Everyone knows about Bandersnatch at this point. Wasn’t it brilliant?! I mean, the thing, and that other thing? Oh, wait. Please tell me you know about Bandersnatch. Hold on…you might not. Still surprises me that some of you just passively watch stuff, and you don’t snort movie uppers like I do. (That was just a metaphor mom. Sort of a weird way of saying I’m crazy about movies…not that I have actually done Dexedrine, Ritalin, or Biphetamine for kicks. It’d be similar to if I had just said that I mainline movies…I don’t actually ingest movies via my blood system. It’s a metaphor. Wait. Hold on a second… I might actually mainline movies the more I think about it. Scratch that one.)
So let’s back up. Black Mirror was a BBC show that was eventually purchased by Netflix, and it is the closest equivalent to the old school Twilight Zone that is out there right now. It’s a Twilight Zone for the modern world. A show that deals with technology, social media, and the minefield of relationships in the modern world. Oh, and they almost ALWAYS end in a train wreck. A car crash that will always end harder, and more intensely than you would ever guess that it could. Trust me, I actually play a game with each episode, wherein I try to guess how it will end horribly for the protagonist, just so I can see how wrong I can be.
Well, the other day, Netflix released an episode of Black Mirror called Bandersnatch. The simplest and most inappropriate way to describe Bandersnatch is that it is a Choose Your Own Adventure story. You select branches and decisions in order to force the story in various directions. Generally, movies employ editors and screenplay writers to do this for the viewing audience. But this time? They actually let the viewer do the choosing. And, at first, I thought it was a stupid gimmick. No thank you. I prefer that my movies come to me in a fully finished format. Not in some half-assed format… thank you very much.
But I have to say – this Black Mirror is wickedly brilliant and like nothing I’ve ever experienced on the screen before. At first I started out by just constantly thinking about the mechanics necessary to pull this thing off. How do you change the soundtrack of the film based on someone’s received input? Is it a different audio file? A different fully changed video file? How do you change dialogue based on a viewers opinion? It was all just so fascinating. But then the Black Mirror began implementing the choosing as part of the film itself. You, the viewer, are now not the 4th wall, but you have been dragged into the film itself. It’s hard to describe. So here, why don’t you imbibe this trailer, and see if you can see for yourself what I mean:
OK – with that, I’m going to dive über deep on this brilliant show. If you haven’t watched it – heck, even if you haven’t watched it thoroughly, there maybe a TON of spoilers from here on out. Good? We on the same page?
High Level Bandersnatch Walkthrough
A Bandersnatch, is a mythical creature created by Lewis Carroll, and first mentioned in the Jabberwocky within his glorious novel, Through the Looking Glass. Apparently it’s a quick monster-like creature. More importantly, it’s the title of a book written by the fictional author Jerome F. Davies. The book is a very thick, choose your own adventure novel, that is adopted by Stefan Butler, in 1984, to use as his muse for a new video game he is attempting to develop. Stefan gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to demo his game with Tuckersoft, which is headed by Mohan Thakur. The entirety of the episode follows Stefan as he navigates the booby traps of this real life game-creation maze he’s found himself in.
Now, one of the most important moments in Stefan’s young life was the death of his mother at the age of five. Stefan, who happened to love the occasional stuffed animal, felt a fondness for a rabbit (Alice anyone?) that his father did not share his affinity for. The night before his mother was to leave on a train trip, Stefan’s father stole his rabbit, attempting to break him of this childish habit. Only problem? Stefan’s antics at the loss of the rabbit delays his mother, and keeps her from making it to her train on time. And as a result, the train crashes, and Stefan blames himself for the death of his mother. And as Stefan attempts to navigate through this maze, it is this seminal moment that seems to be the reoccurring touchpoint Stefan has to dodge.
Now, one of the most interesting aspects of this show, is that the viewer is the one who is helping to guide Stefan through this maze. The show itself is a game, and Stefan is our avatar who is being manipulated by the viewer as he goes. And actually, Stefan becomes more and more aware of this fact. He begins showing signs of extreme paranoia that there is some external force intervening in his life. If you walked Stefan through to only one ending, then the rest of this post is going to be shocking to you. But personally? I couldn’t physically only watch one ending. I was almost desperate to know the various maze endings. And so, for those of you who are morbidly curious, but not morbidly curious enough to follow every branch of Bandersnatch, don’t worry, I did it for you. And there are piles and piles of possibilities to how Bandersnatch ends… but there are only two CORRECT endings. And you can know for sure that you’ve found one of these two correct endings. I promise.
