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Black Mirror’s “Shut Up And Dance” Is Actually The Most Disturbing Episode – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Black Mirror’s “Shut Up And Dance” Is Actually The Most Disturbing Episode



WARNING: Spoilers for Black Mirror season 6, episode 2. Content warning: This feature discusses sensitive topics such as sexual abuse and pedophilia.

Black Mirror has always taken pride in its disturbing and unsettling content, but one episode stands out among the rest. Season 3, episode 3, “Shut Up And Dance” is a gut-wrenching emotional ride for both the protagonist and the viewer. Creator Charlie Brooker’s dystopian series first premiered on BBC’s Channel 4 in 2011 before being acquired by Netflix due to its consistently high ratings. Brooker’s anthology series explores social and political issues reminiscent of the harrowing news coverage he witnessed during his journalism career in the UK, often set in a parallel dystopian world.

As the long-awaited Black Mirror season 6 finally hit Netflix, it’s the perfect time to revisit the most disturbing episode of the series. “Shut Up And Dance” revolves around Alex Lawther’s character, Kenny, a teenager who is blackmailed by hackers after they obtain footage of him in a compromising position. The hackers’ demands escalate, and Kenny is forced to commit increasingly risky acts to prevent the release of the sexually explicit video. While Kenny denies any wrongdoing, the episode ultimately crescendos into a sickening twist that lingers long after viewing.

What makes “Shut Up And Dance” the most disturbing episode of Black Mirror is its unflinching portrayal of societal ills, while also playing on the concept of an omniscient “Big Brother.” The episode also subverts audience expectations by forcing them to empathize with the protagonist before revealing his true deviance in a shocking finale. One of the most disturbing aspects of the episode is how Kenny’s predatory behaviors are subtly present throughout, revealed only in the coda where it’s revealed he is a pedophile. Director James Watkins leans into this stylistic choice, framing Kenny’s interactions with children differently from his interactions with peers. This alludes to his sickness from the beginning of the episode.

While “Shut Up And Dance” contains a plethora of disturbing content, Brooker’s refusal to shy away from complex material forces the audience to recognize the oft-concealed nature of evil. Brooker’s willingness to berate the viewer for siding with Kenny before his deviancy is revealed subverts the show’s own scary technological tropes. The episode’s realism, with the hackers obtaining Kenny’s information through his webcam and email account, adds to its unsettling nature.

As for season 6, episode 2, “Loch Henry” comes closest to paralleling the devastation of “Shut Up And Dance.” The episode follows couple and film students Davis and Pia as they visit Davis’s mother, Janet, and discover a serial killer’s dark past in her town. They decide to make a documentary about the killer, but Pia uncovers VHS tapes that prove Davis’s parents assisted the killer in his murderous exploits. After Pia dies in an unrelated accident, Janet leaves the VHS tapes for her son before committing suicide. The episode then jumps years ahead, showing Davis’s successful documentary, which has won a BAFTA. The final shot sees Davis reading his mother’s suicide note, which says, “For your film. Mum.”

In conclusion, “Shut Up And Dance” remains the most disturbing episode of Black Mirror due to its unflinching portrayal of societal ills and its subversion of audience expectations. While every episode of season 6 has its merits, “Loch Henry” comes closest to paralleling the devastation of “Shut Up And Dance.”

WARNING: Spoilers for Black Mirror season 6, episode 2



Content warning: This feature discusses sexual abuse and pedophilia.

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Black Mirror wears its disturbing and unsettling content like a badge of honor, but no Black Mirror episode compares to season 3, episode 3, “Shut Up And Dance.” Charlie Brooker’s dystopian Black Mirror premiered in 2011 through the BBC’s Channel 4 before being acquired by Netflix after season 2 due to the series’ continually high rating. Brooker’s long-running anthology series traditionally commentates on social and political issues that draw distinct parallels with the harrowing news coverage he observed during his journalism career in the UK, setting many of them in a parallel dystopian vision.

Since the long-awaited Black Mirror season 6 finally hit Netflix, there’s no better time to look back at the show’s most disturbing installment. The Black Mirror episode “Shut Up And Dance” stars Alex Lawther as Kenny, a teenager blackmailed by a group of hackers who reveal they have footage of Kenny in a very compromising position. As the hackers’ demands escalate, Kenny is forced to commit increasingly risky acts to stave off the release of this overtly sexual video. While Kenny protests in innocence throughout the course of the episode, “Shut Up And Dance” ultimately crescendos into a sickening twist that lingers in the mind long after viewing.



What Makes This Black Mirror Episode So Disturbing

Kenny bloodied up in Black Mirror episode Shut Up and Dance

The Black Mirror episode “Shut Up And Dance” is easily the most disturbing episode of the dystopian anthology series, amounting to an emotional endurance test for both the fraying Kenny and the viewer, respectively. The best elements of “Shut Up And Dance” ultimately derive from its unflinching look at societal ills while also playing on the concept of an omniscient “Big Brother.” “Shut Up And Dance” also succeeds by subverting audience expectations, forcing its audience to empathize with the protagonist before pulling the pin on an explosively horrifying finale.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this Black Mirror episode is how often Kenny’s predatory behaviors are covertly present throughout before its coda reveals his pedophilia. Kenny’s everyday interactions fall into two distinct categories, as delineated by the technologically lacking episode 3 Black Mirror script: natural and unnatural, with director James Watkins leaning into this concept stylistically. Kenny’s interactions with his peers seem mundane, engorged by slow dialogue, whereas his conversations with children at work are framed differently. Watkins displays these scenes from strange camera angles and shows Kenny visibly stimulated by these moments, alluding to his sickness from the offset of the episode.

Related: Why Black Mirror’s Original Idea For “Shut Up And Dance” Was Better

While “Shut Up And Dance” itself contains a plethora of disturbing content, Brooker forcing the viewer to confront Kenny’s hidden sexual preferences head-on is the most harrowing portion of the Black Mirror episode. Brooker’s refusal to back down from complex material, as well as essentially berating the viewer for siding with Kenny before his deviancy is revealed, forces the audience to recognize the oft-concealed nature of his evil. In this way, Brooker uses the episode to subvert Black Mirror‘s own scary technological tropes, initially presenting Kenny’s hackers as evil. The episode is also firmly rooted in reality, with the vigilantes obtaining Kenny’s sordid information through his webcam and email account.

Are Any Black Mirror Season 6 Episodes As Unsettling?

Black Mirror Loch Henry Davis with film equipment

After waiting three years, Black Mirror finally released season 6, containing five new creepy stories starring the likes of Annie Murphy, Aaron Paul, Josh Harnett, Salma Hayek, and more. However, is there a Black Mirror episode from the bunch that can stand up next to the harrowing events of “Shut Up and Dance”? While every episode of season 6 has its merits, Black Mirror season 6, episode 2, “Loch Henry,” comes the closest to paralleling “Shut Up and Dance’s” devastation. In the installment, couple and film students Davis and Pia visit his mother Janet, and discover that a serial killer named Iain Adair used to torture tourists in her town.

They decide to make a documentary about the killer, but Pia soon discovers VHS tapes that prove Davis’ parents assisted Adair in his murderous exploits. Pia dies in an unrelated accident and Janet leaves the VHS tapes for her son before committing suicide. The Black Mirror episode then jumps years ahead and Davis’ documentary is a hit on Streamberry and has won a BAFTA. The final shot sees Davis reading his mother’s suicide note, which says “For your film. Mum.” The installment is a callback to the series’ roots and takes a hard swing at streaming and true crime, as Davis is equally successful and traumatized.

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