Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Isn’t Perfect, But Still Succeeds

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Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) Works on Bandersnatch
Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) Works on Bandersnatch

When I was a kid and I would read Choose Your Own Adventure books, I always felt like I was cheating when I would go back and change my last decision if I didn’t like the way it ended. I’m not exactly sure why I felt that way, I guess maybe I thought I was supposed to go all the way back to the beginning of the book and start over from scratch. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch treats many of the options as “save points” and depending on whether or not your choice ends the story, it will automatically take you back to give you another go.

Which option will you choose?
Which option will you choose?

The main character in the story is Stefan Butler, a 19 year old game programmer in 1984 who is adapting the Choose Your Own Adventure novel, Bandersnatch into a video game. The story takes a very meta approach in which Stefan becomes aware that he is not in control of all of his actions and it’s taking a toll on his psychological well-being.

Stefan and Mohan check out Colin's latest game.
Stefan and Mohan check out Colin’s latest game.

So far, I’ve gone through it twice and it was different both times even though some of the choices I made ended up being the same (due to the ‘game’ taking me back to make a different choice the first time). So now I’m really interested to go through it again and make a different series of choices to see what else might be different.

Colin chats with Stefan
Colin chats with Stefan

What I find interesting is the fact that as a whole, the story really wasn’t all that interesting to me. It’s not that it was bad, but if it wasn’t for the gimmick and had it just been a standard episode, I don’t think it would have been one of the stronger stories Black Mirror has told. However, because of the options and the replayability, it does earn some extra points, just for the sake of being curious about the other threads.

Stefan meeting with his therapist Dr. Haynes,
Stefan meeting with his therapist Dr. Haynes,

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, at least not just yet, because even though your story might play out differently than mine, I don’t want to influence your decisions, but I do want to point out a few fun Easter Eggs I noticed.

Stefan purchases new music.
Stefan purchases new music.

EASTER EGGS:

1. One of the games referenced in the episode is Metl Hedd, a reference to the other episode of Black Mirror directed by David Slade.

2. Saint Juniper, a fairly obvious reference to San Junipero.

3. This last one I’m not entirely sure about. The troubled author of the book Bandersnatch is Jerome Davies. While this could be complete coincidence, that name bares a striking resemblance to that of actor Jeremy Davies who portrayed Physicist Daniel Faraday on Lost. Faraday was studying and experimenting with the idea of temporal displacement and time travel which also happen to be aspects of the story here.

Final Thoughts

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an enjoyable ride that is made even better by the gamification aspect of it. As more content comes out that takes advantage of the same technology used here, the story-lines and options should become increasingly complex, bringing about a new era of interactive entertainment and further blurring the lines between games and traditional media. If you enjoy typical Black Mirror episodes, this is definitely one that you won’t want to miss. Let us know what you guys thought, what Easter Eggs you caught, and what choices you made. . . also let me know if you think I’m right about the Jerome Davies/Faraday connection. Make sure to stay tuned to That Hashtag Show for more information on Black Mirror Season 5.

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