The latest installment in Charlie Brooker’s cynical anthology series has a rather novel gimmick: it’s a choose-your-own-adventure story. Like almost every foray into this territory, the execution has limitations and Bandersnatch is very aware of them. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting experiment and certainly makes for one of the more entertaining Black Mirror episodes in recent memory.
Below I have charted the decisions I made, with a brief explanation as to why. Beware full spoilers for the episode, meaning if you want the complete experience you probably shouldn’t read on until you’ve played through it yourself.
Decision #1: Frosties
Alternative: Sugar Puffs
Those who know me are well aware I consider myself a cereal connoisseur and to be truthful I do not rate either of these choices very highly. In a pinch, I went for Frosties as the lesser of two evils.
Decision #2: Now That’s What I Call Music 2
Alternative: Thompson Twins
Off the top of my head, I couldn’t recall who the Thompson Twins are or what music they had produced, so I went for Now 2 because a compilation of mid-eighties chart music seemed like a relatively safe bet.
Decision #3: Accept the Offer
Alternative: Refuse the Offer
When faced with whether to accept the cushty offer to design Bandersnatch with the Tuckersoft team, I decided to put trust in the somewhat smarmy corporate executive portrayed by Asim Chaudhry. My instinct told me it would probably end in tears, but I thought it was too early for things to start going totally south. Well, I was wrong.
Ending #1: The Game Sucks
Here is Bandersnatch‘s first ending. The game is finished and released on schedule, but lacks any depth and gets slated on television by a dorky young game critic. The ultimate indignity. But alas, I would soon discover that this is probably the happiest ending to the episode that you can reasonably wish for.
Decision #4: Refuse the Offer
Alternative: Accept the Offer
Off I went back to correct my bad call, a do-over that doesn’t go unnoticed by lead character Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) and supporting player Colin Ritman (Will Poulter). In this version, the game is still set to be published by Tuckersoft but Stefan works alone at home.
Decision #5: Yes – Stefan Talks About His Mother
Alternative: No – Stefan Doesn’t Talk About His Mother
Decision #6: Bermuda Triangle
I have no idea what either of these songs are, so I chose Bermuda Triangle because I thought it sounded fittingly mysterious.
Decision #7: Shout at Dad
Alternative: Throw Tea on Computer
I have a long and storied history of accidentally breaking technology after losing my temper and it’s never a good feeling. Why repeat that here?
Decision #8: Visit Dr. Haynes
Alternative: Follow Colin
Stefan’s dad was being very nice and so I thought I’d do what he told me. It’s laughable just how quickly our relationship would later take a turn for the worse.
Decision #9: Pull Earlobe
Alternative: Bite Nail
I have a tendency to pull my earlobes in real-life, but I very rarely bite my nails because that’s gross.
Decision #10: Take the Pills
Alternative: Flush the Pills
I always do what my doctor tells me because I am a good boy.
Ending #2: The Game is Meh.
In hindsight, this ending is really not so bad. The game is released and criticised for feeling unfinished, but hey at least nobody died! Let’s go back and try again.
Decision #11: Follow Colin
Alternative: Visit Dr. Haynes
This can only go well.
Decision #12: Yes – Take The Acid
Alternative: No – Don’t Take The Acid
I know, I know: don’t do drugs, kids. I just got the distinct feeling that if I said no, the story would end again and I wasn’t ready for another one just yet. So here goes nothing.
Decision #13: Stefan Jumps
Alternative: Colin Jumps
Um, yeah. Not my best judgement call. For some reason, Colin managed to convince me during his acid-fuelled rant that something neat might happen if I jumped. Oops.
Ending #3: Get R.I.Pped
You’re greeted by the dorky critic from earlier telling you how sick, twisted and horrible the Bandersnatch videogame ends up being in this version of reality. I can’t shake the feeling it was a thinly-veiled criticism of my regrettable decision.
Decision #14: Colin Jumps
Alternative: Stefan Jumps
Never really figured out what actually happened here, but at least I’m not dead anymore.
Decision #15: Hit Desk
Alternative: Destroy Computer
Must. Not. Destroy. Tech.
Decision #16: Pick Up Book
Alternative: Pick Up Family Photo
The book had something about a “key” in the title so I figured it might be enlightening. As it turns out, perplexing is the word I would use.
Decision #17: P-A-C
Colin’s words from earlier about not worshiping Pax the demon popped into my head. Of course, taking the advice of a guy who enthusiastically jumped off a high-storey balcony probably isn’t advisable in many instances.
Decision #18: Throw Tea on Computer
Alternative: Destroy Computer
The show backed me into a corner here, so I chose to throw tea on the computer. At least that way there’s a chance it could be fixed, whereas destroying it holds a degree of finality.
Decision #19: Diverging Path Symbol
Alternative: P.A.C.S logo
To be honest, I just thought this would freak him out more. It’s the little things in life.
Decision #20: Kill Dad
Alternative: Back Off
Yikes, how do I explain this one? I figured that Black Mirror almost always ends badly so why fight it? Let’s just see how bad it can get.
Decision #21: Bury the Body
Alternative: Chop Up the Body
Turns out it can get very bad! Chopping up the body sounds a little too intense for me, thank you.
Decision #22: Yes – Stefan Will Finish the Game On-Time
Alternative: No – Stefan Won’t Finish it On-Time
I decided to say what Mohan wanted to hear in order to get him off the phone. I’ve got a bit of a crisis on my hands here and I don’t need any more things to worry about right now.
Decision #23: “No Idea”
Alternative: “He Jumped”
Again, I decided to tell Kitty I didn’t know where Colin was in order to avoid any follow-up questions. Can’t a man bury a dead body in peace around here?
The body is swiftly found by next door’s dog, Stefan goes to prison for the murder where he seemingly goes insane – etching the diverging path symbol into the wall repeatedly. The Bandersnatch game is released and gets a positive review, but it feels like a hollow victory to be quite honest.
This story is nowhere near the best that Black Mirror has told, but it’s entertaining throughout and has its fair share of shocking moments. Moreover, I respect the ambition of Brooker and company for trying something that hasn’t really been done before in mainstream television. The fact that this isn’t a perfect execution doesn’t feel hugely important.
This choose-your-own-dystopia format is still very much in its infancy, but I see potential to expand the idea beyond the prototype that is Bandersnatch. After all, the adventure novels that this episode is inspired by have seen success across numerous decades, so there must be a willing audience out there for these types of stories.
That being said, no amount of branching paths can hide the fact that Bandersnatch shares the same problem that cripples many of the Netflix-produced Black Mirror episodes; it simply doesn’t feel particularly clever or profound. It’s solid sci-fi horror, but the series remains far below the giddy heights of its first two seasons.
Nonetheless, it’s well shot and well acted; competent television, but it could do better.