How many endings does Black Mirror: Bandersnatch have?
Ivan Radford | On 30, Dec 2018
Black Mirror dropped its latest techno-nightmare this weekend, in the form of Bandersnatch. The show’s first feature-length film, it’s also the show’s first interactive film – and Netflix’s first interactive offering for adults (read our review here). The result is a choose-your-own story that follows Stefan (Finn Whitehead), a young programmer who is commissioned by a games company to make Bandersnatch, an interactive adaptation of his favourite childhood fantasy novel. As viewers find themselves navigating between his game being completed and being well received, or between it not getting finished at all due to various disturbing complications, Bandersnatch has left audiences not only questioning the nature of free will, but also wondering one key question: how many endings does Bandersnatch have?
“My answer to the question of how many endings there are is: All of them,” Charlie Brooker said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
But according to producing partner and the show’s co-creator, Annabel Jones, there are “five definitive endings”, although that depends on the answer to another question: what exactly counts as an ending? Indeed, the team at Netflix themselves can’t agree on that. There are, after all, variants of each ending, with different paths to get there, and there are also hidden Easter Eggs that are either difficult to unearth or possibly can’t even be seen. As a result, producer Russell McLean puts it closer to 10 to 12 endings, with some less definitive than others.
“There are scenes that some people just will never see and we had to make sure that we were OK with that. We actually shot a scene that we can’t access,” director David Slade revealed, again to THR.
All of that uncertainty partly comes from the way that Bandersnatch will reach the finale of your chosen branch, then display some end credits – but also give the option to either start over or continue with more narrative choices. By going back to keep on exploring, Netflix remembers what you’ve seen and nudges you towards the bits you haven’t. Choosing to do same action twice or not along the way then further alters what new videos you unlock.
“Built into Bandersnatch is the notion that you will experience scenes more than once,” explained Brooker. “There are things that alter the scene the second time around, and you get compressed versions of things you’ve already seen. There are characters who are there or who aren’t there, depending on things that have happened.”
“In any given choice point, viewers have two options of what to do. That, by the pure mathematics of permutations, mean there are millions of paths to take,” Carla Engelbrecht, Netflix’s director of product innovation, explained to THR in an interview. “It doesn’t mean that you can spend the rest of your life exploring Bandersnatch. Generally, what we expect is that folks will spend anywhere from an hour to two and a half hours exploring the world and uncovering the different aspects of it.”
“There were quite heated debates about what constitutes an ending,” added Brooker. “There’s a school of thought that says any time it stops and you go back, that’s an ending. In Bandersnatch, there are endings that are really abrupt that are still endings, in my mind.”
He started writing the film with a programme called Twine, but ended up having to use Netflix’s own, in-house technology, which was then tweaked and updated to allow for what Brooker wanted Bandersnatch to do.
“You couldn’t do this in a flow chart because it’s dynamic and tracking what state you are in and doing things accordingly,” described Brooker, and you can’t do that with a pen and paper.”
So how many endings are there? In total, there are around 250 segments of video that link together with the various permutations of every binary selection, with scenes filmed multiple times to capture different moods and emotional states. We’ve broken down the main end points and briefly indicated the choice that will take you there, sorted by the broad outcomes of Bandersnatch’s completion, Stefan’s fate or the additional meta-moments that make things funnier, more disturbing, or both.
Warning: There are spoilers below this impossible breakfast choice.
The game is released
Bandersnatch is released! It sounds like an achievement, right? Not necessarily. Because there several ways in which this can happen, almost all of them not good.
1. The balcony
If you choose to follow Colin, you’ll go up to his flat and out onto his balcony. Choose to jump off instead of him and Stefan will die, the game will be published as an incomplete curio and get a 2.5/5 review rating.
2. A creative flop
One turning point sees you choose whether to take pills or not, after Dr. Haynes ups Stefan’s dosage. Say yes and they end up dulling Stefan’s creative inspiration, leaving in a muddled game with a poor ending. 2.5/5 again.
