Do you ever wonder if you are being controlled by a different force? That you’re not in control of your own actions? Netflix has recently surprised its subscription holders with a brand new one-off interactive episode – Bandersnatch. The reaction to the new episode being released was off the scale and Twitter went into a frenzy over the fact they have implemented interactive elements into this choose-your-own-adventure special, but did their new form of narrative structure work?
Bandersnatch takes place in 1984, the rise of the gaming industry where games such as PACMAN and Tetris were at the forefront. Young programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) adapts fantasy novel, Bandersnatch, written by his favourite author, Jerome F. Davies into an interactive video game. Stefan then decides to pitch his game to leading developers, Tuckersoft. Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), the top developer at the company and owner of the Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry) take to his project. From that point onwards, you, as the viewer, decide Stefan’s fate.
This isn’t the first time Netflix has used the interactive element. They first introduced it to their kid’s channels, giving young viewers the ability to choose their own path through a story with a series multiple-choice questions that could be easily answered with the help of a TV remote. Initially, writer Charlie Brooker said “No f-ing way”, according to Variety. With the persuasion of fellow creator Annabel Jones, they came up with an unusual idea in the form of Bandersnatch; Netflix’s first-ever interactive movie for adults.
The interactive story element is ingenious. It suits the story structures of Black Mirror to a tee. It allows the viewer to decide the path and it’s a whole different form of story-telling which most would not be used to. The way in which Bandersnatch is structured allows the viewer to intensely become apart of the story, the 10-second element can make for rash decisions, sending Stefan onto the wrong path. As much as we want to save Stefan from his demons, we can only put him on the path of misery.
Black Mirror has a tendency to have easter-eggs from previous episodes hidden away; Bandersnatch was no exception. Most obvious would have been Metalhead being displayed as a poster to one of Tuckersoft’s top games and also a small reference was enticed to Nosedive in Ritman’s new game being developed. To the untrained ear, you might not have taken notice to the name of the medical building in which his sessions take place – Saint Junipers, in reference to San Junipero. Of course, there were plenty more to be discovered but Vulture does the job for you if you wish to realise what you have missed.
Not only does it have the classic easter-eggs, but it also has hidden meanings and highlights today’s climate to put it at the forefront of peoples minds. It cleverly highlights the seriousness of mental health issues and addiction. It takes on the reality of our lives being controlled and putting it into our own hands, allowing us to make the decisions that the hierarchies could possibly be making; that’s for those that believe in conspiracy theories.
In terms of it going against previous episodes of Black Mirror, it definitely ranks highly on the board. Most viewers that have religiously watched Black Mirror over the years probably don’t like change. I liked the change. It did take me a minute or two to understand fully what was going on but the element of surprise was highlighted more than ever with the options. I did spend two and a half hours however going through each of the storylines, but that’s not just me. Fionn Whitehead performed remarkably, but as for Will Poulter, his performance could mostly be forgotten. “You’re in the hole” was a laughable line in the middle of a tv-changing episode of Black Mirror. Not the fault of Brooker but the fault of Poulter in terms of acting ability and execution.
Is the government controlling our every move? Who knows. Creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones have successfully managed to make the country, if not the world, go crazy with their intelligent story-telling. Will we see a series come of this? Maybe. Considering this took 18 months to process, it might be a while till we get full interactive series from them. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing what they produce next.
*SPOILERS* if you wish to find every ending, enjoy until your heart’s content.