Black Mirror is not an extremely self-referential show. As a Twilight Zone-style anthology series, Black Mirror episodes share themes and motifs but rarely the same characters or worlds. Bandersnatch, though, plays by entirely different rules. The new interactive episode, in which viewers can select actions for the main character in a “choose your own adventure” style interface, features a litany of background references and callbacks to the titles and events of previous episodes.
Below, check out a list of all the shout-outs we noticed. WARNING: Spoilers ahead for both Bandersnatch and previous Black Mirror episodes.
Bandersnatch was directed by David Slade, who also helmed the memorable black-and-white season 4 episode featuring a woman being chased by a murderous robotic “dog,” so perhaps it’s no surprise that it gets the most prominent shout-out. As the story begins, Colin Ritman’s (Will Poulter) most recent success as a developer was the video game titled Metl Hedd. Posters for the game prominently feature the recognizable robot dog and are displayed throughout Tuckersoft’s office and on the reference-heavy Tuckersoft website created by the Black Mirror team.
“Metalhead” might have given its name to Colin’s biggest success, but when Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) first arrives at the Tuckersoft office, he finds the legendary developer hard at work on his next game. Colin gives Stefan a quick demo and tells him the game is titled Nohzdyve, after the season 3 episode starring Bryce Dallas Howard in a world built on ratings apps. It’s not the first time “Nosedive” has given its name to a game, either; the episode was recently adapted into a real-life board game.
“San Junipero” was the first Black Mirror episode to be styled like a period piece, but it’s no longer the last. Bandersnatch shares the Emmy-winning episode’s ’80s setting and the obsession with classic video games. On top of that, there’s even a direct shout-out. Whenever Stefan goes to visit his therapist Dr. Haynes, he finds her office located in St. Juniper’s hospital.
As he gets further and further into his choose-your-own-adventure game, Stefan becomes haunted by a bracket symbol, meant to suggest the divergent paths of the choose-your-own-adventure storytelling format. Coincidentally, this symbol looks exactly the same as the one seen throughout “White Bear.” The episode is further referenced by the White Bear game on the Tuckersoft website.
“The National Anthem”
One of the possible Bandersnatch endings jumps forward in time to modern day, where a young creative woman is trying to adapt Stefan’s old game for Netflix. Viewers see her being interviewed on a news broadcast with various chyrons running across the bottom of the screen. The very first headline to appear there declares “Former PM Michael Callow wins celebrity bake-off.” This is a reference to the very first Black Mirror episode, in which the fictional British prime minister (played by Rory Kinnear) was blackmailed into having sex with a pig on national television. Sounds like things turned out alright for him in the end.
“Hated in the Nation”
The next headline to appear in the Bandersnatch news broadcast says “Granular to unveil prototype ‘pollinator drone.’” Viewers of past Black Mirror episodes will recognize this as a callback to the show’s longest episode, in which robotic bees are weaponized to kill people who lose social media popularity contests.
“The Waldo Moment”
Another headline declares, “Liam Monroe enters Buckingham Palace,” a reference to the fictional Conservative Party politician played by Tobias Menzies in the episode about a cartoon bear getting involved in politics. In that episode, the antics of the “Waldo” character were meant to mock all politicians but only ended up furthering the cause of the Conservatives. It seems like Waldo’s mockery has now propelled Monroe to the very seat of British state power.
Black Mirror has experimented a few times with memory technology, but given the law-enforcement angle of the news headline “U.K. police test groundbreaking memory recall device,” it’s almost certainly a reference to the season 4 episode “Crocodile.” While the season 1 episode “An Entire History of You” featured characters with audio-visual implants that allowed them to “replay” memories, “Crocodile” featured a device literally called a Recaller that investigators used to reconstruct the scene of a crime.
Another news headline announces that the cast of the fictional Star Trek-like show Space Fleet reunited at the Emmy Awards, something that might delight Jesse Plemons’ Robert Daly depending on whether this event happened before or after the events of “USS Callister.” Given Daly’s dedication to the show in the episode, he probably even has a copy of the video game Valdack’s Revenge, produced by Tuckersoft and starring the Khan-like villain played by Billy Magnussen in that episode (the game’s title presumably being a reference to The Wrath of Khan).
“Men Against Fire”
This season 3 episode is referenced darkly on the Tuckersoft website. One of the company’s previous games, apparently, was titled Roachbusters. The silly-looking cover (featuring a human hand spraying a cartoonish bug) belies the seriousness of the episode it’s referencing, in which soldiers are given audio-visual implants that make their enemies look like grotesque monsters. The Tuckersoft game description (“You are responsible for the wellbeing of mankind. You must protect everyone. Kill the Roaches and collect the stars”) might as well be Stripe’s (Malachi Kirby) military marching orders.
“15 Million Merits”
Tuckersoft’s website features a poster for a cycling game called Rolling Road. The game’s description (“Think you’ve got what it takes, hot shot? See if you can ride your bike day in, day out, going absolutely nowhere, but everywhere at the same time…”) makes it sound awfully similar to the endless biking that Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) and everyone around him are forced to endure in this classic season 1 episode.