Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Review: Snatched and Confused

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive Netflix Original episode from the world of Black Mirror. You choose what happens to the characters as the show plays along by making selections on-screen. As the Black Mirror series is episodic, you can enjoy Bandersnatch as a standalone special. It’s rated TV mature and contains explicit language, strong violence and mature themes.

The critically acclaimed Black Mirror series has birthed a wild card of an episode.

If you’ve ever read a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, Bandersnatch will seem familiar – except this is a very meta Twilight Zone episode. The watcher can choose what happens next in the show, via a prompt on screen. It starts simple, letting you choose a breakfast cereal and music for the morning in the first five or so minutes. The choices gradually become more challenging.

I played through the full episode with three other friends. That means we all voted on what happened next – the tie resulting in someone backing out on their choice. Everything is timed, but not to the point of being cheap or unfair. This is a game anyone can play, if you can stomach its mature themes.

It’s become a bit of a wonder on the internet – a successful innovation by Netflix to create interactive content. But is it any good?

The show certainly succeeds at being creepy and macabre – largely thanks to some great writing. Following Stefan, a struggling game designer, is an interesting angle that only gets better when bizarre things begin to happen. Some supporting characters are just that … supportive. Others are shadier and morally ambiguous. At times, you must make a choice between appeasing different people. It’s difficult for me to discuss the plot, as I went into the show totally blind and got a lot more out of it than if I had looked the whole thing up. Let’s just call it ‘kooky horror’.

There’s a level of novelty in such a unique experience, but it’s not stupid-fun – it deals with mature themes such as mental health struggles, video games and drugs (as well as how they can become linked through obsession), which is admirable. The plot can feel a little disjointed given the interactive structure of the show, but given how many different paths you can take, it’s also surprising how cohesive it is.

Upon failure along certain paths, the episode gives you the option to go back to a previous moment to get a different result – and you’ll be doing that a lot before the credits roll. While having the ability to choose between different endings is welcome, the story never felt totally resolved for me. Even the very last choice felt kind of weak. It left me a little confused, which is unfortunate, given how engaging the rest of it was to me.

Bandersnatch explores and expands upon its themes in a satisfying way. It has strong production values and interesting characters. At the same time, the ending(s) are disappointing. It’s also difficult to justify repeat playthroughs, given how it only took us two hours to finish every outcome. Still, this show is about the journey – and I’d recommend it, especially when played in a group.

If you play the game thoroughly, you’ll find one of the best Easter eggs I’ve ever encountered. It’s more meta than Deadpool, if that’s even possible.

-Sean Daniel   sendtopervin@gmail.com

2019-01-11T08:24:50-06:00