Explaining Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch Experience and What it Feels Like to Be in Control

Since it was announced, everyone was steamed up with high expectations for Black Mirror’s new interactive cinema experience. The newly introduced choose-your-path storytelling episode; Bandersnatch had been in the making for the past two years, given enough hype, and outshined on the first day it was released.

The anthology TV show is set to return in 2019 with its fifth season, however, the release of Bandersnatch on the 28th of December caught attention everywhere.

The superlative flow of the episode gave me a sublime experience in choosing what actions the protagonist should do next, gladly, without any cuts or noticed lags in the show. Stefan; a nineteen-year old programmer in 1984 proposes a demo for his choose-your-own-path game; Bandersnatch, based on Jerome F Davies’ novel. I felt like I was fully immersed in deciding what Stefan should do next, at first, Brooker let the game easy by deciding which cereal should he has for breakfast and what music should he listen to, but then later on, I became a bigger part of the show, which in my opinion, adds more sentiment to the story.

However, some aspects of the story have to go in a determined direction. At one point, you’re given a choice that leads to a dead-end, and then you have to go back and make the right choice for the story to continue.

In fact, Brooker applied his interaction theory in most of the episode’s scenes, not just at turning points of the show, which made me feel like I was not just in control of Stefan, I was Stefan. Although, there were decisions based on sentiment and others based on nothing more than what I desired, I was sometimes pressured to take a certain path as I felt responsible for Stefan’s fate.

“If bad things happen, you’ll feel even more crestfallen, because you were responsible,” said Netflix’s vice president for product. “If the character is victorious, you’ll feel even more uplifted because you made that choice.”

The Bandersnatch experience will be different from an individual to the other, not only based on what path each viewer will choose, but also based on how each viewer looks deeper into the characters. Stefan was not goofy, he was aware of his mental state, aware he was being monitored and even controlled. A promising programmer he was, looking up to his demo game to be signed by Tuckersoft, starts questioning reality in the middle of reviving Jerome F Davies’ novel as a computer game. So, what do you think of reality as perceived in Bandersnatch?

As a matter of fact, there are more than one reality, more than one time domain for all of us in which we could’ve existed, but we end up where we are as a consequence of the choices we make, at some points in our lives, we could’ve ended up somewhere totally different to where we are now, and that’s a part of what Bandersnatch was about; The way I directed the story was not the same to the way other viewers did, so we might as well say, Stefan could’ve ended better in someone else’s experience than in mine, but did I really choose the ending? Or did I only help in going there?

The question that Brooker answers: Are we given the gift of free will or steered? Did I really choose the ending of the series? No, Black Mirror did, they gave me, and all of us, the illusion of free will. There are five main endings for the show with little variations; as claimed by a Netflix spokeswoman. We do not precisely choose how it ends, we just lead ourselves there to an ending we know nothing about, aren’t we all living this Bandersnatch experience in real life? We’re directing ourselves and our lives through a series of choices, that at last lead us to an ending that we did not precisely plan to have.

I fancy some praise for Charlie Brooker for creating this beauty and introducing us to a cutting-edge interactive cinema experience. Bandersnatch is cleverly implemented, deeply written and well delivered to the viewers. The dialogues in the script were clearly pointing out at the main idea of the episode. I personally enjoyed being actively engaged to my favorite show, instead of just sitting there waiting for what the writers wanted to happen.

“If it wasn’t interactive, you’d just watch and probably be appalled and worried and frightened for him in that moment. If you’re making that decision, how does that affect your relationship with the film? Do you then feel more wretched?” said Jones.

The worst part here is the reality. I mean, I know that that’s basically what Black Mirror is all about. However, the fact that you make a choice and you have to bear the consequences; watch Stefan or a close person to him suffer a choice you made. At one scene, I made a choice and I tried to go back and fix it, but I couldn’t. That’s how it goes in real life, we walk in different paths, we make good decisions and we make bad decisions and we live with them anyway. But it doesn’t really matter; we go to our determined endings at the end of the day.

If you love Black Mirror, make sure to read how Humanism Barely Triumphs Over Nihilism In Black Mirror Season 4.