Choose “PACS” as the voice talking to Stefan through his computer and you’ll end up in a mini-conspiracy thriller involving his dad carrying out experiments on his son, who has been monitoring him for years. PAC gets you into his dad’s safe, which contains all the files, and leads Stefan to killing his dad (not by your direct choice). Enter the correct phone number (20541) to talk to Dr. Haynes’ receptionist and you’ll get an appointment and Stefan will end up arrested. Even if you don’t get the number right, Stefan will still get caught. Either way, the game is published and gets a 2.5 rating.
4. Taking the job
Accept Tucker’s job early on to work in-house on Bandersnatch and the whole thing will be a failure, after he decides to strip the whole thing down to make it simple and more commercialised. The game gets 0/5, while you get Colin telling you it’s the “wrong path” and to try again.
The game is not released
5. Burying the body
One of the near-unavoidable, and most moving, segments see Stefan kill his dad – but the real decision comes when he has to dispose of the body. If you bury the body, it’ll get discovered, which means Stefan is caught before the game can be finished. He ends up in prison, going crazy as he etches the branching tree diagram on the cell wall. There are multiple variants on this ending, because you also get to potentially kill some other people: Colin and Tucker both visit Stefan post-murder, and Stefan can get rid off them as required. Either way, the game is never completed and the games company goes under. (Bonus variant: Colin will only visit if he didn’t jump off the balcony. In which case, Stefan is arrested for drugs use. If Colin did jump, it’s murder that Stefan gets put away for.)
The sort-of happy ending
6. The train
One of the best parts of Bandersnatch is the flashback to Colin and his mother (if you choose to talk about it in Dr. Haynes’ therapy session), which doesn’t let you change what happened – at least, on the first time through. Some drugs and mind-altering chats with Colin later, though, and you’ll find Stefan able to go back in time through a mirror and choose to get on the train with his mother and the toy rabbit. We then cut to Stefan in the present day in a therapy session, already dead. It’s the most peaceful conclusion to the story, but hardly a happy one.
7. Pearl Ritman
There’s a way to get a 5/5 rating for the game – and it’s a grim one. The answer? Chop up Stefan’s dad’s body so it doesn’t get discovered. Enter the correct phone number (20541) to talk to Dr. Haynes’ receptionist and you’ll get an appointment. Dr. Haynes asks if everything is now ok and Stefan says yes (because he took away user’s control and free will), and, sure enough, his game gets released and receives a perfect score on TV. Fast forward several years and, while Stefan got caught and arrested anyway, Pearl Ritman, Colin’s daughter, takes up the mantle to reboot the game for a new entertainment platform, which may or may not be Netflix. She doesn’t succeed, though, because you either make her through tea on her computer or destroy the machine.
8. The fight
Possibly the best thing in Bandersnatch, you’ll get the choice to select “Netflix” as the voice talking to Stefan through his computer. That sends him into properly paranoid territory, and he tries to explain what Netflix is to Dr. Haynes. (“Is it a planet?” is delivered by Alice Lowe’s therapist with perfect deadpan.) If it were an interactive film on an entertainment platform in the future, though, she argues, surely it would have more action? The result cues up a fight scene with her and Stefan’s dad (not dead in this timeline) and you can either karate chop him or kick him in the balls. Either way, it ends up with Stefan subdued and with much hilarity.
9. The window
Choose “Netflix” and end up in a session with Dr. Haynes again and you can choose to jump out of the window instead of having a fight. That breaking of the window literally causes just that, and a camera pulls out to reveal that all this is being filmed on a movie set, with Stefan being informed that he’s actually an actor playing a character and that jumping out the window isn’ an option.
Bonus Easter Eggs
10. Jerome F. Davies
As spotted by THR, there’s a hidden cameo by Jerome F. Davies, who visits Stefan in a dream – this is accessed by selecting “Pick up family photo” twice. This will then direct you back into the main story paths and end up at one of the points above.
11. Download the game
After the end credits, an extra scene sees Stefan on the bus with a dial-up modern noise playing in the background. This can apparently let you get a link to the games company website and download a copy of the Colin’s game, Nohzdyve. Here’s the website.