Last week, Netflix debuted what might be its most ambitious project yet, the viewer-interactive Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, the first stand-alone movie in the Black Mirror franchise. Very quickly, viewers discovered that the "Choose Your Own Adventure" format of the film creates multiple branching narratives that ultimately lead to one of five main endings. However, one of those endings is particularly interesting and now, creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones are opening up about that very "meta" option.
Warning: while there are so many variations of the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch story that it’s virtually impossible for any two people to have the same experience, there will be spoilers pertaining to both the five main endings as well as other critical plot elements beyond this point.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, in the most basic of terms, follows young video game developer Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) as he struggles to create his branching narrative game "Bandersnatch". As the story progresses, though, it becomes clear that Stefan is a troubled young man quickly losing control as he works on the game. Depending on the choices viewers make we discover that Stefan is plagued with guilt over the traumatic death of his mother as well as his strained relationship with his father. Nearly all of the variations of the story lead Stefan to rather grisly moments -- his idol and mentor Colin Ritman (Will Poulter) jumping to his death, the actual murder and dismemberment of his father just to name two.
None of the actual endings, however, are happy ones. In every ending Stefan has some sort of less-than-ideal outcome with the game being poorly-received or Stefan ending up in prison. Among those endings, though, is one that is reached most frequently. In that ending, Pearl Ritman -- the now-adult daughter of Colin -- is now a writer for Netflix and is adapting the game into an interactive film for the streaming giant, though she, too, soon begins to lose control just like Stefan before her. To Brooker, there's a great bit of gravity to that ending, driving home the idea of life imitating art.
"The Pearl ending is quite meta, where it sort of pulls out to reveal someone who has been writing all of this to appear on Netflix," Brooker tells The Hollywood Reporter. "To be honest, the whole thing was extremely meta. Throughout the whole process, we've often commented on who life has been imitating art, or the other way around."
The idea of this deeply meta story that causes viewers to question who is controlling what -- something that the story reinforces in several places as it deliberately forces you to make specific choices despite your best efforts to avoid them -- is deeply fitting with the Black Mirror franchise. However, while it is easy to then think of the Pearl ending as the "real" ending, Jones cautions viewers not to fall into that trap. The experience, she explains, is larger than that.
"It's a little bit crude to think of it in terms of specific endings, because they could all co-exist," Jones explains. "We tried to create it all so that all of the endings make sense for Stefan. He would like a few of those experiences to come true. And then we want people to experience it and have their own emotional reactions."
And as for those emotional reactions, Jones hopes viewers attempt to explore multiple options when it comes to the choices in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
"As the storyteller, you have to be able to relinquish some control, just like Stefan," Jones says. "We can't dictate which order things are going to go, just like you can't dictate how a viewer is going to respond to every scene and what they're going to take out of it. As long as every experience gives you something different and is entertaining, we hope you'll stay and explore other experiences -- whether that be one young man's mental breakdown, grasp on reality or parallel reality path."0comments
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is now streaming on Netflix.
Did you arrive at the Pearl ending in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch? Let us know in the comments below.