Choose your own adventure with “Bandersnatch”


photo by Alex Landy

Netflix revives an old story style, choose your own adventure, in their new “Black Mirror” episode, Bandersnatch.

Lincoln Aftergood, Guest Writer

Interactive films with multiple endings and runtimes are a glimpse into what TV could look like in the future. “Bandersnatch,” a standalone episode of the critically-acclaimed series, “Black Mirror” is one example of how well this could work.

Stefan, the main character, is a programmer designing a video game called Bandersnatch in 1984 based on a book of the same name. The viewer follows him for about six months and makes various decisions for him. When it is time to make a decision, the viewer is able to choose between two distinct choices which lead to different conclusions and give each run-through of the show a unique feel. Despite this, some of the decisions in Bandersnatch are inconsequential that they feel unnecessary to the episode.

The story escalates as the development of Bandersnatch starts to weigh on Stefan and negatively affect his judgment and, as a result, Stefan becomes increasingly crazed.

The themes of Bandersnatch evoke a mix somewhere between the film “The Matrix” and the TV show “The Twilight Zone,” where reality is seemingly an illusion and everything Stefan ever knew is a lie.

While watching the show, I felt disturbed by what is shown and the direction of the storyline. However, the one thing that differentiates Bandersnatch from other science fiction or thriller movies is that it is interactive and the viewer is in control of what happens.

Although you are mostly free to choose, some of the decisions are scripted and send you back when you select the “wrong” choice. The lack of freedom to choose outcomes brings down the whole experience of interacting with the show and leaves the viewer wondering why the producers included some of the options. The insignificance of some required choices led Bandersnatch to be Netflix’s half-hearted first try at a new genre of show.

Without giving away any of the plot, there are several scenes filled with disturbing violence, explicit language and brutality, as well as one instance of drug use.

Many of the viewers’ choices from the perspective of Stefan are equally alarming and harsh at the same time, with outcomes that are often severe. This show has a mature rating on Netflix and has material in it that may not suitable for younger viewers.

If you are a fan of the rest of the Black Mirror show, there are various references to earlier episodes sprinkled throughout the scenes. There are also multiple self-advertisements by Netflix in the episode, including direct references by some of the characters in the episode.

I would not recommend this episode to anybody except viewers who enjoy disturbing and suspenseful thrillers. For me personally, it contained too much gore, violent themes and generally surprising twists, but if that describes what you like, then Bandersnatch is for you.