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Black Mirror - Bandersnatch - Review: You're In Control

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After all the secrecy, theories, and buzz surrounding Netflix's interactive "Choose Your Own" adventure episode of Black Mirror, "Bandersnatch" has finally arrived.

The idea of creating an immersive experience through which viewers will become an integrated part of the story they're watching play out, is a novel one, albeit one that has been conquered before. The popular Telltale video game series isn't unlike what Netflix was aiming to do with this special episode but it does open a door to an entire new avenue of storytelling and offer alterations to the television medium as a whole.

To experiment with this idea, they couldn't have chosen a better show. Black Mirror's entire purpose is to underline the horrors of living in a hyper-technological society and play with latent fears we've always had about the era of Artificial Intelligence and how intellect can be utilized for nefarious purposes when in the wrong hands. And how those wrong hands are more common than you think when the nature of human greed comes into play.

"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror - An image of how the viewer makes a choice.
"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror, Pictured: Fionn Whitehead - Photo via Netflix Media Center

Bandersnatch is a layered social experiment of sorts and it works due to its deeply insidious irony. The entirety of the plot in Bandersnatch is about Stefan, a frustrated game developer who is trying to create a choose your own adventure game based on a popular but distressingly dark novel known as "Bandersnatch".

You can choose something as mundane as Stefan's breakfast cereal early on in the game but Netflix is still silently coaxing you into a narrative. The idea of free will in Stefan's world and the idea of choice for the audience is really an illusion. The ending in any kind of video game or tech-based "choose your own adventure" will always have preordained endings.

"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror - Stefan, Collin, and their boss peer at a computer screen.
"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror, Photo via Netflix Media Center
This idea is played with in-universe. One of the fist major choices is in regards to whether or not Stefan decides to work on his gaming project in an office with a small team or at home. If you accept the job then the game is made in great haste and due to a poor cobbling job, performs dismally in the gaming market. You're ushered back to the beginning of the story and privy to a fast-forward sequence to get you back to the scene leading up to that decision.

Except, Stefan is aware of things he shouldn't be, having lived through this day already. The depths of the irony in Bandersnatch and its meta-commentary not only on Netflix and our society as a whole, makes the episode worth watching (and you can watch as long as you want, there are many different permutations, scenes, small shifts in story, and endings for you to peruse and work your way through ad nauseam).

"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror - Stefan sits with his therapist.
"Bandersnatch" Black Mirror, Photo via Netflix Media Center
However, if you're hoping for a narrative story as enthralling or complex as prior Black Mirror offerings you're apt to be disappointed. I was really intrigued by what Netflix offered here, I was left feeling empty.

I don't think the point of Bandersnatch is necessarily to tell a story so much as it is to commentate on the very nature of "Choose Your Own" adventure tales, but I do hope if Netflix wants to seriously consider making more interactive shows in the future, they're more engrossing.

And yes I did find it clever how Netflix itself joked about the anti-climatic nature of Bandersnatch in one particularly surreal ending where we learn all of this is actually taking place on a film set, but that is precisely the genius of Bandersnatch. But this same charm won't work with another medium. It's specifically unique to the ambience and established nihilistic streak of Black Mirror.

One thing is for certain, Bandersnatch is not an episode to be missed for fans of the show. It's stuffed with all kinds of Easter Eggs, in-jokes, and nods to lore from other episodes and with a rumored 5 hours of footage, it should keep you busy until we get more news about the show's upcoming fifth season (which will apparently include an episode staring Miley Cyrus).

Bandersnatch is now streaming on Netflix.

What endings did you guys get? Did you enjoy the interactive aspect of the episode? Would you like to see Netflix do more in the future with other shows?

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