In “Bandersnatch,” the latest output from the sinister minds at Black Mirror, the viewer follows Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) as he attempts the Herculean task of adapting a Choose Your Own Adventure-style novel into a videogame (also called Bandersnatch), with the occasional bit of guidance from veteran game designer Colin (Will Poulter).
But the viewer is also playing a version of the game, guiding Stefan along by making decisions for him. These choices range from which breakfast cereal to eat to (spoiler) whether to bury or chop up his just-murdered father. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, “Bandersnatch” has multiple possible endings for Stefan and company. Here are all the possibilities, ranked in terms of general awfulness (from greatest to least) — barring the false endings that just force you back to your last choice, and also barring whatever secret ending(s) Charlie Brooker hid somewhere in the episode that we haven’t found yet.
10. Stefan finds out his entire life has been a massive science experiment (P.A.C.S.).
Even though this ending involves no murder, it’s still easily the worst ending for poor Stefan. Murder is a terrible thing that happens; finding out your entire life was a psychological study meant to manipulate you, and the man you thought was your father is really just a stranger being paid by the government to record you and drug your food, is so psychologically devastating that there’s no possible way back. This ending doesn’t just ruin Stefan’s life, it completely demolishes it. This ending Thanos-snaps Stefan’s entire existence. His mom wasn’t even his mom?! Horrible. Sorry, Stefan.
9. Stefan buries his dad, kills Colin, and is arrested for murder. Bandersnatch isn’t released.
If you choose to bury Stefan’s recently ashtray-murdered father, the neighbor’s dog will eventually dig up the body, sending poor Stefan to prison (although you’d think if he keeps talking about Netflix, he should really be able to get off on insanity).
8. Stefan buries his dad, doesn’t kill Colin, and is arrested for murder. Bandersnatch isn’t released.
If you let Colin go (or if Kitty comes to the door instead), it means Stefan only commits a single murder, which is… you know, a little better.
7. Stefan kills his dad, calls the therapist, and is arrested for murder. Bandersnatch gets 2.5 stars.
I guess at least his game gets released in this one, but it’s only a nominal improvement.
6. Stefan chops up his dad. Game gets 5/5 stars before Stefan is arrested.
Sure, it’s fun to see that Bandersnatch got five stars, but at what cost? Making a good videogame is not worth having your father’s severed head slowly bleeding out over your dresser. Stefan also ends up in prison in this ending, but at least in this timeline, Colin’s daughter Pearl is reviving the game in the present day. It’s good to see that she turned out okay, at least until you force her to destroy her computer and realize free will is an illusion.
5. Stefan jumps off the balcony, and Bandersnatch is unfinished, disturbing, and weird.
Jumping off a balcony while tripping on acid is a terrible, heartbreaking accident, but, you know, at least there’s no murder.
4. Stefan goes back in time, gets on the train with his mother, and then dies in the therapist’s office in the present day.
Again, an inexplicable death after extensive hallucinations is strange and terrible, but at least there’s no decapitation.
3. Turns out Stefan is just an actor doing a scene, and he lost track of reality.
You might argue that this ending is equally psychologically devastating as the P.A.C.S. path, but I’m a little more optimistic. Sure, “Stefan” isn’t real, but the actor portraying him is, and he just got a little too into his character. When production ends, “Stefan” can stop being method and get therapy to re-anchor himself in the real world. And bonus points: In the real world, he’s clearly a successful working actor! Did you also star in Dunkirk? Good for you, whatever your name is now!
2. Stefan takes his pills and Bandersnatch is uninspired but just FINE.
It’s a myth that medication makes you less creative. Maybe Stefan just made a mediocre game, and that’s fine. Do you know what he didn’t do? Murder his father with an ashtray and end up in prison. Keep making games, Stefan, but take care of your mental health first!
1. Stefan works on the game at Tuckersoft and Bandersnatch gets 0 stars.
Hey, guess what? Sometimes games don’t succeed, and that can happen for a lot of reasons. Stefan got to work at a massive up-and-coming game company, side by side with a designer he idolizes. Learn from your mistakes and try again! Who cares if your first game wasn’t a success? How old is Stefan anyway, 12? Is he 12? Make another game, Stefan! You have so much time to learn how to work with others without compromising your creative vision, and also without killing people.