Bandersnatch enthusiasts and otherwise:

  • Lucy Mangan’s review for the Guardian:
    • “In just one episode, Charlie Brooker’s interactive adventure has upended everything we relied on for entertainment and sanity. What a rush”
    • “On the other hand – whatever your visceral response to the sudden upending of every convention you depended on for your entertainment and sanity – what a rush Bandersnatch provided. What a feat you felt you were witnessing. What an accomplishment in every practical way.
    • “A new genre is now here.”
  • Or this one – Black Mirror ‘Bandersnatch’​ redefines interactive television doesn’t argue that it necessarily is, but it still thinks it might be .
  • The Vulture’s ‘Is Black Mirror: Bandersnatch the Dawn of Interactive TV?’ doesn’t actually explicitly argue that it is, but considers that it might be. ‘Bandersnatch feels like a leap forward for the form, one where interactivity is built into the design from the first moments of the story.’

For good measure, or perhaps oversharing my own personal notes, here is a curated selection of other bandersnatch reviews (slightly less gushing)

The New York Times one

  • “Viewers are voting on more than who lives and dies on one program. If the response to “Bandersnatch” is enthusiastic, Netflix will take it as a strong signal that the public is ready for interactive movies and television shows, and a new age of storytelling will commence.”
  • This is not the first Choose-Your-Own-Adventure narrative to jump from the pages of vintage kid’s lit onto screens; it’s not even the first TV-related project in the past year to hand the audience the storytelling wheel and let them drive. But it’s arguably the most ambitious attempt to date to sell this concept, on such a grand platform and with such a prominent corporate name attached. In a way, it makes perfect sense that it was the popular U.K. anthology show, the same one that’s warned of how that bright, shiny new piece of “breakthrough” tech may not be the answer to your problems (and may, in fact, be the harbinger of something much more nightmarish), that made it happen…
  • Because at the end(s) of Bandersnatch, after all of the in-jokes and Easter Eggs and peeked-into corners and deeply explored crannies, you discover that it’s really all about the journey and not the destination. The medium is genuinely the message here, and for those that would like a message beyond “we now have the capability to do this!”, you have to make the decision between “um, ok, then” and “you’re shit outta luck, son.” – This one …

Slate one, which has a really long and interesting history of pre-digital choose yr own adventure narratives

  • The idea for interactive fiction was laid out by Jorge Luis Borges in 1941 in his short story “The Garden of Forking Paths”: A Chinese spy for Germany living in Great Britain discusses his ancestor’s ambition to write a vastly complex novel that is also a labyrinth wherein every branching path is determined by the reader’s choices. A more prosaic early attempt at interactive texts were psychologist B.F. Skinner’s “programmed learning” books that culminated with Doubleday’s interactive TutorText series, which debuted in 1958 with the thrilling The Arithmetic of Computers. Basically an extended multiple-choice quiz, a correct answer sent you forward in the text while an incorrect answer sent you to a page explaining just how wrong you were. But all of these efforts were eclipsed by the bedtime story Edward Packard told his two daughters in 1969.

  • The heart of Bandersnatch, thematically, is the question of free will. Do we, as humans, have it? Or do we simply have the illusion of free will? What guides our choices? This manifests in various ways for Stefan, and Bandersnatch is at its best when it’s being meta—in certain pathways, Stefan becomes aware he’s not making choices, you the viewer are. It’s funny in a dark, twisted sort of way. .

  • Oral storytelling meant that stories would change depending on the narrator and the audience. Perrault, for example, wrote his version of Cinderella that suited the French court, with a soft glimmer of magic and settings that might be familiar to his readers. The Grimm Brothers’ version, though sharing some traits, was hugely different because their outlook, audience, and intentions were different. And these were just two of the many iterations of the Cinderella story. Somewhere along the way, however, these became the fixed versions of the story (particularly Perrault’s due to Disney’s influence). So why am I rambling about this? Print, and later film, helped solidify stories into a fixed and relatively unchangeable form. While tweaks can be made to later additions, and adaptations can modernise the story, if you read Orwell’s 1984 it’s going to be the same version I read. If you watch Wall-e, it’s the same one I’ve seen.  ——   (Orality as the original, most responsive medium of hypertext storytelling)
  • I guess the biggest question, with something like this is, did Bandersnatch need the interactivity or was it just a gimmick? And, to be fully honest, I haven’t quite decided. The decision-making was well-threaded into the narrative, providing complexity (and occasional hilarity), but I did feel that I was being geared in certain directions. You could choose to go the other way but the resulting thread would often end abruptly or descend into hilarious/ridiculous moments. And then, rather than actually ending, you’d be given the opportunity to go back to choose the other option, implying that your decision was somehow wrong.
  • Do I think the interactive story format is the next step for tv? Ultimately, no. Bandersnatch worked because they wove it well into the story and ensured that it didn’t feel gimmicky. The narrative worked with the function rather than the interactivity being an afterthought tacked on at the end. And maybe your occasional mystery or sci-fi show might manage it once in a while, but I don’t think it will be a constant feature in our watching experience. What I do appreciate, however, is the way that Netflix has launched the possibility. Bandersnatch showed the function in the best possible light and with an established, successful show at that. It’s honestly probably one of the best things they could have done to show off the possibility and leave open the potential for interactive narratives to be drawn into the mainstream.

Bandersnatch is a gimmicky disappointment says this one — another more critical review …

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