Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s biggest flaw is that there’s no true ending


The creators of the Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch, revealed that there’s no right or wrong ending. But that might be their biggest error.

Warning: this story contains major spoilers for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

During the quiet lull that was the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Black Mirror delivered its most exciting installment yet: Bandersnatch. The interactive episode stayed trending on Twitter all day when it was released on Dec. 28, and it’s easy to see why.

Audiences got the chance to experience a choose your own adventure-style episode that wasn’t quite a TV show and wasn’t quite a game. It was something new for most people, and the story brought lots of mind-bending twists and turns with it.

Following the specials’ release, the creators of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, revealed a few of the secrets behind its creation to The Hollywood Reporter. Among those secrets include how the meta-like creation of their choose your own adventure story happened.

Much like how Stefan endlessly worked on creating the branches of Bandersnatch the video game, so did the team behind the story. Brooker explained that Netflix had to develop an entirely new technology to map out the story, saying:

"While we were coming up with ideas for bits of the story, there would be times where you think, “At this point, this or this could happen.” And it was almost like a whole new wing of your house appeared that you had to then furnish and decorate… Because our ambitions were so warped, Netflix said we had given them a workout in terms of accelerating the way this system can work. We came up with little things like small choices that you think mean nothing at the start that slightly pay off later on, even if it’s just a little Easter egg."

For all that it’s worth, the Black Mirror team’s work really did pay off, creating a playable story that audiences could hack away at and explore until they’ve exhausted their curiosity (or every playable route).

But at the same time, in the interview, the creators made a note to mention that out of all those choices (“millions” as THR mentions) and the multiple endings, there is no right or wrong ending. And that is one of Bandersnatch‘s major flaws.

Sure, there are a few things here and there that might not make sense throughout the story, but the biggest oversight in the storytelling is that there are perhaps way too many outcomes. Now, hear me out, because I know choose your adventure games and stories are all about having different outcomes — that’s what makes them fun. But Bandersnatch’s issue doesn’t necessarily stem from how many endings it has. It stems from what those endings mean.

If you’ve explored the story long enough, you’ll see that Stefan’s video game trip leads him down many different rabbit holes. (If you haven’t explored the story long enough, one savior Redditor mapped out the possible paths you could take.) For a majority of the story, Stefan becomes paranoid that he’s not in control, and who or what he loses his control to is up to you.

In one route, he learns that he’s part of a weird human-control program known as P.A.C. that his father, therapist, and mother are in on. In another route, the same thing happens, but you can convince him that you are the mythic being that Bandersnatch‘s author went insane over. Or, if you want to take things to an extremely weird and meta, you can say that you’re Netflix and make Stefan’s life an actual movie.

While each of those endings is interesting, they don’t do enough to satiate the feeling of wanting a complete story. Those routes leave more questions than answers at the end of the day, which almost makes the story pointless in a way.

What’s the point of meeting with Colin, who tells us dying doesn’t matter and we’re being controlled, when there’s no real resolution to his story? In some routes, Colin comes back, and in some routes, he doesn’t. Where does he go? What are we to believe when he comes back in one playthrough but disappears in another? Things just get muddled and confused, and it doesn’t really feel like the creators took the time to carefully comb through their story — instead just toying with how many different ways they can tell this story.

Any writer will tell you a good story needs a beginning, middle and end. But in Bandersnatch, there are so many beginnings, middles, and ends that it isn’t just one story, but multiple.

So, what would be a solution for this jumbled mess? Take Detroit: Become Human, a popular video game released in 2018 which (much like Bandersnatch), presented the player with a complex array of choices that had real consequences in the story. You follow the lives of three androids who are in the middle of a human-android war. How you control those androids’ actions determines how the war is waged and what the results of that war are. There’s no confusion over who’s doing what, how something happens, or why it even happens in the first place.

And so, if only Bandersnatch were to stick to one resolution with multiple endings, it would be a great mind-bending adventure. The main issue is who is in control: P.A.C., the audience, or Netflix. And if Black Mirror could just pick one, unraveling the mystery would be a lot cleaner and interesting. Instead, they muddied their hands with all sorts of possibilities and got bogged down in the process.

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Unfortunately, as reported inTHR, the creators say they won’t come out with a linear version of the story so that the ending can remain as open as possible. That means at the end of the day, you’ll have to be fine knowing the outcome you like best is the only one that matters.