Bandersnatch is the next installment of the beloved dystopian Netflix series Black Mirror. Announced only weeks before its release, this one-episode special brought an element new to the franchise: choice. For the first time ever, you get to pick how your pitiful protagonist gets to ruin his life. Bandersnatch offers five different endings, not including the various “try again” dead ends you may stumble upon from a wrong decision. Upon its announcement, I was excited to see how writer and creator Charlie Brooker would take on such an ambitious concept.
Bandersnatch follows aspiring game developer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) as he attempts to adapt the choose-your-own-adventure novel of the same name into a computer game in the midst of the 1980s. After landing a deal with a major developer, Stefan experiences severe writer’s block. Upon hearing this, coding prodigy Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) tries to help inspire him with a little LSD. After an unsettling trip, Stefan begins to notice that something may be controlling his very existence.
If you’re looking for the biting social commentary that is common to Black Mirror, you may be a little disappointed. Unfortunately, the typical mind-bending of the show doesn’t go beyond a few messed up things you can make Stefan do. Without spoiling anything, Bandersnatch creates a lot of questions and implications that never really get resolved. The acting is pretty lukewarm as well, aside from Poulter’s acid-induced ramblings that I found incredibly amusing and entertaining. The majority of Bandersnatch’s appeal comes from its gimmick. That being said, it’s an incredibly entertaining gimmick.
The ability to make the protagonist’s decisions is incredibly fun, even when it comes to things as simple as the cereal he eats or the music he listens to. There’s something about being in charge of the story that draws you into the show’s world. Bandersnatch hooks you into finding every possible outcome, backtracking to find any and every choice that can lead to a new and interesting ending. My only complaint in this regard is that I almost wanted more, to delve further into this story and all the things it merely hinted at. When it came to the pivotal moment, I thought to myself, “Really? That’s it? What about xyz? What happened to them?” My favorite endings ended up being the more comedic ones which got almost a little too meta. I hope that some time in the future Black Mirror or any franchise will take on this concept on a bigger scale.
Despite its flaws, I’d highly recommend watching/playing Bandersnatch, especially with a large group of friends. It is incredibly fun to fight and shout over what Stefan should do, and reacting wildly to the gruesome outcomes of your choices. Bandersnatch offers a unique and entertaining experience with a concept that more than outweighs its writing and acting flaws.