If you only watch one episode of the latest series of
, scroll straight to episode six.
Hated in the Nation is the last and best of the new episodes in Charlie Brooker's anthology of techno-dystopia stories, the third series of which was made available to stream on Netflix on Friday.
Like most Black Mirror episodes it bangs the well-beaten "people these days spend too much time on their phones and social media is leading us on a slippery slope straight to hell" drum, but in this instance the story is strong and compelling enough to withstand all of Brooker's furious thumping.
It starts in all too believable fashion: a controversial newspaper columnist called Jo Powers writes a contentious newspaper column and swiftly becomes public enemy number one, the target of a vicious online backlash.
Not long after she has returned home to a coarsely-worded chocolate cake Powers is found lying dead in a pool of blood with the killer nowhere to be seen, but thousands of potential suspects to be found gobbing off online. Detective Karin Parke is assigned to the case, shadowed by cyber-savvy assistant Blue.
Like a fast-paced London-based version of Scandinavian detective series like Borgen or The Killing the pair steadily unravel the increasingly grand-scaled layers of mystery. At 90 minutes - longer than the rest of the episodes in the series, which tend to clock in around an hour in length - it plays out like an involving, tightly-plotted murder mystery updated for the internet age.
It is just one of several new stylistic paths trod in the third series, the first to be produced for Netflix. The other standout episode is San Junipero - a refreshingly uncynical love story set in the neon-soaked 1980s.
The plot reads like that of a bestselling novel: a shy, awkward young woman called Yorkie visits the coastal US party town of San Junipero on a Saturday night where she meets the confident, outgoing Kelly, and over the following weekends a faltering romance blooms between the pair.
Gradually we start to notice some things don't quite add up. The big twist takes its time to arrive, but when it does it hits a satisfyingly emotional note, delivering high-concept drama and probably the strongest ending of any in the series.
The rest of the episodes are patchy at best. Nosedive imagines a not too distant future where everybody goes around frantically swiping at their phones giving each other ratings out of five stars, obsessively trying to gain the approval of strangers to boost their totals. The higher your score the more doors open for you while a low-star rating can be catastrophic - a dystopian nightmare already being lived by thousands of Uber drivers.
The concept is intriguing enough for the first few minutes but
doesn't go anywhere except the most obvious places with it. The episode is like a Banksy artwork come to life, a painfully unsubtle skewering of how we're all idiot sheeple obsessed with cultivating inauthentic social media personas.
Other episodes like the augmented reality horror Playtest and tense cyber-blackmail thriller Shut Up and Dance start promisingly and build tantalisingly but fail to find a satisfying payoff. Watching them feels like inflating a balloon to capacity only to watch it fart directionless around the room and land limply on the floor.
But overall the clangers are forgivable - even the bad
episodes are at least consistently stylish and fun. The good ones, like
, are worth putting your phone down for.