The Three Big Ways To Die in Bandersnatch That Are Wrong
So many people who have taken the time to watch Bandersnatch say that the movie makes no sense, and that the endings are cut off. They argue that the movie isn’t satisfying in the least. Well, to that I say, bullocks. It could be that you wandered the wayward back alley paths of Bandersnatch and collided with a wall, and called it a day. But there is a point. There is an ending. But it isn’t the ending you were looking for, or expecting. And THAT my friends is where we are going to go today. To be clear, there are lots and lots of endings that are incorrect. For example, Stefan jumping from the balcony? Wrong. These three endings are the BIG endings that give the pretext of concluding and give you the option to watch the credits.
The Netflix Option –
Black Mirror just has to make you laugh sometimes. And this, I promise, is one of those times. There is an option, wherein you tell Stefan that you’re his 21st Century viewer. And you tell him about Netflix. So when Stefan tells Dr. Haynes about this “Netflix,” “21st Century Viewer” theory, she states that if he were really in a movie there would be more action. You are then given the option to fight her or going out the window. When you go out the window, a director shouts “Cut!” and you realize Stefan had gotten a bit too deep into his roll. (Roll Credits Icon Appears.)
Movie Filming Option –
Like the above option, but when Dr. Haynes gives you the option to fight, take her on. This results in a knock down drag out fight with Stefan’s father, Peter, entering the brawl, and dragging Stefan out as he yells about his 21st century friend.
Stefan Goes to Jail Option –
This option has about 4 or 5 permutations, and a hidden option as well. So this one will get a little muddy. But the general vide is the same. With this ending, Stefan kills his father due to his paranoia over the Program and Control files he found. By killing him, and burying him, you’ll be given the credits icon.
I have to admit, if you were looking for a happy ending, the movie options (Netflix or otherwise) are probably the happiest possible options. I mean, Stefan is just mental. He’s one of those artistic types that just gets too into his roles. But pretty much any other option brings about all kinds of scary negativity at the end. (And yet, this is Black Mirror, so what else were you expecting?)
The Two Correct Bandersnatch Endings
Alright, let’s get to the two big endings that are, by definition, correct. Let’s walk through them both…
The Rabbit Ending –
In order to see this ending, you will need to follow Colin, and get high with him. Instead of jumping, let Colin kill himself by jumping off the balcony. Then after that, when you go to see Dr. Haynes, flush the medication that she gives him. Then, when you go to the safe in your father’s office, you will need to use the code PAC on the safe. Then look at the family photo instead of picking up the book. After waking from the dream, instead of going to the end credits head back to the safe and select TOY which shows Stefan as five again. Choose to go with her. And the story flips to Stefan dead in the therapist’s office. Paramedics are there, trying to help him, and we know that this is the very first session from the start of the movie because of the clothes that Dr. Haynes is wearing. She tells them he closed his eyes for a moment, and then never opened them again. Credits Roll Automatically.
The Pearl Ritman Ending –
OK, remember Peter’s safe? You previously entered PAC into it. Now, instead of PAC, enter PAX. This will take you a cut scene where you are scared to death by the Bandersnatch monster. Then choose white bear symbol. After that select Kill Dad, then cut him up. OK? With me so far? Stefan completes the game, having thrown all of himself into the game (and some of his dad too apparently). And after this you see that Bandersnatch gets 5/5 stars. Only glitch? Stefan’s murder of his father is found out and he goes to prison. But this time, it skips forward to a woman, named Pearl Ritman. You know, of the Colin and Kitty progeny fame? Right. Well, she is bringing back Stefan’s game, but this time in the form of a Netflix movie with choose your own adventure technology. When she does a demo run it glitches, and you are able to choose to destroy the game. And here rolls the credits automatically again.
Let’s Explain Those Bandersnatch Endings
Bandersnatch is 100% a discussion about Freewill vs. Predestination. It’s a discussion/argument that Christians are extraordinarily capable of tearing each other’s throats out over. Usually it’s an argument started by sloshed Calvinists…but I’m fond of poking my Calvinist friends in the eye with the verbal jab about why bothering getting up today if I can’t decide for myself anything at all. (Hey, all you Calvinists out there – I love you dearly. Even though you have your theology all wrong… I still don’t want to get any hate email from you all. But I guess I can’t do anything about it anyway, my fate is decided all the same! (hahaha, see what I did there?)) But secular audiences worry about this idea as well. (Not sure why atheists should care about predestination if there isn’t anyone to predestine them. I guess the ever present FATE can? eh?)
