Bandersnatch – You’re Not in Control


Sydney Haulenbeek, Editor in Chief

I started playing Bandersnatch, Netflix’s new interactive Black Mirror film, with a digital map readily pulled from Twitter, ready to fix Stefan’s life as he embarked on his video game creation. I had seen Black Mirror before, having watched almost all four seasons, and I felt that I was prepared for what was ahead; after all, I had made it through “Metalhead.”


However, I was not expecting the story to take the turn that it did. Minutes in I was required to make a decision regarding breakfast, and then what music Stefan listened to. Neither of these were particularly plot-relevant decisions–although I did notice that my ending came full circle in regards to the dog digging up the plant beds–but they built the film on the idea that the viewer had a choice in what was happening, an illusion that quickly shattered.


Bandersnatch is a film that is structured loosely like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I read as a kid, but with one glaring difference, the lack of decision. While the decisions made in the books changed the final outlook dramatically, Bandersnatch simply gives the player the illusion of free will. It also does the same thing to the main character Stefan, and he challenges the watcher to tell him more and fights against decisions made, before slipping into a loopy submission.


“You’re just a puppet. You are not in control.”

— Stefan


Black Mirror’s highlighted haunting point becomes more clear the further in you get, with the impossibility of Stefan having a happy ending and attempts to lead him towards a sane, successful life that doesn’t end in ultimate misery. There is also the process of trying to repair his grief and reconstruct his relationship with his father, a relationship that is ultimately doomed through the game command options.


“It’s how our decision along that path affect the whole that matters,” Stefan said, but the wunderkind also ended up in jail, a botched game developer, or dead.  


Instead, it is Colin, the druggie game developer who seems to be the only person clearly aware of the parallels that exist in the constant reconstructing of choices, who really understands what is going on. “You’re just a puppet. You are not in control,” he tells Stefan.


While it may seem that choice exists, Bandersnatch allows the watcher just as much sway as the characters in the film, leaving them in uncompromisable situations, as we’re merely left to watch and reflect. It is Netflix’s most creative piece yet, as it invites involvement and commits watchers into a trippy morality complex that will leave you aching for Stefan at the end.


Stuart Hendry/Netflix
Black Mirror Season 5