SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT BLACK MIRROR’S BANDERSNATCH
Black Mirror’s newest episode, Bandersnatch, is the wildest yet for the creepy series. Unlike most Black Mirror’s episodes, Bandersnatch doesn’t offer viewers a new horrifying view of technology, but instead adds a new dimension to the streaming experience. If you are unfamiliar with Black Mirror’s other episodes, I would suggest watching them before viewing Bandersnatch, as there are several small references hidden within the film. (Also throughout this article, you may notice that I switch between referring to Bandersnatch as an episode and a film. While Netflix states that the watch time for the piece is 90 minutes, this really depends on your dedication for unlocking all possible endings. There are several internet-based walkthrough guides available to reach every possible ending, and there are several different YouTube videos that offer some explanation for each ending. So, if you are confused after your first viewing of Bandersnatch, fear not! The internet has (some) answers right at your fingertips.)
The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure structure of Bandersnatch is not really anything special. You’re always offered two choices, and the “bad” choice (I’ll speak more on this in a later paragraph) can result in characters taking drugs, learning dark family secrets, or even dying. The Black-Mirror-twist on the structure is that certain characters are aware that you chose the “wrong” answer before. For example, the infamous game designer, Colin Ritman, drops lines like “sorry mate, wrong path” to the protagonist, Stefan Butler, when he makes a choice that ends the story. Colin also seems to have the power to manipulate timelines, as he can “skip to the next bit” (or essentially fast forward) by clapping his hands. It’s quite obvious to Colin that free will does not exist in this Netflix-bound universe, and he tells Stefan several times that he will “see [him] again in the next life.” Stefan occasionally picks up on these lines and learns from his (the viewer’s) past choices. The longer you play through the adventure, the more Stefan will learn about his surroundings – but it is ultimately up to you to determine what is fact and what is fiction.
Netflix forces viewers to question “good” and “bad” while watching this episode. The only real “goal” of the adventure is to have Stefan Butler’s video game receive a five-star rating. This can only be achieved by making some blatantly horrible decisions, including Stefan murdering his father, and then chopping up the body. I would suggest watching the film without any outside guidance for as long as possible before consulting internet-based resources. Most (if not all) of the endings are accessible with a little patience and memory skill (as repeating the same action does not offer new options the second time around), and I would suggest writing down the options you have already chosen if you want to exhaust all possible outcomes. (Note: some decisions, such as which cereal Stefan eats in the morning, and what music he listens to on his way to Tuckersoft, do not seriously alter the story. These decisions only affect your viewing experience, and not Stefan’s life in any major way.)
Bandersnatch is quite possibly Black Mirror’s best work. Like Black Mirror’s other episodes, it is not a television experience to be taken lightly. It is the perfect mix of fourth-wall-breaking humor, and dark realism. If you have not already seen Bandersnatch (or if you would like to view it again to uncover some more endings), I would highly recommend it, and leave you with this advice: a bit of madness is what you need.
Kristin Gustafson is a senior Creative Writing major at Otterbein University. Her favorite character in the MCU is Deadpool and her favorite fantasy series is Harry Potter. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her dog, Nikita, writing poetry, and riding horses.