Pick your own plot directions
Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch recently arrived on Netflix, and it is a genuinely groundbreaking, must-watch episode of television.
I hasten to clarify: I’m not sure it is actually “television” any more, as it could more accurately be described as an interactive visual experience, akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure books many will recall from the 1980s and 90s.
Bandersnatch stars Fionn Whitehead as Stefan Butler, a young programmer in England circa 1984, who is attempting to adapt a sprawling fantasy novel into a video game in time for the pre-Christmas sales window.
And if you are watching on a reasonably recent device, computer or TV, you will be quickly confronted with choices that guide the subsequent narrative, from the prosaic (such as which cereal to choose) to those of the life-anddeath variety.
One benefit is that it injects some of the contingency, randomness and uncertainty of real life into the drama.
It also makes Butler more relatable, as he is making the choices the audience members think are reasonable.
It is also very “meta”. Not only is this interactive show about the creation of an interactive game, but in the iteration I watched, Butler started to resist my choices and rant about being controlled by unseen forces.
(At one point, his psychiatrist asked him why, if his life was being controlled and filmed for someone’s entertainment in the future, was he not doing anything more “entertaining”? I subsequently chose for him to initiate a kung-fu fight with her.)
It’s pretty great, and definitely a glimpse of the future of screen entertainment. streaming on Netflix.
Fionn Whitehead in Netflix’s interactive Black Mirror: Bandersnatch