Why “Bandersnatch” Works

* Spoilers below, if you haven’t watched it yet.

After playing through all of the various endings of “Bandersnatch,” some thoughts about why this interactive film works:

1. Choice is what the whole story’s about. Yes, it’s about video games in the 80s. Yes, it’s about a broken family dynamic. Yes, it’s maybe about the whole world being an exercise in mind control (if you went down that path).

But down at the core, this story is about choice and how choice shapes us. It’s about the deep ramifications of single moments. It’s about what happens to us when we choose incorrectly. It’s about what happens to us when we have no choice (the film’s brilliant moment of only offering us “NO” when Mum is asking us to come with).

A film about choices makes perfect sense for a film in which you can make choices. Content dictates form. And allowing us as viewers to do and not just watch makes this work like gangbusters.

2. Breaking the fourth wall. The most entertaining track to follow here is the Netflix story track, which fully implicates is as actors in the narrative and leads us to the perfectly hilarious battle in the psychiatrist’s office or the perfectly creepy ending that pulls back on the production of “Bandersnatch.”

“Bandersnatch” is also a film about hidden structures, and this fourth wall-busting side quest brings that to the forefront. Well-told stories feel organic, but there’s really deliberate structure and craft underneath. The same is true for life: we think we are running the show, but there are cultural and political structures shaping our experiences all the time.

Pulling back the curtain on the structures behind “Bandersnatch” is a mirror for that, and a successful one.

3. The true ending says “fuck it” to everything. While the creators don’t make it explicit what the “true” ending is, the train ending feels the most complete and emotionally satisfying. It circles back to every part of the story and really gives you a gut punch of an ending.

What’s fun here is how it basically disregards what it’s been trying to say — sometimes you can’t undo choices, you’re not in control — for an “Imma do what I want” ending that feels the best.

It’s my favorite move in the narrative. It understands that Story trumps cleverness, Story trumps ideas. Let the characters walk through time-traveling mirrors to rewrite the past, not because that makes sense (it really doesn’t), but because it feels right.

I love that, in the end, “Bandersnatch” honors the part of us that wants a story to feel complete, a story that feels resolved. In real life, there’d be no happy ending.

But in a story, you can do whatever the fuck you want.

Looking forward to Season Five this year.

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