Black Mirror: Men Against Fire/Hated in the Nation
By Shannon Fox, @shannonfox
Well, we’ve come to the final two episodes of Netflix’s “Black Mirror”. To be honest, I took some time between watching “San Junipero” and these last two, and I’m glad I did. These last two are HEAVY and really unsettling, particularly for our current political and social climate. Though I can’t say that either episode is one of my favorites of the series, I also can’t deny that both have lingered in my thoughts since watching them. Which, of course, is the point and the brilliance of “Black Mirror”, as I’ve been saying all along.
In general, both of the episodes deal with the consequences of technology use by governmental authority. Are the “victims” of these consequences completely innocent? No, definitely not. But what’s terrifying is that they’re not unrelatable either; we KNOW people just like them in our everyday lives. We could potentially BE one of them. There’s also the fact that the technological advances are not Jetsons-esque– both of these universes are extremely similar to the world we live in now, and that makes their fates all the more frightening.
“Men Against Fire”
Okay, first things first: while a majority of episodes in the “Black Mirror” series are difficult to watch, I think that this is the only one that I want to give a firm warning about, since I would imagine that this one would be extremely upsetting for anyone who has served in the military. So… proceed with caution.
Stripe (played by Malachi Kirby) is a new recruit to his infantry unit, full of soldiers with implanted chips in their brains that contain advanced military technology to assist them in the field. He and his team are sent on a mission to find and kill “roaches”– zombie-esque creatures that are stealing and contaminating food from local villages. But when a raid goes wrong, Stripe’s chip begins to malfunction, leading him to question the reality of everything around him.
Honestly, this episode hit me hard enough that I’m having trouble putting my feelings into words while avoiding any major spoilers about the plot. In my last review, I suggested that “San Junipero” be the one episode of “Black Mirror” that everyone should watch, but I may have to add “Men Against Fire” to that list (really, everyone should just watch the whole series, it is WORTH IT), as difficult as it may be. It’d be pretty hard not to see the parallels between this episode and current attitudes and political beliefs. The “what would you do” factor is high in this one, because Stripe could be any of one of us. Are we willing to be an ignorant bystander, or to come to terms with the part we play in the events yet to come? It’s a terrifying but important question, but one we should all be asking ourselves, especially now.
“Hated in the Nation”
Detectives Karin (Kelly Macdonald) and Blue Colson (Faye Marsay) are assigned to a high-profile case: the death of columnist Jo Parker, who had written a controversial–and internet-rage causing– piece condemning a suicide victim. But as they dive deeper into her case, more social media rage-inducers wind up dead, and the detectives scramble to find both the link between them and cause before it’s too late.
While I think this episode suffers a bit from being too long and too much like a typical television procedural, the conclusion and overall message is unnerving and far too realistic. Sure, we might’ve seen where the story was going (at least to a point) in this one, but it’s still one that makes you think. Who is the guilty party in this story, or is anyone truly innocent? But an even more important question emerges, at the end: would you be one of the 387,000?
And that’s it! As a whole, this new season of “Black Mirror” was fantastic. Some episodes were better than others, but that’s to be expected in an anthology series. I do think that the importance of a series like “Black Mirror” can’t be denied; a lot of the themes and morals in the episodes are situations that we’re dealing with at this very moment in history, even if you put the technology aside. But the universes presented to us in the series are all completely plausible– as Charlie Brooker put it in his brilliant introduction to series in The Guardian, it is “the way we might be living in ten minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”.
So watch where you’re stepping, folks.
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