So yeah, Bandersnatch is about the immutable laws of predestination. It doesn’t matter what you do, if it’s intended, it will happen. Colin is the high priest of predestination throughout Bandersnatch…so much so that he says that there are even multi-verse level timelines that will all convene and converge in order to make whatever is supposed to happen, happen. And this is in one of the first wide released movies that allowed millions of people choose which direction the movie went. Are you sensing the irony here?
Now, as I was scouring the movie this way and that, I was looking for one very particular ending. It’s simple really. I wanted Stefan’s game to get a 5/5. And I wanted him to not go to jail. Which, is pretty hilarious that I thought this ending could possibly have existed, this being a Black Mirror show after all. But that is what I was looking for, regardless of my knowledge of the show. This though, is an inconsistent ending with the rest of the show.
Let’s start at the beginning. Bandersnatch is a really complex choose your own adventure book for adults by author Jerome F. Davies. The story, and the chaos of writing a book this complex convinced Davies that we actually don’t have choices after all. That there is really only one predestined fate for each of us, and that we are controlled by some higher fate that will never let us out from under their thumb. This knowledge ultimately sends him over the edge, and he kills his wife and hacks her to pieces.
Stefan, in love with the book, decides he will use the book as his muse for crafting a video game on the same topic. But over the course of the work necessary to complete his game, he becomes more and more convinced that no matter what he wants to do, he is controlled by some external force to do their bidding. And the further down the rabbit hole you take Stefan towards the completion of his game, the more convinced of this reality he becomes. We see this play out a couple of times by his resisting your orders.
Which brings us to our two endings. The first ending is our Rabbit ending. The original problem for Stefan is that he caused his mother’s death. Remember that? Well, Stefan, when given the chance to right those wrongs, he goes back and finds his rabbit. Stefan chooses to go as well, and the two make the train she was hoping to make. PERFECT! Happy ending! There is no chaos with Dad, and some Program and Control nonsense. There is no Bandersnatch, or suicidal contemplation’s of free will vs. predestination. Instead, it’s just Stefan, and his mother… on the train. Until that train crashes and the two of them are killed. Which ripples up into the present of 1984, where Stefan dies in his chair at the therapist’s office as a result of this reality shift.
The second ending gives Stefan the knowledge that he is controlled by his 21st century interlocutors. This information sends him over the edge. He goes mad, and it causes him to kill his father. He had no choice. Better yet, you made him do it. Funny thing is? You didn’t have any choice either. Do you remember what Stefan said to his therapist when she asked him about his finishing the game? He told her that he realized he just needed to cut out tons of options, and only make it appear like the viewer had options, when, in fact, they didn’t. Which is a metaphor for our lives in general. We seem to have infinite choices. And yet, do we really? Or are we fated to live the lives we live?
These two endings are the preordained endings designed by the Editor of the show. They are the two that tell the story that the entirety of the show was meaning to convey. And that is that we have no possible chance or ability to escape our predestined fate. Fight it anyway that you’d like, you will fail. If you are intended to become a murderer and hack up your father, and bury him in the garden? That’s what you are going to become. And take the 9:15, the 9:45, the 10:15, the 10:45 train, it just doesn’t matter. If it’s your time to die, it’s your time to die. Your destiny is your destiny.
Final Thoughts on Bandersnatch
There are times when movies make me become incredibly OCD, and movies like this one are one of those times. Dark was another. Coherence, of course. Upstream Color too. There have actually been a number of really fantastic mind job flicks that have really made me dive ultra-deep into their bowels. hrm. Nope. Calling a mulligan on that one. Picking it back up again at flicks… ‘that have really made me dive extraordinarily deep into their intricately detailed clock-like gears.’ (Oh, yes, much better than bowels. blech.) I personally couldn’t get enough of this movie. And that was after telling my better half before I watched it – “You know what, my movie admission purchase price should be good enough to hire an editor to assemble the movie for me…I shouldn’t have to do it for them.” Boy, was I wrong.
Edited by, CY
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