*** SPOILERS AHEAD: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK ***
If you've been living under a rock or just oblivious and been offline for the past few weeks, you may have missed out on the latest episode of anthological series "Black Mirror," a terrifying choose-your-own-adventure installment titled
Bandersnatch" streaming on Netflix.
Bandersnatch follows video game programmer Stefan Butler as he adapts a choose-your-own-adventure novel into a game in the early 1980s. The twist? You get to choose your own adventure and make choices using Netflix's interactive interface that gives you a timed interval to choose the path that Stefan takes. Depending on the choices you make, Stefan's story can have a variety of endings, from becoming a successful programmer with a five-star rated game to killing his father and getting arrested.
However, as you navigate through the episode with Bandersnatch's interactive technology, Stefan begins to suspect that he is being controlled by an external force and resists multiple actions that you choose. The episode is meant to display the illusion of choice and shows that choice itself is not decisive of the outcome and alterations can be made even in the future to prevent an adversity.
As I watched the episode, certain choices I made did not follow through completely and redirected me to a screen with two options, each of which contained a previous scene. I later found out these were soft endings, meaning that they were not complete and therefore did not conclude Stefan's fate and the rating of the game. These "standstill" moments forced me to go back and make the other choice.
I began to realize that some of the choices were not being made by me since my first preference could not be selected. For example, when the choices were "Kill Dad" or "Back Off," I chose to back off. However, the episode did not allow me to do so, forcing me to go back to the previous scene and pick "Kill Dad." In time, I realized that the system was controlling the choices I made during the episode that would further determine Stefan's choices.
In short, nobody was in control, and it was all an illusion.
It was this aspect of the show that particularly resonated with me and caused me to think of it much after its run time. While not like a typical "Black Mirror" episode, "Bandersnatch" focused on the impact of choice on the mind more than that of technology or society. Black Mirror's famous "White Bear" and "The National Anthem" may have had more social themes, but watching Stefan in "Bandersnatch" slowly drive himself insane was a different kind of dark. I enjoyed being a part of the episode, and watching my decisions take shape on screen, even if it was regarding a detail as trivial as the music being played.
I would highly recommend Bandersnatch to anyone who enjoys a thriller with a twist. It is better to watch the show with friends, so that you can discuss the ending you find together. No matter what ending you discover, it's very interesting to pave your own path and create something uniquely horrifying.