A Techy, Movie-Length Episode, Bandersnatch

BY: Zak Wojnar

As a television series, Black Mirror is all about technology and the tremendous influence it has on our lives, usually telling a grim story about why that’s a really bad thing. For all its talk about how bad technology is, though, the latest episode of Black Mirror fully embraces new media to tell a wholly unique story in a brand new way.

Set in 1984, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch tells the story of a young man (Fionn Whitehead) who is enlisted to develop a video game based on a novel by a man who allegedly lost his sense and murdered his wife. Naturally, not all is as it seems, and a harrowing tale of terror quickly ensues. What sets this “episode” apart is its branching narrative; while video games and choose-your-own-adventure books have played with divergent story paths before, this is the first time that option has been available on Netflix, in a big-budget television production. At various points throughout the story, viewers (or should we say players? Participants?) are given the option to determine how the story progresses.

We wouldn’t dare spoil how the story potentially plays out, but the various choices viewers must make ultimately lead the story to one of five different endings which run the gamut from bittersweet to downright tragic.

Bandersnatch is a provocative new storytelling experiment, one we hope to see much more of in the future. The line between video games and movies has always been pliable, but it’s usually only been pushed from the gaming end of the spectrum, of games attempting to be more like movies. Less often do we see movies which attempt to be more like games, though examples like Hardcore Henry, The Night Comes for Us, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World have definitely tapped into the storytelling and aesthetic trappings of video games. Some home video releases of movies include alternate endings, and the DVD of Final Destination 3 notably allowed viewers to change the outcome of the story, but not in such a stylized and efficient manner as Bandersnatch.

Is Bandersnatch the future of storytelling, or a cheap gimmick? Or is it something else entirely, a new form of storytelling which is only possible thanks to 21st century technology, the advance of which Black Mirror so claims to fear? Either way, it’s must-see-TV, so get on it!