I know, I know, I should be focused on season four of Black Mirror, but there's still one left in S3 to recap! I *may* have missed the fact that there were 6 episodes in season 3. Imma squeak it in and then will hit S4 running, okay? Deal? Rolling S3:E6 Hated in the Nation after the break.
We open with a very nervous young woman about to testify somewhere important, I've seen Apple Tree Yard so I suggest she go relax in a suffragette closet for 6 minutes or so.
She's brought in front of a quorum? She testifies that she first got involved on the fifteenth, May 15th we discover as we go back in time.
This is Karin Parke (Kelly MacDonald) of a very modern kitchen, far too much bok choy and the news on, telling us about automated drones for bees, a tax bill repeal and a controversial newspaper columnist Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) who wrote a slam profile of a wheelchair activist.
We watch Jo go about her day. Everyone hates Jo, so much so that she accepts a delivered cake carefully - will it detonate? No, but it says "F*cking Bitch" so it's extry delicious. She digs out a piece whist we all worry about poison.
She grabs a glass of wine and sits to pore over her comments and mentions; she's clearly meant to be Katie Hopkins type of shock-"journalist" but I haven't seen her work yet so I can't fully commit. She does get loads of death threats, which seems to please her.
Can you imagine being at a stage in your life where it takes death threats to put a smile on your face?
Karin is still watching TV, now an interview with an entertainer which they're probably regretting going live. Because Tusk (Charles Babalola) is not playing the media game, he thinks the video they have of a kid imitating his dance moves (and waiting backstage) is shite. Like, really bad and he's not wrong, but he won't play malls with that attitude.
Karin can't watch the rest of the evisceration of a fourth grader, she's summoned to a crime scene where her new partner awaits. This is Blue Colson (Faye Marsay), Karin's not happy to have a shadow. Nick Shelton (Joe Armstrong from Happy Valley Series One!) briefs them: the murder victim is Jo Powers as we met above.
Jaysus the crime scene is gory, but there's an odd look to the slashes on Jo's neck. *I should not be this proud that I was able to look, but here we are*. They look hesitant and committed without force. Jo'd left a window open behind her, that appears to be the killer's point of entry.
Karin's keeping options open for the motive, but it's usually "drink, drugs, or domestic." Blue's not got a driver's license (??) so Karin drives her home so she can question her about her past. Blue was in Digital Forensics and she's not any more because...she cracked a child killing case. She saw everything in the murderer's Souvenirs folder and it can't help but change a person. She wants to be out where she can make a difference, which makes Karin snort.
She made a good point about our phones being who we are, though, they absorb everything.
The next day, Blue beats Karin to work where she's run a search over who's threatened or suggested Jo should be killed over the last 48 hours. Karin's of a more traditional mindset, still thinking about Jo's husband Simon (James Larkin) that we met earlier briefly. There's pain and heat in the 3-D of a marriage, not that blowing off steam online. That's where the real meat of discontent lies.
Will this be a showdown between the old and the new? Millennial vs. Trunchbull?
Simon's ready to talk to them, he's been wounded too. He said she was acting crazy, gouging herself with the broken bottle and slitting her own throat.
The window was slightly open, could it have something to do with those drone bees?
The detectives are off to check on the cake first, Liza Bahar (Vinette Robinson) has been quite active online, airing death threats and the like with impunity. She's not a monster, though, she's a kindergarten teacher who crowd-sourced the 80 quid for the "F*cking Bitch" cake through her Moms & Carers message board. I think it's odd that she defends the death of Jo based on that slam piece.
Blue pulls up Liza's social media account, where she freely posted using the hashtag #DeathTo, which is apparently a super fun game and doesn't mean anything.
Guess who the next target of that hashtag is? Tusk
He's hyped after a concert but starts screaming after a single hit of (legal there) drugs; it was outside but I didn't see any bees?
Ah but they were there. He went into an MRI machine alive and came out dead.
We're at Jo's autopsy, where the pathologist has also found a bee. It was burrowed into her brain, into the pain centre so she must have been in complete agony when she died.
Karin and Blue are off to Granular, the company that makes the drone bees; they have the coolest lobby tech since Paranoid.
Vanessa Dahl (Esther Hall) greets them and takes them through miles of bees to Rasmus Sjolberg (Jonas Karlsson) who is in charge of the ADIs. (Autonomous Drone SomethingStartingWithI)
The bees cannot be controlled, they don't make honey but they do build hives and duplicate themselves.
We all thought of Jurassic Park then, didn't we? Nature finds a way! Don't use the frog DNA!
They talk about the murders; could someone have hacked the bees? He blathers, so Karin cuts through the speech: "I don't know what he's saying, but it's not the same as impossible."
