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Recap / Black Mirror: Shut Up and Dance

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Series Three
NosedivePlaytestShut Up and DanceSan JuniperoMen Against FireHated in the Nation
"They filmed me..."

"Pictures hang about on Google like a Gypsy fucking curse. There's no cure for the Internet, you would never go away."

When a teenager falls into an online trap, he is forced into an uneasy alliance.

Starring Alex Lawther as Kenny and Jerome Flynn as Hector.

Tropes related to Shut Up and Dance

  • Adult Fear: Part of Hector's motivation for going through with aiding and abetting the bank robbery is keeping his marriage and kids — he goes as far as to say that he'd kill himself if he lost the latter (which will probably happen since his secrets were released to his wife). And then there's the ending...
  • All for Nothing: Regardless of what actions the blackmail victims are forced to perform, their secrets are released.
  • All There in the Manual: According to both the showrunners and supplemental material, Kenny is 19 years old, meaning that he will be tried as an adult for his crimes.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The basic premise of the episode is based on a real phishing scam in which the victim is sent an email stating that their computer was hacked to take a video of both them masturbating to pornography and the pornography they were masturbating to. The victim is then asked to pay a large sum of money in Bitcoin to an address consisting of random numbers and letters, under threat of the incriminating video being sent to all their contacts. In case you weren't aware, it's simply a bluff meant to steal money from the unsuspecting victim. Some variants of the email are additionally made up to appear as if they were sent from the victim's own email, sometimes including their password in the message to make the bluff more believable.
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  • Armor-Piercing Question: An absolutely epic one forms the Wham Line detailed below. Kenny can't even answer, though he doesn't really need to — his horrified, sobbing reaction says it all.
    How young? In the videos. How young were they?
  • Asshole Victim: Deconstructed. While the characters have done morally dubious things, the episode makes the audience question whether the extrajudicial punishment they face is warranted. It's an exploration, ultimately, of when anonymous Internet "justice" is taken way too far. While Kenny did indeed violate the law, the same can't be said of Hector or the CEO. So, did they really deserve to be cruelly toyed with and then have their lives ruined? The hackers could simply release the damning information they have but they're also coercing the victims into doing dangerous, illegal things, which makes them seem malicious rather than morally righteous.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kenny isn't the innocent victim he initially appears to be.
  • Blackmail: The mysterious hacker(s) use this to get people to do dangerous/crazy things, which eventually go up to bank robbery and then murder.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: An anxious Kenny wets himself when forced to rob a bank.
  • Bungled Suicide: Kenny attempts to shoot himself before the fight to the death. The gun (which he pointed at the cashier in the robbery) turns out to be empty.
  • Caps Lock: The blackmailers send all their text messages to Kenny and Hector like this. By comparison, Kenny's phone capitalises only the first letter of a sentence automatically when he sends texts.
  • Continuity Nod
    • The news site the CEO browses that reveals she's been outed for emailing racist comments mentions Prime Minister Callow from "The National Anthem" being divorced, a new talent show called Fifteen Million Merits, the trial of Victoria Skillane in "White Bear", and has an advertisement for the "smart cookies" used in "White Christmas."
    • Kenny works at a restaurant called Barnies, a location briefly mentioned as part of Greta's schedule in "White Christmas."
    • Kenny's laptop has a Waldo sticker on it.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: The blackmailers use footage of Kenny masturbating to rope him into doing things for them. It's later revealed that it's not the fact he was masturbating, but what he was masturbating to, that causes him to be easily blackmailed.
  • David vs. Goliath: The guy that Kenny is supposed to fight against is considerably bigger than him. It's rather surprising to see that Kenny wins the fight, considering how wimpy he looks. It's implied that the bigger man being completely drunk played a part in his off-screen defeat.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Constantly. Three notable examples occur when Kenny robs the bank, attempts suicide when he realises that they're going to have to fight to the death, and as he walks away from having brutally killed the other paedophile.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Zig-Zagging Trope with Kenny. He is eventually forced to rob a bank and then kill someone, all because he got caught masturbating on a webcam. However, it should be noted that this was all done through his own free will ... except before killing that person, he tried to kill himself and clearly only killed his opponent in self-defence. At one point, Hector even says he's surprised that's all they had on him, yet it's eventually revealed he was looking at child pornography.
