much darker, centers on a detective, Karin Parke, played by Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old men), and her shadow, Chloe “Blue” Perrine played by Faye Marsay (Waif on Game of Thrones). And what begins as a (relatively) normal murder mystery into the death of a woman who wrote an ill-received op-ed, eventually becomes a comment on the baselessness of human nature online, as well as the state of our environment and its fragile yet critical bee population.
Parke and Blue get to know each other over the body of the dead op-ed author, Jo Powers, who received a cake right before her death (second cake delivery this season; go cake!). It immediately becomes apparent that Parke is old school and Blue is as cutting edge as they come, as the former comes from a world of experience in the field while the latter has a background in all things digital. (It’s an X-Files-ish dynamic, minus the supernatural element.)
When another victim—Tusk, the rapper—who was also despised online (on Twitter or an extremely Twitter-like site; it’s a bit unclear) turns up dead, the detective-shadow duo realize that the two murders must be linked. The fact that little electronic bees are plucked and sucked out of the two victims (by CT machine for ol’ Tusk) then confirms that theory.
The electronic bees, or Autonomous Drone Insects (ADI’s), found in both victims’ heads lead the detective duo to a company named Granular, and it’s there, through the head of the “swarm” division, Rasmus Sjoberg, and presumably the CEO, Vanessa Dahl (she’s pretty quiet), that we’re introduced to the technological component of the story: a population of robot bees, which are on the order of at least tens of thousands, that have been brought online to help make up for the dying bee population. (Which could happen in reality if there was large-scale colony collapse.)
The robo-bees are a refreshing take on the classic “so this is how robots are going to kill us” scenario, because the problem here isn’t superintelligent A.I. (á la Ex Machina), it’s relatively simple A.I. that simply performs its task too well. The bees also use 3-D printing hives to duplicate themselves, which is awesome (silicon valley, run with it).
Even though Parke and Blue—look, the show name is baked right in—have the murder weapon (zee bees!), they still don’t know who the murderer is. Then, thanks to some clever digital sleuthing on Blue’s part, they find out it’s Twitter. Literally. Kind of.
Blue realizes that the killer robo-bees are choosing their targets based on how much the hashtag #DeathTo [insert person here] is being used on Twitter (or a nearly identical social media site, “hashtags” and “tweets” are used on the service): Whoever earns the most #DeathTo tweets in a given 24-hour period of time, like both Tusk and Jo Powers did, earns the wrath of the bees.
In their pursuit of their unknown suspect, Park and Blue are joined by an NCA officer, played by Benedict Wong (the “NCA” sounds suspiciously like the NSA, probably for a reason…) and the three try their best to protect the next target, Clara Meades, from the bees. The three take her to a safe house, but they’re no match for a mega swarm that invades the house and eventually Meades’ nasal cavity.
Thanks to the involvement of the NCA via Wong’s character, the episode not only opens up the discussion about online trolling and the extinction of critical species, but also touches on the topic of government surveillance. We find out that Granular, the company behind the robo-bees, is indeed funded by the government. But that’s come at a price: the bees, which are equipped with facial recognition abilities, are being used to spy on the civilian population. The argument’s made that murders and terrorist plots have been stopped thanks to the bees, but it’s still endlessly creepy thinking about little bee-sized GoPro cams buzzing about everywhere—especially if they can recognize your face and kill you.
After interviewing a former Granular employee who tried to kill herself thanks to her own dance with the dark side of the internet, Karin is turned onto a strong possible suspect: another former Granular employee who’s a genius coder with a vendetta against the society that turned on the woman he liked (the other former Granular employee who tried to kill herself).
From there out it’s a mad dash to catch the evil coder who’s taken control of the robo-bees, Garrett Scholes. After Blue follows some digital breadcrumbs, she, Parke, and the rest of the police are able to track down a hard drive Scholes didn’t destroy completely. On the hard drive, Sjoberg finds “the key” to taking over Scholes’ program and shutting down the bees. Parke realizes that Scholes is too smart to make mistakes, and that the key is probably a trap. But she’s too late. The key is used, the bees are activated, and everybody who used the Twitter hashtag #DeathTo—over 387,000 people—are murdered.
It turns out that Scholes’ target wasn’t Jo Powers, or Tusk, or even the exceptionally bratty Chancellor Pickering, but was indeed everybody who sits behind their computer and spews hateful rhetoric online.
The episode ends simultaneously watching Scholes change his appearance and go on the lamb, and with Parke testifying in court that, due to guilt, Blue has killed herself. But because this is Black Mirror, there is one final twist: Blue is in cahoots with Scholes! No, not really, but didn’t you expect that? No, the final twist is that Blue is indeed alive, and she has Scholes squarely in her sights, presumably ready to do him justice. She fires off a text to her partner/mentor, “Got him,” and as we watch Blue follow Scholes off on some side street in a village somewhere, the episode ends. Leaving a perfect beginning for… Parke and Blue: the sci-fi cop show that really should be coming to Netflix next summer.
What did you think about the 90-minute Black Mirror finale? Be the bees knees and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!