TV Review: Bandersnatch
Synopsis:In this movie-length, choose your own adventure-style Black Mirror episode, ‘80s videogame programmer Stefan begins to question reality when he adapts a dark fantasy novel into a videogame.
Bandersnatch, the latest episode of Netflix’s innovative Black Mirror, allows the viewer to make decisions for the main character, videogame designer Stefan – who is building a ground-breaking (in 1984) multiple-ending game himself – and affect the outcome of the story.
Some decisions the viewer can make, like what breakfast cereal Stefan should choose, seem to be insignificant, while others take you on short detours and some are literally life and death.
As an episode of Black Mirror, Bandersnatch is lacklustre. It doesn’t provoke the same existential terror as White Christmas or The Entire History of You and lacks the emotional depth of San Junipero.
The characters are surface level and many seem to be merely conduits for the next multiple-choice selection by the viewer.
But this is a brand-new way to watch TV that could revolutionise entertainment and the storyline is adequate for a concept in its infancy. I’m certain that future offerings using this technology will include more substantial characters, once actors and directors perfect the performance of multiple endings with multiple variants within the one episode.
Watching Bandersnatch, it’s easy to see how interactivity could be the next step forward in entertainment, but it’s hard to lose yourself in the storyline when you’re constantly being pulled out of it.
You’re prompted by the TV to make a decision every few minutes, which
can feel more like you’re playing a basic videogame with extended cut-scenes than watching a TV episode.
Whether viewers embrace the concept of interactive television will depend on individual viewing habits. If you’re someone who likes to tune-in to tune-out or multitask while watching TV, then Bandersnatch may not be for you.
However, there’s literally millions of episodes of conventional TV out there so put aside whatever you’d usually do while watching TV for 90 minutes (or five hours if you play through every variant) and embrace interactive TV as a brand-new concept – one that I hope will continue to evolve.
Final verdict: 4/5
Fionn Whitehead, Asin Chaudhry, Craig Parkinson, Alice Lowe
If you like this show, try:
Black Mirror, Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, Mr Robot, Äkta Människor (Real Humans), Twilight Zone.