    • Played straight with the other people getting blackmailed as their secrets were Hector attempting to cheat on his wife with a prostitute and the woman who said racist comments on the Internet, though their tasks were minor compared to what Kenny had to do. Likewise, we don't know what the guy who delivered the cake did. Yet Hector was also forced to be an accomplice to a bank robbery with Kenny and if the hackers also revealed that along with his secret or if the police find out, this can mean he will lose his kids, his wife, and his freedom. Even the others may also end up going to prison too since some of their tasks were also illegal.
  • Downer Ending: Kenny is revealed to have masturbated to child porn, explaining his extreme feelings of guilt and why he was so desperate to cover up the video. The blackmailers end up leaking all the secrets anyway, destroying the lives of not only Kenny but the other victims we've seen. Hector will end up losing his wife and kids and will probably go to prison for accessory to the bank robbery. Meanwhile, Kenny, who has just been forced to kill someone else, staggers out of the woods in shock and ends up getting arrested. No wonder the next episode is a Breather Episode.
  • The Driver: It's implied that the hacker placed Hector in his situation just to drive Kenny, who doesn't have a licence, around and punished him in the end just like everybody else.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hector does this because he is short on time and had several drinks immediately prior to being forced to drive.
  • Duel to the Death: This is the final thing Kenny is forced to do with a fellow blackmail victim.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: We assume that Kenny is the unequivocal victim for an innocent act, until we find out in the last few minutes that he was masturbating to child porn.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The trolls make sure that the gun they give Kenny isn't loaded. Whether this was to keep him from hurting anyone during the robbery or to make sure he couldn't escape his final fight by pulling a gun or escape his ultimate fate by killing himself is debatable. Given the series, it's safe to assume the latter.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Kenny, at the end of the episode, has been forced to kill somebody else, traumatising him, and the police come to arrest him for the robbery and possibly the murder, meaning he will likely go to prison for a very long time. Even worse is that the trolls reveal his secret anyway, meaning that everyone knows he's a paedophile, so his life is completely ruined no matter what.
  • Fictional Counterpart
    • Wayhaven Hotels is a fictional equivalent of mid-tier budget hotels in the UK such as Premier Inn and Travelodge.
    • Kenny robs a branch of the fictitious National Allied Bank, which uses green as a principal color, like the real-life Lloyds Bank.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Kenny is shown to be fond of kids and being altogether friendly with them in the first scene. As it turned out, it was neither fondness nor friendliness. Note that he doesn't once look at the mother like normal people would do when handing the toy back, he stays focused on the girl. He's also caught absent-mindedly stroking the drawing that the girl made by his boss, who assumes that he drew it.
    • Additionally, Kenny doesn't share his male coworkers' interest in presumably adult women. While it initially appears that he simply doesn't want to follow the example of leering voyeurs such as them, it could be a hint at things to come. He also seems completely oblivious to his female supervisor's niceness toward him, which isn't that out of place for an awkward teenager, but given the revelation that he's not attracted to adults...
    • Likewise, it turns out there's a bigger reason why Kenny is noticeably upset and worried when his sister Lindsey uses his laptop without permission. Pay extra attention to Kenny when she complains she just wanted to watch "some movie thing" and he pauses before asking "...what movie thing?"
    • Played with while Kenny and Lindsey are watching television while their mother is on a date. It would seem that Kenny left the living room after getting aroused by the scantily clad (and adult) woman in the music video, but knowing what happens later, he is more than likely bored and definitely looking for his usual child porn fix.
    • When Kenny opens Hector's wallet, condoms fall out and we see pictures of Hector's kids. He also looks increasingly more and more uncomfortable when Hector rants that it will all be taken away.