Some portentous keyboarding later and we see exactly how it could have been done, just as Rasmus and Vanessa realise that they should not be sharing their secrets with the police, given that they are probably at least partially culpable. Rasmus keeps saying whomever did it would need a diagnostic, so maybe it's someone with the company, past or present.
Shaun Li (Benedict Wong) from the government is waiting for Karin and Blue when they get back; he's got Tusk's bee and a video.
They compare notes; these bloodless murders are like "wishing them dead" which is what everyone is doing online, yes?
Blue digs into the hashtag, which came out only recently. #DeathTo was seeded online, attached to a clip called "Game of Consequences" where people got to choose who they hated most. "It's like an unpopularity contest." Starts at midnight, the unlucky winner is killed after 5pm. MST, EST, what?
An unpopularity contest that is picking up steam too! Wait until trolls figure out they can kill people by wishing it! Imagine the lulz!
Right now Clara Meades (Holli Dempsey) is in the lead with her selfie of pretend-pissing on a war memorial. Blue's sussed her location, where Clara is trying her best to roll a j with trembling fingers. Karin reaches her by phone in time, close your bloody windows!
Oooh, Shaun has a SUPER fancy Batmobile for the government, but can't that be hacked as well?
Clara and her roommate stare out her very much not-closed windows at the cops while Rasmuth and Vanessa monitor for a bee breach. There is one 800 metres away, that's far outside the perimeter the bobbies have set up. Did I say bobbies? I mean full scale SWAT team.
The police take Clara off to a house in the country, unfortunately that probably won't help as the Batmobile picked up a hitchhiker bee.
The bee flies from window to window; do they just not want me to go outside ever again??
Rasmuth can't track the bee and now he's lost all the tracking in that area. Thousands of rogue bees, all working for a murderous hacker with a lilliputian fixation and time on their hands.
A swarm is coming; Shaun barely ahead of it and the doors no match for it. They mean to have Clara dead and WHY??
JFC they get in through the vents and nothing can stop them, one gets up Clara's nose and it's all over.
Or is it? The bees are silent, unmoving, but if they turn on any of the detectives, there won't be anything they can do.
We're back in court with Karin, testifying in front of a crowd. She'd seen bodies, but never watched a person die. Blue took it hard.
Back at the station, they're trying to workshop the problem, but there's a grim pall over everything and everyone keeps getting mad at each other. However. They do figure out that whomever is controlling the bees is accessing their visual sensors, which Shaun calls absurd so we know he's a risk. He doesn't seem to want anyone to know that the government has Total Nationwide Surveillance.
It gets quite heated between Blue and Shaun, but Karin thinks they have more important things to work on, and besides, they have common ground.
It's Day Four and the media has noticed that the hashtag and yay, they're signal boosting it to everyone. This is like the very first episode of Black Mirror where we had to watch the Prime Minister do harmful things on camera to a completely innocent pig. He had to do it because the media had helped whip everyone into a frenzy and his approval ratings were at stake. That poor pig. Man.
At the top of the list for today is the Chancellor Tom Pickering (Ben Miles), I'd suggest he doesn't go to a farmhouse in the middle of a field full of bees for the love of the gods. He's called Shaun in for a report but what he wants is for Shaun to shut the whole internet down OR release smear stuff about a guy lower on the list. Shaun has a better plan.
Nick's dug up a suspect, Tess Wallender (Georgina Rich) who was roasted on social media and quit over the fallout. She even tried to commit suicide, to be saved by her roommate Garrett Scholes (Duncan Pow) who also worked at Granular...on the ADI project. He seemed really affected by her suicide attempt after online heckling...he's left a 98-page manifesto, complete with his picture.
Shaun has arranged for a demonstration of the hives being destroyed; guess who doesn't want to be destroyed and in turn attack the soldiers? Yeah
Back at the station, Nick sends out a #DeathTo Tweet, hashtag Garrett Scholes. Oh come on, Nick, the whole point is that people shouldn't issue death threats for entertainment. You're a cop, you should know better!
Blue is excited to find that computer genius hacker Garrett has forgotten to turn off the location setting for his picture, he's right by Granular! Sure he is. Blue does find something she thinks she can use but there is no way it isn't a setup.
Meanwhile Garrett has noted Nick's posting of his selfie online, I wonder how that will shake out. I bet Garrett has a plan for every single person who uses that hashtag and I bet it involves a bee in every ear.
Ohmigod I'm so smrt, that's what Blue susses out just then too. I'd watch yer back, Nick! Or nose and ears at least.
Karin's the only one who's listening to me, she also thinks the players are the ones at risk and the three people that have died so far are lost leaders. If they shut down the system, it might activate that countdown.
