BLACK MIRROR Recap: “Shut Up and Dance” Explores Cyber Blackmail

Warning: The following recap contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens in this episode, “Shut Up and Dance,” or haven’t yet covered up the webcam on your computer, you may want to leave the page now! 

“Shut Up and Dance,” which has almost zero actual dancing, taps into a fear that’s probably crossed everybody’s mind at some point now that we’re in the internet age: cyber blackmail. Yes, privacy is going out the window now that there are cameras everywhere, but everybody still has secrets, and in this episode, those secrets drive people to the brink of madness and beyond.The episode begins with a woman doing something very sketchy (involving a phone and those classic Black Mirror sound effects) near a car in a parking lot. We don’t follow her for long, though, as we’re suddenly dropped into the life of Kenny, played by Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game), a young man working as a busboy at a restaurant. When Kenny gets home, he finds out that his sister has taken his computer and inadvertently installed malware on it. Kenny downloads a program—Shrive—to have the malware cleaned off, but instead of ridding his computer of viruses he unknowingly gives access to his webcam to someone who’s now watching him.

The someone watching Kenny through his webcam records him—how would the British say this—doing the hokey cokey with himself as he looks at some risqué pictures (not seen). Soon thereafter, Kenny receives an email from the someone saying that they have a recording of him doing the Han(d) Solo, and that he now needs to wait to be “activated” or else the video will be released to everyone he knows.

The next day Kenny is “activated” by the someone, and sent to pick up a box from somebody else being blackmailed by the someone. Kenny, who finds out that the box simply contains an “I Love You” cake, takes his parcel to the location that’s been provided for him—it’s a hotel room. There, after some convincing (Kenny says he was sent by “Mindy”), a man opens the door and holy crap it’s Bronn from Game of Thrones! OK, it’s not actually Bronn, it’s Hector, but Hector is played by Jerome Flynn who plays Bronn on GoT. Once inside the hotel room, the someone doing all the blackmailing says that Kenny and Hector need to hit the road together. And after some stressful mishaps—involving a gas station pit stop and a PTA mom who needs a ride—as well as finding out some background information on Hector—he’s a husband and father who wanted to cheat on his wife with a prostitute, which is why he was at the hotel—the pair of blackmailees (can we make that a word?) arrives at a bank.

And yes, the someone blackmailing them does want them to rob it.

Hector volunteers to be the wheel man, and Kenny, after some serious convincing on Hector’s part (Hector tells Kenny that if his video gets out he’ll probably kill himself) forces himself to go in and rob the bank. While Kenny’s robbing the bank, he loses control of his bladder (who wouldn’t?), but does manage to get the money. He and Hector are then told to go to another location, which is this time away from the city, on a large and relatively deserted grassy knoll. Hector’s instructed to destroy the now-getaway vehicle, while Kenny is sent up the knoll into a forested area. The two part ways amicably, with Hector saying that under normal circumstances he’s “an alright bloke” (when he’s not convincing strange young men to commit bank robberies because he’s trying to cover up the fact that he’s cheating on his wife).

Once Kenny arrives in the middle of the forested area, he meets another blackmailee, who launches a camera drone in the air and then proceeds to tell Kenny that they now need to fight. Kenny tries to kill himself with the gun he used for the bank robbery, but it’s not loaded. Once the other blackmailee realizes the gun isn’t loaded, he charges Kenny and the fight starts.

Meanwhile, we come back to Hector, who has now arrived home. He sees his daughter asleep in her room, then gets a “you mad bro?” face ( this one) text from the someone, and we get the sense that everything is fine for Hector. But—because this is Black Mirror—when Hector arrives at his bedroom and sees his wife on their bed, she’s watching her computer and weeping. She simply says “Mindy,” and Hector immediately realizes that the someone has released evidence of him soliciting the prostitute.

Then we’re back on a very tattered, very bloodied Kenny, who’s stumbling back to civilization. He’s won the fight to the death, but we can see in his eyes that his soul is crushed. After that, one by one, each of the blackmailees receives the same “you mad bro” face, and all of their skeletons are pulled out of their respective closets—the woman from the opening scene has her racist emails exposed, the guy who delivered the box to Kenny has something released that makes his family deem him perverted—and finally, Kenny gets his “you made bro” face text too. But only after his mom has called him in hysterics, screaming at him for looking at “kids.” It’s revealed that Kenny didn’t just want to hide a video of himself masturbating, but also looking at child pornography.

Then, as Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For A Film)” hits its haunting and intense crescendo, the police arrive and take Kenny into custody. The episode ends there, with any sympathies for the blackmailees turned on their heads, and viewers left amidst an ethical fugue, questioning who the Hell was actually in the right in this episode.

Speaking of figuring out who was in the right in this episode, who did you hate the least? Did you eventually hate everybody? Are you covering up your webcam with black tape literally right now? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: Netflix

Top Stories
More by Matthew Hart
Trending Topics