Why didn’t anyone in just put on a motorcycle helmet?
Charlie Brooker’s techno-thriller anthology “Black Mirror” is all about questions. Would recording your entire life be a gift or a curse? Would it be better to live forever in a computer, or die naturally? In its third season, released last week on Netflix, “Black Mirror” poses its hardest question of all: why did Black Mirror make an episode about mean bees?
With their high-concept premises, “Black Mirror” episodes are bound to be controversial. Some people don’t like the episode that centers around the prime minister having actual sex with an actual pig, for example. But the premise at the center of “Hated in the Nation” is so comically dumb, it makes all of “Black Mirror” look worse.
The British government made these robot bees to replace the regular bees that disappeared in colony collapse disorder. But someone has hacked the bees! Every day, people vote in a Twitter hashtag campaign on who the bees should kill. Then one unlucky person gets a bee in their head.
Cut to an endless series of scenes— the episode runs at a whopping ninety minutes — of British detectives trying to protect a series of unlikable people from bee-braining. At first, they don’t know why various social outcasts people —an Ann Coulter analogue, a rapper who made fun of a kid’s dancing — are getting killed by bees.
When the detectives realize that the bees are behind it, the episode turns into Sharknado but with bees, as the social media-crazed cyborgs hunt down their prey. The bees chase unpopular people down all over Britain — in one accidentally hilarious scenes, a little kid notices an ominous crew of bees on the window right before they murder his teacher.
Instead of getting the usual “Black Mirror” spooky vibe, though, I spent an hour-and-a-half wondering: why don’t these people just put something on their heads to stop the bees? All these unlikable people should just put on motorcycle helmets. We’re told the bees find their targets through facial recognition, a point we’re reminded of when the bees’ mastermind changes his hair and eye color to avoid his minions’ wrath. If the bees can’t see your face, you’re safe! And, more importantly, bees can’t crawl through your brain if you have a thick layer of fiberglass around it.
Apparently, though, motorcycle helmets don’t exist in “Black Mirror” world. In one scene, an entire SWAT team shows up to save a woman who disrespected a war memorial (a perennial issue in Britain). The police hustle her out of her apartment like there’s a sniper waiting to take a shot. Then, they spirit her to a creepy country cottage straight of Withnail and I, where the bees crawl through the vents and kill her anyway. Instead of going to all that trouble, the police should’ve just put a helmet on her head!
As assassination via bee gets more popular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer becomes their next target. As he frets over his impending bee murder, no one on his team suggests the obvious — just wearing a motorcycle helmet, or maybe at least one of those umbrella hats.
The bees eventually turn on all the people who are using them for social media murder. It’s a “Black Mirror” moral by way of Jon Ronson! Motorcycle helmets aside, though, the usual ominous “Black Mirror” ending is undermined here by the fact that — as teens’ devotion to Bee Movie proves — bees are inherently ridiculous.
Will Sommer is the senior editor at Washington City Paper.