“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” and the Breakthrough of Interactive Television
Leilah Bruno – Staff Writer
Do you ever watch a movie and wish that you could change the ending? Netflix recently rolled out a new feature that they are dubbing “the future of streaming,” which includes interactive TV shows where viewers can respectively choose their own path by choosing between specific decisions determining the outcome in follow-up scenes.
Although “Black Mirrors: Bandersnatch” is the most popular, it is not the first interactive show that Netflix has released. Children’s shows like DreamWorks’ “Puss in Boots: Trapped In an Epic Tale” and Minecraft’s “Story Mode” were among the first, coming out the year before, but with the older generations obsession with the “Black Mirror” franchise, the popular British science fiction anthology quickly became a talking point.
Set in 1984, “Bandersnatch” focuses on Stefen Butler, a young anxious programmer who attempts to adapt his own choose your adventure video game based on the book “Bandersnatch.” Stefen tries to produce the game for the video game company Tuckersoft, along with a famous game creator Colin Ritman, on a deadline for release, but during the process he begins to question reality as he attempts to turn the dark fantasy novel into a videogame.
The story starts off innocently with viewers choosing what kind of cereals Stefen eats in the morning and what kind of music he listens to on the bus ride to Tuckersoft. As the story rolls along, the plot and the choices become more intense while Stefen begins to slowly unravel. The choices also begin to become more violent, and to many more confusing, like whether he should take LSD with Colin to become more creative or chop up a dead body.
With the show having a 73% Rotten Tomato’s review, there was a mix of reviews saying that the show is either “genius” or “too gimmicky” for TV. One comment that stuck out was by a top critic Simon Parkin from the New Yorker who said, “This design minimizes wastefulness, but it also allays our fear of missing out.” Parkins is referring to all the many ways that the show could possibly end.
This “fear of missing out” stems from many people attempting to reach every ending to see what other storylines can unfold. One leads to Stefen fighting his therapist who he sees throughout the show to him being given to option to kill his father who made him mad. There is a total of 5 main ending each assisted with different variations and there is not just one right one.
I found the idea of an interactive show to be on the genius side. The idea of
choosing what Stefen does kept me more engaged and had me wondering what was going to come next and what my choices would be. While I thought the idea was amazing, I also found myself sitting in front of the tv, surrounded by snacks for 2 hours refusing not to move until every single ending was unlocked and presented before me. It took me to the point where I got utterly confused. The only way these shows seem to work is if you were to watch it multiple times from beginning to end choosing a different path every time. I kept on backing it up to the previous choice and went on from there.
I think everyone should give this show a try. Watch it and choose what you want to do and when you’re bored, you watch it again with brand new choices. The endings are definitely worth it and interesting but don’t let yourself get confused or end up with Stefens life ruined. Choose Wisely!