    • At one point, Hector is incredulous that the only thing Kenny did wrong to get blackmailed was masturbating to porn, even quipping that "everyone does that". This hints early on that Kenny's freaking out for some entirely different reason — the embarrassment and social fallout of a mere jerkoff video being leaked would be bad, but hardly anything to steal or kill over.
  • From Bad to Worse: Kenny assumes that he'll only have to do one task for the blackmailers, as the other victims had to do. He goes from delivering a cake to robbing a bank, driving to the middle of nowhere, and then fighting a stranger to the death. And then the blackmailers out him anyway and send him a trollface, and he's promptly arrested.
  • Hero of Another Story/Villain of Another Story: The "hero" part only applies because this is Black Mirror. We get many glimpses of the other blackmailing victims/villains, but we only really see Kenny's story (and, to a lesser extent, Hector's) in any depth. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the other paedophile that Kenny fights. He's drunk and terrified when he turns up, and it's not clear if he's been sent on another quest or just told that he must fight somebody else to the death.
  • Hope Spot: As Hector is home and sees his daughter he gets a text from the hacker to open a trollface, as it turns out the hacker sent the evidence anyway.
  • I Am One of Those, Too: When Kenny invents a fake backstory of being from Birmingham, Hector's friend Karen mentions that her husband is also from Birmingham and asks which part Kenny is from. Kenny is struggling to keep up his masquerade.
  • I Lied: The anonymous blackmailers tell their targets that they will be let go at a certain point. They all get a trollface and their secrets leaked when the blackmailers are done, though.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Hector empties the hotel minibar after the blackmail chain hits him. Likewise, the man in the woods appears quite drunk due to his ordeal to say the least, which may explain how Kenny beat him in the fight.
  • Jail Bake: The cake that Kenny is tasked with delivering to Hector has the gun and "disguise" concealed within it.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Kenny gets in a lot of trouble just because he was recorded while masturbating to porn. Subverted when it's revealed what kind of porn it was.
  • Karma Houdini: The blackmailers apparently get away with everything they do, including leaking all the secrets anyway.
  • Kick the Dog: Hector didn't even get to cheat on his wife, but was nevertheless punished for his misdeed; also, he had arguably the least vile indiscretion of any of the blackmail victims in the episode (not that what he did, or wanted to do, was good by any measure).
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Deconstructed as you see things from the blackmail victims' perspective. While they've all done bad things, the extrajudicial retribution they're faced with never comes across as just or reasonable, seeing how dangerous the assigned tasks end up being. The nature of the demands suggests the hackers are doing this because they enjoy manipulating people, rather than any deeply held moral convictions.
  • Meaningful Name: The malware removal app that allows hackers to take over Kenny's webcam is called Shrive. One meaning of "Shrive" is to give confessions to a priest.
  • The Nondescript: One of the more unsettling things about the episode is that Kenny looks just like any other teenager. This actually works in his favor for the bank robbery, as he has no easily identifiable traits that the police can use.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Subverted. Rather wimpy teen Kenny winning the fight (to the death) against a grown man isn't shown, which would be pretty impressive, but considering his life is ruined, it's hard to qualify as truly "awesome."
  • Oh, Crap!: When Hector tells his story and reveals that the hackers copied his whole hard drive and every bit of correspondence between him and "Mindy", Kenny really breaks down. At first, it can be seen as just his general shame. However, considering the pictures he was looking at, it's possible he realized the hackers probably got enough on him to buttress the case that he was looking at child pornography if he had additional pictures saved onto his hard drive.
  • Pædo Hunt: As we discover from the episode's conclusion, Kenny was looking at child porn. This introduces an uncomfortable situation wherein the audience has been sympathizing with him up to this point and thinking he's an ordinary person, only to discover his dark secret. The question then posed is whether Kenny deserves to have been singled out like he was. If we the viewers are outraged that a seemingly normal person is being illegally coerced, does it suddenly make that coercion morally acceptable if that person turns out to have committed a crime? The rule of law extends to all people, even blatant scumbags, and taking away the assurance of legal protection from a particular individual sets a bad precedent for the rest of society. It establishes that certain people can be deprived of their rights and punished extrajudicially, something that could easily be extended to include not just paedos and alleged paedos but also ordinary non-criminals for whatever arbitrary reason the accuser can think of. After all, the CEO and possibly the delivery guy didn't do anything illegal to invoke the hackers' wrath, so what's the takeaway here? Holding a disagreeable opinion or looking at strange (but apparently not illegal) porn is sufficient grounds to be threatened into participating in a criminal conspiracy? Dispensing with rules to punish a person for their misdeeds (perceived or otherwise) is appallingly irresponsible, and more to the point a gross moral failing on the part of the hackers.
