Black Mirror: Bandersnatch one month on - is it really as good as we first thought?

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By Leah Roberts, Third Year, German

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch took the world by storm when released on December 29 with its audience input, but the gimmick reduces the character of Stefan despite clear hints of mental health issues.

The latest endeavour of Black Mirror (2011-) is Bandersnatch, an interactive short movie with multiple endings, released on December 28 and based in 1984 London, centred around the integral theme of being observed. The reference to George Orwell’s novel feels like the only way to connect the episode to the rest of Black Mirror. The episode follows an aspiring video game creator, Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), as he attempts to adapt the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book named ‘Bandersnatch’ into his debut game.

Twitter / @NXOnNetflix

In the Black Mirror universe, it seems to be common knowledge that the author of ‘Bandersnatch’ went mad whilst completing the book and ended up beheading his own wife, but otherwise it seems that not many characters have actually read the book themselves. Stefan struggles after getting his pitch accepted by a major video game company, which the elusive Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) - Stefan’s hero of sorts - works for.

He works from his own bedroom day and night to complete the game in time for Christmas and starts to lose himself in the process. His dad (Craig Parkinson) is endearingly useless throughout the episode, despite his best attempts to connect with Stefan. Stefan visits his therapist (Alice Lowe) a few times throughout with his protests, but he doesn’t seem to speak to anyone outside of this.

The concept of an interactive episode is novel, but has actually been around for a while in the form of video games. The choices therefore were somewhat disruptive and not as well integrated as most RPG video games. This attempt to bring this platform to the wider public leaves Bandersnatch lacking in other areas and all of the characters, including Stefan, underdeveloped and hollow. His mental illness seems to be his only defining trait and this is disappointing given Netflix’s recent breakthroughs in portraying mental health in a positive manner in series such as Maniac.

Twitter / @AjDufff

The portrayal of mental health in this episode is not the whole issue; the way that Stefan’s schizophrenia was used as a gimmick and a main character trait feels odd or even insensitive. It feels as if the ‘choose your own path’ element dictated everything about the episode and left little room for development in the storyline as well as the characters.

Colin seems to have a little more depth to him and has a child, partner and steady job. He acts as a sort of mentor to Stefan when he gets stuck in what Colin calls ‘the hole’. However, he's still as mysterious as the rest of the characters, with hardly any backstory. Poulter plays the emotionless yet passionate character well, leaving us with no doubt that the impressionable Stefan could easily be lead along by him.

With previous episodes of the series hinging on personal struggles faced by several key characters involved, Stefan's isolation is perhaps something we’re just not used to with Black Mirror, but it further adds to the feeling that this interactive feature is a standalone, fun experiment, and easily forgotten.

Youtube / Netflix

Bandersnatch just doesn’t really stay true to the previous Black Mirror episodes While the production quality is just as stellar as what we’ve begun to expect of Netflix, the fact that Season 5 has been pushed back due to the production of this episode will no doubt leave viewers rather disappointed. The choose-your-own-adventure concept is a gimmick that will satiate some viewers until the next season, but would be better off being incorporated into a series of episodes, rather than just a one-off special.

Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Netflix


How many times have you gone through Bandersnatch?

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