Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch: An episode you just can’t review


Alex Dembeck

Black Mirror Bandersnatch has viewers backtracking to find the various endings.

by Alex Dembeck and Darbe Reesman

Warning: This article contains spoilers

You’d be lying if you said that you’ve never watched a show and wished you could have changed the ending or the choices made by the characters. Thanks to Netflix, now you can. Within the last two years, Netflix has released four interactive children’s television episodes. Due to popular demand, in late December, Netflix finally released an interactive show that is geared towards teens and young adults. On December 28, Netflix released “Bandersnatch”, an episode of the psychological thriller Black Mirror.

We looked into it and declare “Bandersnatch” a must-see.

Black Mirror is a present-day rendition of the 1980’s sci-fi series, The Twilight Zone. Each episode has a stand-alone story line that explores technological innovations in both the future and the past. In true Black Mirror fashion, “Bandersnatch” shows the downfalls to the already stressful field of video game programming with a dark twist.

“Bandersnatch” tells the unfortunate story of young video game programmer in 1984, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead). Stefan is working on a choose-your-own-adventure video game based on the novel “Bandersnatch” by Jerome F. Davies. Luckily, neither Davies nor the novel exist, as both are rather twisted and terrifying. 

As the episode begins, the viewer is presented with two quite simple choices that do not affect the ending of the story. The first choice is between Frosties or Sugar Puffs for breakfast, followed by whether you want to listen to a cassette of Now! 2 or the Thompson Twins. Although these choices do not have any impact on the story other than the background music, both of these choices helped support the fact that the show was set in the 1980’s. At a later point in the episode, there is another music choice in which you decide between the Phaedra or The Bermuda Triangle album.

The third decision occurs when Stefan goes to Tuckersoft, a gaming development company. Stefan has a meeting with Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry), who runs Tuckersoft. Before the meeting begins, Stefan meets Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), his idol and famous game developer. Stefan presents his game ideas and progress to Ritman and Thakur and then the viewer is presented with their first ‘game changing’ choice. Thakur loves Stefan’s game and wants him to work with Tuckersoft on the game.

If the viewer accepts, the show flashes forward in time and shows the game being reviewed. The game receives a 0/5 rating, and Stefan begins muttering about trying again. The screen then is brought back to the day of the meeting, Stefan and Colin both experiencing karma, and displays the decision once more. If the reader refuses, the show continues.

The idea that certain decisions are deemed ‘wrong’ and days are restarted creates some confusion. When viewers have to choose again, the storyline overlaps more and more, making it hard to follow. Other than this and the fact that you can’t truly dictate the story (write in your own possibilities), the show is very well developed and is overall successful at keeping the audience intrigued.

Because the story has so many paths that the reader can follow, over five hours of footage had to be filmed according to Vox. The patience and dedication needed over the two years of production really stands out. All of the pathways fit seamlessly together, making it hard to look away and once one ending is reached, it feels as though we have to go back to discover all five of the different main endings.

We watched the show for about three hours over three days. It’s definitely much more satisfying than “old” television.

This not only increased reviews, but was director David Slade’s way of challenging critics who complain of extremely long movies and tv shows. The ‘never-ending’ story line makes “Bandersnatch” nearly impossible to review conventionally, but it hasn’t stopped critics from sharing their feelings towards “Bandersnatch.”

“Bandersnatch” has received lots of praise from the public. It has a 74% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.5/10 overall rating on IMDb.

David Simms, reporter for The Atlantic, said, “It’s fiendish stuff, but an undeniably clever new entry in the boundlessly reflective Black Mirror canon: the episode that never ends.”

In our opinion, “Bandersnatch” should receive a 4 out of 5 star rating. It may not be the best episode of the Black Mirror series based on its plot, but it is a very good episode for many other reasons. Though the plot tends to become confusing as the story goes on, the story itself is extremely interesting.

The idea of a choose-your-own-adventure story gone wrong is based on Imagine Software’s “Bandersnatch,” which was never released due to bankruptcy. Everyone involved in the making of the episode is also very dedicated due to the multiple versions of scenes having to be written, filmed, and edited seamlessly to truly create the sense that the viewer is choosing the story. The setting of the story also appealed to us because of the retro feel of the episode.

“Bandersnatch” is only available for viewing on select Netflix devices. It is only compatible with newer laptops, computers, and smart TVs, and Andriod or iOS devices.