Bandersnatch, a weird meta moment that might not change the landscape of television, but will give you pause about the nature of reality and free will.
Charlie Brooker once again succeeds at creating something unique and unsettling in this special interactive episode of Black Mirror. The story follows Stefan, a young video game designer in 1984 trying to finish Bandersnatch, a Choose Your Own Adventure Game—only the start of how meta this story gets. At every turn, the audience is given the opportunity to make decisions for Stefan that can be as seemingly benign as the music he listens to on his walkmen to progressively darker actions as we delve deeper into his deteriorating mental state. This example of Choose Your Own Adventure is a meditation on the nature of grief, time, and free will, one so meta that you will feel that the fourth wall never truly existed.
Black Mirror: #Bandersnatch, Netflix's first interactive movie for adults, has five possible endings — and overall, more than 1 trillion unique story permutations https://t.co/W5MoBegxXr pic.twitter.com/ToumnCV4M8
— Variety (@Variety) December 28, 2018
With multiple endings, you are able to explore the various scenarios and while some might end the story prematurely, you are given the option to go back and choose a different path. It really is impressive how seamless the decision process is portrayed onscreen, creating a continuous narrative no matter the decision. While the filming and presentation of this piece is incredibly innovative, it’s also easy to start losing interest in making decisions and you can’t help being a little unsatisfied at the end. Unlike Choose Your Own Adventure books, the Netflix format does not allow you to fully explore every single option available to you unless viewed multiple times.
As much as you choose, you are inevitably led to the final conclusion—which may be the best part of the whole experience—one that reminds you that in the end, it was never truly your decision about how the story would play out.
The ambition and excellent quality of this Black Mirror episode can’t hide the impracticalities of Choose Your Own Adventure movies and TV shows. It is doubtful that this form of story-telling will ever translate perfectly to the screen and will probably not be easy to reproduce for other genres, and maybe that’s for the best.
Jade Verbick, Lifestyle and Culture Print Editor
Images: Heaven of Horror, The Independent