Shaun doesn't listen, he turns off the system and instead of regaining control, we see 387 thousand people about to be murdered for voting arbitrarily for someone's death for kicks.
It's beautiful in its frightfulness, thousands of tiny grim reapers flying across England. Groups gather outside Liza's school and the station window where Nick stares.
Garrett has been monitoring, when the bees are fully activated he changes his appearance and sets out, dropping the technology deep in a foreign river.
Back in the courtroom, Karin explains that Blue felt the widescale death was her fault. She quit the force and later committed suicide. Or did she? She left her things on a beach and was never seen again, but was she a partner with Garrett? She certainly did bring them along the path.
Shaun is next to testify, Karin is brought out between crowds of angry people as we see Garrett watching on TV then followed by....Blue! She wasn't on his side, she's after him and she's working with a flip phone for safety. She uses it to text Karin and we're out as she tracks Garrett.
First off, that was probably the most suspensful episode of Black Mirror that we've seen; the part at the farmhouse had a vintage Hitchcock feel in the best way. The bees were an ominous villain, so many moving parts but terrifying each and every time we saw them. As for the rest:
Well. Black Mirror is always topical, always relevant and when I clicked over to Twitter in betwixt I saw an online roasting of a chef who "spiked" a vegan (not on a volleyball court). This chef had to quit her job (she might have already been thinking about an alternate life path if feeding dairy to vegans sounded fun) and her partner will probably lose the restaurant anyway, given their association. So. outrage culture is alive and well, let's look at it in a couple of other contexts!
There have been so many cases where people lost their livelihoods and reputations over exactly this sort of thing, let's look at one I talked about a couple of times previously. You remember Tim Hunt, right? Okay, well, you remember the hashtag #distractinglysexy anyway. Sir Tim Hunt is a Nobel Prize winning scientist who wasn't very good at speechmaking. He was asked to make a speech in South Korea. Near the beginning, he went with:
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” the 72-year-old told the audience in South Korea. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry."
He doubled down on part of this assertion later, saying that the lab wasn't the place for emotion but rather critical thought. What was very rarely reported was that his wife, fellow scientist Mary Collins, was the winking reference was to falling in love. Also not touched on generally was the rest of his speech calling for more women in science and his career-long reputation for helping women in science.
Nope, and I get it, that soundbite is gloriously juicy, people couldn't wait to start posting pictures of themselves online in full scientific gear tagged #distractinglysexy. It trended as he resigned his position and lost another but it wasn't in full view by 2017, when he moved to Japan with his wife to start anew.
So, was that fair? Most people feel women aren't treated equally in STEM, was bringing up the dialogue worth Sir Tim's job and reputation? Maybe, maybe not, I guess it depends on how you feel about whether personal rights are part of civil rights or if the end always justifies the means. Have there been big strides in women's treatment in STEM since then? Did it help?
We can't talk about due process and outrage culture without talking about the recent tsunami of sexual assault and harassment allegations online. Somehow preferring to believe women who report allegations goes against the bias we should have against them? Is that how it works? Because when you hear 149 people have been assaulted by the same producer and you tweet #MeToo, have you given up on due process?
Or can they be different things that grown people can differentiate between and still offer support to those in pain due to similar circumstances in our own histories? The backlash against the accusers and ALL women came fast, and "outrage culture" was their baseball bat, meant to bash and shame everyone back into the basement. There are just too many, ladies and gents, it's not going away.
So. Yes, there are times when people jump on a bandwagon to jump on it, because it feels fun, a group activity and maybe they can even make it look like their own agendas, if they bend it a little, fold the corners. For example, I give you Ijeoma Oluo's Twitter thread about being asked to write an article on #MeToo.
Yes, people talk a lot of shit online, it's easy, it's fun, sometimes people can even monetize this shite, like Katie Hopkins. Should there be a series of checks and balances? The best way I've seen people protest, that REALLY seems to upset the status quo is through wallets and feet. Sure, Matt Damon, talk about how women are outraged because we can't tell the difference between a bum pat and pedophilia, how are those two movies you released recently doing? And that producer you supported for Weinstein back in the day?
I don't think anyone is down for mass murder by bee, but is everyone as against the repeal of Net Neutrality as my Twitter feed suggests? I saw the mildest comment get blocked and reported yesterday online, but I've also seen it in real life. It's not just an army of mechanized bees that are constantly watching us, it's us too.
Quick last comment: the part about government surveillance is supposed to scare us with it's Big Brotherness but I question whether or not people care any more. The last few times that we've seen revelations of monitoring have led to a collective response of meh. AND the sheer volume of data collected has made it unwieldy for analysis, so what's the point, exactly?
As always, I've talked too much so I will go for now, until next time we venture into the digitized void!