  • The Paranoiac: Kenny mounts a padlock on his door to prevent his sister from using his laptop. He is also very reluctant to show his phone to Hector. Turns out he had a logical reason from his self-interest's perspective: he had been stashing child pornography on his hard drive.
  • The Reveal: A major one that changes everything: the pictures Kenny was looking at were child pornography.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • The huge revelation near the end allows you to notice a lot more of the foreshadowing than you probably did the first time.
    • In the Google search bar right before Kenny masturbates, it's a bit difficult to see what he entered. On a rewatch after the revelation, it's the letters "chil", as in "child".
  • Sadistic Choice: The people being blackmailed are forced to do whatever the mysterious blackmailer tells them to do or have their secrets revealed.
    • This is worse for Kenny since the reveal of what he is hiding is more severe compared to the black guy, Hector, or the middle-aged businesswoman, and in the end when his choice is to fight a man to the death or be revealed as a paedophile to the public, which was also the choice his opponent had.
  • Spiritual Successor: Thanks to the big revelation near the end that changes everything, people are already calling this a spiritual successor to "White Bear."note 
  • Storyboarding the Apocalypse: Hector explains in great detail to Kenny what would happen if he didn't rob the bank. His scare tactics work, though since he wasn't aware of the true nature of Kenny's crime, the apocalypse of social ostracism and ridicule he's storyboarding is almost certainly much tamer than what Kenny himself was imagining as the fallout.
  • Stress Vomit: After Hector gets activated by the hackers, who are implied to have told him that they know he's about to have sex with a prostitute, he goes to the bathroom and can be heard vomiting.
  • Toyota Tripwire: Kenny almost hits one when rushing on his bike to the parkhouse.
  • Trojan Horse: After his sister takes his laptop and visits a site that installs malware on it, Kenny downloads a malware removal app called Shrive, which hacks into his computer. The hackers use this to blackmail him.
  • Troll: The blackmailers use the original trollface to indicate that everything the victims did was in vain, meaning they probably see themselves as such.
  • The Unreveal
    • We never see who the hacker[s] is/are or where they came from. Although the camera does appear to linger on a sketchy-looking young man in the business hotel, so he might have done all the texting and hacking. It's also implied that Hector saw another one of the blackmailers when he initially drove away from the bank because of a sketchy person watching him.
    • We never learn what the man who delivered the cake to Kenny did. We do see his family calling him a "pervert" at the end, but given how lightly the hackers let him off, whatever it was couldn't have been that bad. Certainly not illegal, anyhow.
    • We're not shown whether the information the hacker had on the man in the woods that Kenny killed was leaked like the other blackmailed people. Considering what happened to the rest of them, it's safe to assume that the hacker did leak it in the end too.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Kenny's sister, Lindsey. Had she not used the dodgy free movie software, Kenny wouldn't have installed Shrive to clean it up, he wouldn't have been hacked, and none of the events in the episode would have happened.
  • Vertigo Effect: There is a vertigo effect as Kenny and Hector rush to the destination with the car.
  • Wham Line:
    • This exchange between Kenny and the blackmail victim he is supposed to fight to the death:
      Other victim: What'd they get you for?
      Kenny: [trying not to cry] I just looked at some photos. That's all. I just looked at one or two photos.
      Other victim: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I just looked at pictures too ... how young were they? In the pictures. How young?
      Kenny: [breaks down crying]
      Other victim: Yeah. Well, me too.
    • Further cemented after they have fought, and Kenny has presumably killed him, when he gets a call from his mother.
      Kenny's mother: What did you do, Kenny?! They're saying it's kids! That you've been looking at kids! And Lindsey saw it. There's a video of you. All of her friends have got it! KIDS, Kenny! Tell me it's not...


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