|Episode no. Series 3
Running time 52 minutes
|Directed by James Watkins|
|Written by Charlie Brooker
Original air date 21 October 2016 (2016-10-21)
"Shut Up and Dance" is the third episode of the third series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker and William Bridges, and premiered on Netflix on 21 October 2016, together with the rest of series three.
The episode tells the story of Kenny (Alex Lawther), a teenager who is suddenly blackmailed by a mysterious hacker who owns a compromising video of him. One day, the hacker gives him strange tasks to do; as he follows orders, Kenny realizes that many other people, including an older man named Hector (Jerome Flynn), are also blackmailed into strange actions by the hacker.
The episode received very positive reviews.
A woman (Susannah Doyle) drives a car into a car park, nervously leaving the keys in one of the wheel arches, before receiving a text and leaving.
Kenny (Alex Lawther), a teenager, installs a malware remover on his laptop after his sister has borrowed it without permission. Using the first search link, to a website called "Shrive", he manages to remove a virus. However, an unseen hacker gains access to the laptop's webcam and records Kenny masturbating in front of the laptop. The hacker emails Kenny, telling him to provide his phone number, or the video of him masturbating will be released to everyone in his contacts list. Kenny complies.
The hacker tells him to keep his phone on and charged at all times, and to keep his location services enabled so that the hacker knows where he is. The hacker also tells Kenny to wait until he is "activated".
At work, Kenny receives a text from the hacker, instructing him to go to a rooftop car park at noon, or his video will be released. Feigning sickness to his boss (Hannah Steele), Kenny manages to get there just in time, meeting a motorcyclist (Ivanno Jeremiah), also a victim of the hacker, who gives Kenny a box with a cake inside. The motorcyclist takes a photo of Kenny. Kenny is instructed to text a code number to verify delivery and is told to deliver the cake to a man in a hotel room. When the hotel room door is eventually opened, Kenny meets Hector (Jerome Flynn), who is also texted by the hacker. After vomiting and drinking a bottle of spirits, Hector accepts the situation. Kenny is told to take Hector's photo to confirm the delivery. The pair are then told to go to the hotel car park and use the car that the woman had earlier left.
The pair are ordered to drive to a specific location out of the city. Hector reveals that the hacker impersonated a prostitute who was meant to meet him at the hotel room. As a married man, Hector is determined to fulfill the hacker's requests so as not to face a divorce and lose custody of his children. As he tells Kenny that the hackers accessed his entire hard drive to find explicit images and messages, Kenny breaks down in tears, apparently realising the hackers have done the same to his computer. The pair reach the location and are then told to look inside the cake. They find a gun, a hat and sunglasses, and are told to rob a nearby bank. Hector waits in the car as the getaway driver. The extreme fear makes Kenny lose control of his bladder, yet he still manages to rob the bank. He and Hector escape.
Hector is told to destroy the car alone, whilst Kenny is told to go into a nearby wood to deliver the cash. Kenny meets a man (Paul Bazely) with a large box containing a drone. Revealing himself as another victim of the hacker, he tells Kenny they must fight to the death while the drone watches from above, with the money going to the winner as a prize. The man asks Kenny what evidence they have against him; a tearful Kenny says he just looked at some pictures. The man asks, "How young were they?", which causes both of them to reveal that they had actually both been masturbating to child pornography, revealing the severity of Kenny's act and why the hacker is blackmailing him. Kenny, still holding the gun, points it toward the man, then turns it on himself and finds that it is empty. The two fight, as the drone looks on.
Hector returns home, getting another text from the hacker: a picture of a trollface (Exit Music (For a Film) by Radiohead plays in background). Hector then finds that his wife has been told about the rendezvous with the prostitute. The other victims have also had their sensitive information released despite complying with the hacker's instruction, receiving text messages with the same trollface.
Kenny walks away shakily from the woodland, bloodied and with the bag, presumably containing the stolen money. He receives a call from his mother, telling him evidence of him masturbating to child pornography has leaked to the press. Kenny says nothing as the hacker again sends the image of the trollface. Suddenly, blue police car lights appear. Kenny continues to walk unsteadily along the road, but is soon apprehended by two of the policemen.
In an interview, Brooker revealed that the story went through many different iterations, and some did not include the final twist. He revealed that in one version of the story, there was no reason why the events were happening, and in another the roles were reversed, with Jerome Flynn's character having the extremely dark secret.
Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter praised Alex Lawther's performance in the episode, calling it: "one of the best things of 2016". Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph rated the episode 5 out of 5, describing it as "soul-scorching [and] relentlessly riveting". Matt Fowler of IGN similarly praised the episode, saying that it leaves the viewer "utterly shaken", and that it was a "remarkably heart-pounding episode".
Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic compared the episode to "White Bear", another episode in the series wherein a seemingly innocent person turned out to be a criminal. Martin Meany of Goos3D rated the episode 5 out of 5, praising the simplicity of the conflict that Kenny faces.
In a less positive review, Adam Chitwood of Collider stated that although it wasn't a "bad episode", it was a "frustratingly tense one [...] [and] a bit too long and has one of the darkest throughlines of the season".