Bandersnatch Steals the Show

Netflix challenges reality with their first interactive movie, “Bandersnatch”


Wikimedia Commons Netflix [Public domain]

Bandersnatch is hitting the charts as the first interactive episode on Netflix

Nina Harris, Website Manager

On Dec. 8, 2018, Netflix released its very first interactive TV special experience. “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” was a hard-to-define — but impossible to forget — experience. This episode is a science fiction/fantasy story about a 19-year-old programmer, Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), who gets sucked into his job and begins to question reality. Stefan aims to make a game based on a book, “Bandersnatch,” one of the few things his late mom had left behind before she had died. In the episode, there are parts where Stefan has flashbacks of his mom with the book, signaling the beginning of his descent into madness.

Many viewers are pondering the lack of an undo button, but the presence of a fast forward button. It appears that there is no clear good ending to the movie. There are still very entertaining and eye-catching endings and one which allows you to have a five-star game ending (if you go for that path).

By the end of the game/movie, the viewers are going to be frustrated, and the viewer might start to wonder if Netflix is controlling them or if Netflix is controlling Stefan. The episode was confusing; sometimes, it would take me back to the beginning or it would jump to a whole different scene. Since there are so many layers or choices in the movie, they did have to keep it a little simple, and they did not have time to dive into each individual character as much as people would have liked. The plot line is a bit shallow, but it did give enough story so that the viewer feels engaged.

Technically, Netflix is controlling us, the viewers, because we believe that we have the free will; realistically, Netflix predicts our decisions. Netflix ultimately gives the options and forces the audience to go with them. This leads me to the dilemma of whether or not we are really in control of the episode. The answer is no; of course we aren’t. “Black Mirror” creator, Charlie Brooker, is just leading us where he wants us to go, just like Stefan was doing with Bandersnatch. Brooker even has the help of some characters to lead us early on in the story. If you choose a particular option, Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) will let you know that you made a bad decision. In the end, “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is interesting on many levels. It’s a good social experiment on how easy it is to fall in someone else’s control.