Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is without a doubt the series’ most ambitious experiment in storytelling—and that’s saying a lot, since last season kicked off with an entire Galaxy Quest-esque episode. With Bandersnatch, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones abandon virtual realities for branching realities, putting control of the rumored 300+ minutes of footage into the hands of their audience. Through dozens of decision trees (which look just like the logo from “White Bear”), passive viewers become active players, deciding everything from what cassette troubled programmer Stefan (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) listens to on the bus to how to answer his increasingly existential pleas as his fate unspools.
It’s an intrepid move on the part not only of the creators but also Netflix itself, as one of the streaming service’s primary jokes is its tendency to prod viewers into confirming that, yes, they are still watching Friends 20 episodes in. But by the time you’ve satisfied yourself with the second or seventh ending of Bandersnatch, the story is less and less able to match the caliber of the experience of it; go down too many alternate paths, and the format begins to outshine the content. Then again, when was the last time you remembered the plot of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel after closing it?