Carlie Brooker has done it again. The latest episode of Black Mirror is a choose your own adventure story and boy is it fun! (Be aware that you can’t watch the episode via Chrome Cast, as you have to interact with what’s on the screen. I had to use our XBox to watch the episode.)
Set in 1984 we meet Stefan (Fionn Whitehead - Dunkirk) who is a computer game programmer working on a game adapted from a choose your own adventure style book called Bandersnatch. Bandersnatch is a fantasy book far ahead of its time, and it’s casually mentioned that the author murdered his wife. So we already know that at least one of the endings is probably going to be bloody.
Stefan lives with his Dad and their relationship is strained at best which provides some conflict and from that come some choices. Shout at Dad? Destroy PC? etc
Stefan has a potentially life changing meeting with a computer company who are very interested in Stefan’s game and they offer him a job but it’s up to you if he takes the job or not. And then the journey begins!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the gimmick of making choices for a character instead of just giving myself over the story but I was SO wrong; I loved it.
Do I think this is the future for TV? No. But Bandersnatch is so well done it’s a great example of pushing the boundaries of television.
The choices you make for Stefan are as seemingly innocuous as choosing which cereal he has for breakfast or what album he listens to, to whether he or his friend should jump from an apartment balcony while high on acid. As the episode continues choices become more and more important and there are plenty of endings so you can keep going back and make different decisions.
There are many different endings available for the episode and because this is Black Mirror some of the choices and endings are deliciously dark and occasionally you get some really funny choices too. And depending on what you choose the first time around this can unlock other choices when you try again.
Of course there’s the question of is Stefan mentally ill or is the game causing Stefan to lose his grip on reality? Does it even matter if we’re making decisions for him?
Bandersnatch makes you think beyond the usual twists and turns of an average episode, there’s some Aldous Huxley LSD laced philosophy and while you might not have the time to consider all this during the episode itself, once it’s all over you’ll have lots to think about.
As usual the cast is excellent and highlights are Alice Lowe (Sightseers, Prevenge) who plays Dr Haynes Stefan’s psychologist and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, The Little Stranger) who takes the role of computer programmer wunderkind Colin Ritman. And the episode is peppered with easter eggs. From the obvious poster for Metl Hedd in the office to the name of the hospital Stefan visits being called Saint Juniper’s and way more. In fact there’s a reference to every Black Mirror episode although you’ll have to be eagle eyed to catch them all.
I really enjoyed this episode, movie, game whatever you want to call it and if you’re a fan of the series anyway I’m sure you’ll love it. This is classic Black Mirror.