Breakdown of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

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Holy shit was I excited when I found out this was going to be a thing! As someone who has watched and loved every episode of Black Mirror (yes even the pig fucking one was pretty good if you ask me) and who read and loved every Give Yourself Goosebumps books as a kid, when I found out there was going to be a choose your own adventure episode of Black Mirror it was like my dream come to life. Needless to say I sat down and watched the movie titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch as soon as possible.

Anyone who has ever experience something that was “choose your own adventure” knows that trying to keep track of the multiple timelines can get pretty convoluted really quickly. This movie is no different, so I spent what seemed like an eternity choosing every conceivable scenario of options to give you readers a breakdown of what to expect from the multiple plots.

Unlike all of my other previous works, this particular article will include tons of spoilers because a timeline can’t be constructed without including major spoilers. So I hope you continue reading, but do it at your own risk. Anyways here we go…

The movie centers around a young programmer named Stefan Butler who is developing a video game adaptation of a choose your own adventure novel. It starts you out making some trivial decisions that really have no impact on the story such as which cereal you eat and which tape you listen to on the bus (although the commercial that plays before the video tape and your response to Colin regarding what music you listen to will reflect these choices). Don’t be fooled though, it gets much more complicated from there.

Stefan goes into the Tuckersoft studios to pitch his game and gets offered a deal to come work for them and develop the game in their office. If you accept the deal (like I did the first time) then the storyline ends by fast forwarding to the game’s release and review saying that it was a shitty game. However if you say no you get to continue on with the plot.

From there Stefan goes home to visit with his dad for a bit and is then shown in a meeting with his therapist Dr. Haynes. She suggests that they discuss the topic of Stefan’s deceased mother, which leads you to your next choice. Either agree to talk about his mother (which will lead to more available plot points) or choose not to, but if you choose not to you will be asked a second time if you want to discuss it or not (clearly indicating that this is the way that the movie wants you to go). From there you either get a flashback explaining what happened to Stefan’s mother (his dad took away his favourite toy which resulted in the mother running late while Stefan looked for the toy, and she missed her train and ended up going on the next one which derailed and killed her) or you just bypass it and continue on with the plot as it otherwise progresses.

Stefan heads to a record shop and chooses between buying two different records (I’m still unsure about what the consequence of this choice is, as it seems to have no impact on the plot as far as I can tell). Cue a montage of Stefan working on the game for several weeks before cutting to a scene where Stefan has an issue with his coding and has to choose to either dump tea on his computer or yell at his dad. Dumping the tea leads to the end of the storyline since all the work is destroyed, so I suggest choosing to yell at the father which results in him driving Stefan to Dr. Haynes.

As Stefan arrives he sees Colin walking down the street, so you can either choose to follow him or go inside and see Dr. Haynes. Choosing the Colin path leads to him taking Stefan back to his place, drugging him (regardless of whether you willingly accept the drugs or not), and proposing that one of them jump off the balcony to their death. If you pick that Stefan should jump then the storyline ends, but if you pick Colin then the storyline continues suggesting that the entire interaction with Colin was a dream (since you wake up just as you pull up in front of Dr. Haynes’ office once again) even though from that point on Colin will be purposely missing from the rest of the storyline (which gets addressed by all of the main characters).

Once all of this is over, Stefan talks with Dr. Haynes and has his first moment of disobedience where he refuses to follow through with the choice you make for him. He is then prescribed more medication and returns home. Here you can choose whether or not Stefan takes the pills or flushes them (although depending on what previous choices you’ve made the option to take them could be replaced with throwing them away). If you take them then it ends the storyline, but if you dispose of them it progresses on.

From there Stefan has another issue with his coding while he plays the video given to him earlier (either by Colin himself or the intern depending on whether you followed Colin from the doctor’s office or not). You can choose to destroy his computer, but doing so ends the game, so instead choose to hit the desk. Then Stefan enters a world of paranoia and chooses to either grab the family picture or pick up the book on his desk. The picture launches you into a flashback sequence and when you come out Stefan is prompted to dump his tea on his work or destroy computer, but regardless of which one you choose he will once again disobey. Now I know you’re probably wondering about what happens if you choose to pick up the book, well that goes into an entirely different chain of events, so I’ll get into that in a bit.

What happens next is Stefan will declare that he knows some entity is controlling him at which point you can choose whether to say it is Netflix or to use a mysterious symbol (although based on previous decisions the option for Netflix may be replaced with P.A.C.S.). If you select Netflix it will take you through a series of questions and answers which will wind up with Stefan returning to Dr. Haynes. Here he will tell her what is going on, at which point you will be forced to make a choice that causes you to fight her and either ends up with the whole thing being revealed to be a movie in which the actor playing Stefan has forgotten that he’s not actually Stefan, or Stefan’s dad will also come into the room and fight him, eventually dragging him out of the office and ending the storyline.

I’ll take this moment to quickly interject about what happens if you were to choose to pick up the book from the previous part. Well if you did that it would cause Stefan to go into a dream sequence where he breaks into his father’s safe by entering one of three potential passwords. You have the option to either select toy, pac, or jfd (the initials of the author of Bandersnatch).

Choosing toy leads to Stefan in child form recreating the incident that made his mother late, only this time you get to choose whether or not to go on the train with her. I would suggest not choosing to go with her though, because that leads to adult Stefan mysteriously dying in his session with Dr. Haynes.

Choosing pac results in Stefan finding a bunch of reports and tapes indicating that his father is not actually his father and that he’s actually part of some sadistic scientific study that involves Dr. Haynes as well. This will cause Stefan to murder his father, threaten Dr. Haynes’ life, and subsequently get arrested.

If you have the option to input jfd and decide to choose it then the author maniacally appears behind Stefan and he wakes up from the dream lying in bed and the storyline continues on as if you had chosen to grab the picture instead.

Now getting back to the decision of what to tell Stefan, regardless of whether you choose the symbol or P.A.C.S. the result will be the same. Stefan will kill his father (you can choose to back off with the symbol, but this abruptly ends the storyline if you do) and have to choose how to dispose of the body. If you choose to chop him up then it ends the storyline with the game being a hit, but it’s revealed that a few weeks after its release Stefan was charged with murder. It’s through a modern day interview clip on a news show that we find out that Colin’s daughter Pearl (which you were introduced to when you followed him from the doctor’s office) had become a coder and was actually trying to recreate Bandersnatch for Netflix in modern day. However she has an incident and the choice forces you to cause Pearl to destroy the project (probably for the best).

If you decided to bury the body then a few different things can happen. Stefan’s boss will call him and ask about the progress of the game, and you can either answer that it’ll be ready in time, that it won’t, or a third occasional option (not really an option since when this happens it actually just forces it upon you) where Stefan just immediately hangs up. If he answered no or nothing at all then Stefan’s boss will come to the house and get murdered (ending the storyline with Stefan getting arrested). If he says yes then either Colin will show up to the house (upon which you’re given the choice to kill him or let him go, both of which result in Stefan getting arrested) or Colin’s girlfriend will show up (in the timelines where Colin has jumped off the balcony and remained missing) where you can either lie to her or tell her the truth, both of which will lead to Stefan’s arrest as well.

So when you boil the game’s endings down to their core, the only real choices are for the game to never be released or the game to be released but Stefan getting arrested (with the optional added bonus of Pearl attempting to recreate the process in modern day). Overall I found the movie fairly enjoyable, although now that I’ve been forced to play through this multiple times to (attempt to) experience all the possibilities I feel like this idea was much better on paper than it was in practice. I give this choose your own adventure film a 3 out of 5 Bandersnatches (whatever the hell that actually is).

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