By Andy Chandler
HE’S BACK! Oh yes, love him or loathe him, Charlie Brooker has bought Black Mirror back….only this time, there’s a twist!
Black Mirror is one of my favourite shows, it straddles the line between so many different things so very well that an episode can often take you from government conspiracy to the nature of humans and then touch upon spirituality too.
It’s a melting pot of new, controversial ideas that are all contained inside deep story’s that, more often than not, appeal to the darker side of humanity.
So, it’s fair to say that I’ve been waiting for new Black Mirror with very bated breath. I started to hear rumblings that we’d get something new at the beginning of December, but it wasn’t until December 28th that all became very, very clear.
Bandersnatch erupted onto Netflix at the perfect time, it was mid-way through that post Christmas-pre New Years Eve lull that leaves you feeling a little out of it, so to have some new Black Mirror to sink my Quality Street-ridden teeth into was a very welcome Christmas present from St. Book.
For those not in the know, Bandersnatch, set in 1984, tells the story of Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) who dreams of adapting a “choose your own adventure” book called Bandersnatch by tragic writer Jerome F. Davies (Jeff Minter) into what he hopes will be a revolutionary adventure video game.
The game involves traversing a graphical maze of corridors while avoiding a creature called the Pax, and at times making choices by an on-screen instruction. Butler produces the game for video game company Tuckersoft, which is run by Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry) and employs the famous game creator Colin Ritman (Will Poulter).
Butler begins to work on the game on his own from his bedroom, given a September deadline by Thakur so Tuckersoft can publish it for Christmas sales. Fighting through the game’s software bugs, Butler gets increasingly stressed out and hostile to his father Peter (Craig Parkinson). Throughout this period, Butler visits Dr. R. Haynes’ (Alice Lowe) clinic for depression therapy.
As the deadline to deliver the game to Thakur looms, with strange errors still present in the game, Butler begins to feel he is being controlled by outside forces, putting into question how much he trusts his father and Dr. Haynes. Butler finds his life mirroring that of Davies, seeing recurring imagery of a “branching pathway” symbol, which seemingly led to Davies beheading his own wife.
Stefan begins to mentally break down and tries to fight against the unseen agent controlling his actions….
It’s a very intriguing premise, even for Black Mirror, but what elevates Bandersnatch to an entirely different level is the fact that, at various different points throughout the story, you make Stefan’s choices for him and the story changes depending on the choices you make.
Some of the choices, like picking what breakfast cereal to eat, might seem inconsequential or unimportant but, in Bandersnatch, every single choice matters and WILL affect the outcome of the story you get.
Many have described the interactive elements as being a publicity tool or a distraction but I found it bought me deeper into the story and it allows you to see good and bad consequences based on how you choose to play it.
Had I written this review immediately after playing/watching Bandersnatch, I’d be sat here telling you how this is ‘the future of telly’ or how Netflix have ‘produced something truly singular for their viewers’, which they have of course; but this maybe isn’t as deep or as clever as the initial reactions would lead you to believe. In my first play through I saw 3 of the 5 possible endings and, once scenarios play out, you’re given a chance to jump back in and make other choices which make the whole thing feel lighter and funner than it should, it makes the choices you’ve just made seem a tad……disposable and, at worse, forgettable.
That being said though I was thoroughly entertained for my first few playthroughs and would recommend this to anyone with, or without, a Netflix subscription. But this isn’t a revolution, It’s a fun way to spend a few hours and might just be enough of a Black Mirror hit to keep this geek happy until Series 5 hits Netflix later this year. 4/5.