The episode received mixed reviews, with the twist ending polarising critical opinion, and some reviewers finding the episode too dark, though both Lawther and Flynn's performances were well received. The episode is thematically similar to " White Bear ", a previous episode of the show. Teenager Kenny Alex Lawther returns home from his restaurant job to find that his younger sister Maya Gerber has unintentionally infected his laptop with malware ; Kenny downloads a purported anti-malware tool which actually allows an unseen hacker to use the laptop's camera to record him masturbating.
The hacker emails Kenny, threatening to send the video to everyone in his contact list unless he follows a series of instructions. The next day at work, Kenny receives a text directing him to a location 15 miles away, with only 45 minutes to get there; he feigns illness to his boss Hannah Steele and frantically cycles to the coordinates.
He is met by a man on a scooter Ivanno Jeremiah , also acting on instructions from the hacker, who gives Kenny a box with a cake inside. Kenny is instructed to deliver the cake to a hotel room, where he finds Hector Jerome Flynn.
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Hector receives blackmail messages of his own; he was about to cheat on his wife with a prostitute, and follows the instructions out of fear he will lose custody of his children. Kenny and Hector are instructed to drive to a location outside the city. However, when they stop for petrol, they meet a friend of Hector's wife Natasha Little who asks for a lift home. Hector drives recklessly to get her there before continuing to their destination. They are told to use a gun concealed in the cake to rob a bank. Hector insists on being the driver, leaving Kenny to perform the robbery.
Though Kenny urinates out of nervousness during the robbery, he manages to get a bag full of cash and flee the scene with Hector. Hector is instructed to destroy the car, while Kenny carries the money to a drop-off point in a nearby wood. There he meets another blackmail victim Paul Bazely , who explains they are to fight to the death while the blackmailer observes through a camera-equipped drone; the money goes to the winner.
Twice upon a Time
Kenny tearfully protests that he merely looked at some pictures. The man asks if, like him, it was child pornography. Kenny silently brandishes the gun and attempts suicide, but finds the gun empty. The two begin fighting as the drone continues its transmission. Meanwhile, Hector returns home to his family, but finds the hacker has already sent his wife Leanne Best the evidence of his infidelity.
The other blackmail victims have also had their information released, despite having complied with instructions.
They each receive a trollface image from the blackmailer. Having won the fight, a badly injured Kenny staggers from the woodland with the money. He receives a call from his mother Camilla Power hysterically crying that his sister saw the video, and that she knows he was watching child pornography. He ends the call as the police arrive, feebly resisting as they apprehend him. Two days prior to the release of series 3 on Netflix, Den of Geek! 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.
The episode was filmed over a three week period. Alex Lawther plays the main character Kenny; Lawther was a " huge fan" of the series prior to auditioning, and particularly liked the previous episode " White Bear ".
When first auditioning, Lawther had only seen the script for a couple of scenes and was unaware of the twist ending. Lawther first met co-star Jerome Flynn , who plays Hector, during the shooting. Whilst shooting, Lawther notes that "there was a news story in the real world about something very similar" to the episode, which he describes as "a very surreal thing. On the topic of reception to the episode, Brooker comments that "no one can agree on what is their favourite episode", claiming that "Oh my God, it's absolutely chilling" and "It's about nothing, it's boring" are both things people say about "Shut Up and Dance".
This episode is considered the best of series 3 in a ranking by The Independent ; Christopher Hooton writes that "the pacing is breakneck and it's impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter praised Alex Lawther's performance in the episode, calling it "one of the best things of "; Goodman says the episode "unapologetically—and frantically—punches you right in the face, proving how nimble Brooker is at storytelling.
Collin says that director James Watkins "outdoes himself here, immediately establishing a mood of barely suppressed panic, then tightening every screw and ratchet at his disposal", and notes that the episode is "the most nihilistic episode of Black Mirror so far. Pat Stacey of Irish Independent gave the episode four stars out of five and commented that it "feels most like the old Black Mirror". Stacey summarises that it is a "fantastically tense, blackly funny tale with a shock, rug-pulling ending that packs a terrific wallop.
Club gave the episode a B rating, complimenting Black Mirror ' s "willingness to force moral questions that make everyone feel awful", and saying that the episode was "never boring, but [ Josh Dzieza of The Verge gave the episode a mixed review, criticising the twist ending as a "letdown".
Dzieza comments that the episode is "a clammy hour of sustained anxiety" which "does a fine job driving home hacking's humiliating invasiveness", but says the twist reveals that "the episode is more interested in turning gadgets into weapons of maximum humiliation than in saying anything more interesting about how digital humiliation works". Dzieza writes of the aesthetics that "the episode takes place in a series of cramped spaces shot with a cool tint" and of the actors that Lawther has an aura of "adolescent desperation" while Flynn "switches between gruffness and utilitarian friendliness".
Mullane praises that Lawther is "superb in the main role" and Flynn is "suitably sleazy, without ever being a caricature". Stop looking at me. When asked about what kind of shows might be having an unconscious effect on her forming of Season 2, she pointed to a particular HBO series. Stay on top of the latest TV news!
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Twice upon a Time (Celtic Legends, book 1) by Lisa Ann Verge
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