“Black Mirror” is a Netflix-acquired BBC program that takes a horrifying look at modern society and the unseen consequences of new technological innovations. At the end of 2018, Netflix provided a very welcome return to the series for longtime fans by releasing a special titled “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”
“Bandersnatch” is different, though, from regular “Black Mirror” stories, as this installment has an interactive component that allows viewers to use their remote to make options for the main character. These options vary in how they impact the story, but also in how they impact the viewer for making that decision. “Black Mirror” has always been a show that leaves you thinking about society but, by bringing in the options that you get to choose on your own, it now leaves you thinking about yourself.
The special follows Stefan, an aspiring game creator in 1984 who has been approached by an up-and-coming game company called Tuckersoft. He presents his idea, and Tuckersoft grants Stefan the opportunity to produce his game and release it. The catch is he has to not only make the whole game by himself but have it ready in a few months.
At certain points in the story, the viewer gets to make decisions for Stefan. These decisions range from what cereal he will eat to whether he stays calm or smashes his computer in rage. The viewer has only 10 seconds to make a decision in these moments to mold Stefan’s future. There is no pausing, either. The show relies on you to make an impulse decision for Stefan so his story can continue.
These decisions ultimately land you in one of the five different endings to be found in the story, with each ending starting off with a TV program reviewing your game, and then looking at how your decisions affected Stefan’s future. There are officially 312 minutes of screen time recorded for “Bandersnatch,” according to Netflix. But, depending on your decisions, the time it takes to get to one ending is about 90 minutes.
“Bandersnatch” is a lovely shot and directed film that really makes you think about the dangers of stress and obsession. “Bandersnatch” goes along with most other “Black Mirror” episodes by making you think about how dangerous technology can be in many different ways. And no matter what you do during this interactive special, the same lesson shines through during “Bandersnatch”: Advancements in technology, and the stress of making something impactful, can really take its toll on people.
In many different routes in the story, Stefan either loses creative freedom so he can relax, or he goes insane so he can not only meet the high standards of critics but the impossible goal he set himself. “Black Mirror” shows us once again that, no matter how you swing it, when you try too hard to leave your mark on the technological world, there are consequences.
With the “choose your own path” style that is implemented within “Bandersnatch,” viewers get a lesson on how their decisions matter. We see that our decisions can impact things heavily, in many ways. In this story, each decision affects the mental well-being and the relationships of our protagonist Stefan, as well as the people who interact with him in the story. “Black Mirror” does a lovely job showing viewers that decisions, no matter the size, have the potential to shake the foundations of people’s lives, or even take them away.
If there is anything you should take away after watching “Bandersnatch,” it should be that the decisions you make are important and it can affect your day, your week, or your life, This recent offering from “Black Mirror” offers an impactful way to learn an important life lesson through a beautifully told story of a young adult trying to make his game fun and memorable.