5:04pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Black Mirror': All the 'Bandersnatch' Endings and How to Reach Them
[This story contains spoilers from Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.]
Now that Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has been released, the most dedicated viewers of Charlie Brooker's sci-fi anthology series are busy trying to create their own story maps and uncover all the paths and endings of the interactive film.
As The Hollywood Reporter revealed, the choose your own adventure-style story is Netflix's first interactive offering for adults. The stand-alone movie dropped Dec. 28 and and it launches the streamer into live-action programming in the new genre.
Bandersnatch follows a young programmer named Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) who is trying to create a best-selling computer game based on a choose-your-own-adventure novel, titled "Bandersnatch," from his childhood. As the meta story unfolds, there are millions of unique permutations thanks to Brooker's script, which unfolds in "branching narrative" style but also uses "state tracking" technology so a viewer's choices will impact how their personal experience plays out on their screen.
As a result, there are infinite twists and turns to the story that send Stefan down different story branches and, ultimately, to multiple endings. As long as viewers continue to "play" the experience after they reach one ending, they will be able to see other conclusions — but, more than likely, they won't reach all of them. There is no official runtime, which means a satisfying experience can last anywhere from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours.
Officially, Netflix says there are five "main" endings but there are multiple variants on each. And when THR spoke to Black Mirror creator and writer Charlie Brooker and the team behind Bandersnatch, even they couldn't agree on how many there actually are. "My answer to the question of how many endings there are is: All of them," Brooker maintained when chatting with THR.
Below, THR rounds up all the endings, including a few hard-to-uncover and major Easter egg scenes. After speaking to Brooker and the team, here are hints on how to reach the endings and why each matters in the larger Bandersnatch world, according to those who created the interactive experience.
The Ending Where Stefan Puts Out a Terrible Game
At the center of the Bandersnatch story is Stefan's all-consuming desire to create a best-selling, code-based computer game for an emerging tech company that is home to the games created by the famous Colin Ritman (Will Poulter). Early in the story, if viewers "Accept" the job offer at Tuckersoft, Colin breaks the fourth wall to tell Stefan he chose the "wrong path." Under pressure to meet a Christmas deadline, he ends up publishing a terrible version of Bandersnatch that receives a 0/5 star rating. Viewers will then have to repeat the opening narrative loop so Stefan can "Refuse" the job offer the second time around, and continue on with the story.
Why it matters: "Built into Bandersnatch is the notion that you will experience scenes more than once," said Brooker. "Certainly, that happens and there are things that alter it the second time around. We re-edit it so you get compressed versions of things you’ve already seen."
The Ending Where Stefan Dies Before Finishing Bandersnatch
A major split in the story occurs when Stefan's father brings him unknowingly to his psychiatrist's office and Stefan, who spots Colin from afar, can either follow Colin or go visit Dr. Haynes (Alice Lowe). If viewers pick to follow Colin, the gamer offers Stefan acid. At this choice point, the viewer decides whether or not Stefan says yes or no. But even if he says no, Colin spikes his drink anyway. During their mind-bending trip, Colin shares his theories of parallel realities and fate being controlled, prompting either him or Stefan to jump off the balcony of their hotel. If viewers pick Stefan, he dies and the unfinished game publishes and earns another 0 rating. If viewers pick Colin, the gamer jumps to what appears to be his death and the story continues. If viewers didn't opt to follow Colin at the first choice point, it will likely come up as an option later in the experience.
Why it matters: "We give a lot of time to his subconscious. A lot of those things that are happening are dreams. They may not really be happening. They may have happened," said Bandersnatch director David Slade. Producer Russel McLean added, "Whether [the hallucination] is a true reality for Stefan or not, that’s the clever thing that Charlie’s done with this in the theme — what is free will? What is control? Who is in control? It’s all there to be looked at and figured out."
The Pearl Ritman Ending
If viewers have followed Colin by now, they will have already met his daughter, baby Pearl, and red-headed wife Kitty (Tallulah Haddon). The Pearl Ritman ending breaks the fourth wall to reveal to viewers that, years later, a grown-up Pearl has discovered her father Colin's work and is attempting to finish the interactive story as a Netflix film. Similar to Stefan, however, Pearl becomes overwhelmed by the immense task of coding the project and viewers are given two options, but both end the story: Throw tea over the computer, or destroy the computer. (Throwing tea also ends the game for Stefan.)
Still, despite that final choice, this flash-forward comes after the only "happy" ending for Stefan. As Stefan begins to go mad, like author Jerome F. Davies did when writing the book, he grows so fed up with his father Peter (Craig Parkinson) that viewers are given the option to have Stefan kill his dad with an ashtray. If they decide to kill Peter and then subsequently instruct Stefan to chop up the dead body, instead of burying it, Stefan ends up getting the 5-star ratings he so desires. He tells his psychiatrist after the fact that he was able to finish the game since he had more time to himself, and he decided to give players less control. Eventually, he is caught and put away for the crime, but he was still able to publish the best version of the game.
Why it matters: "In terms of controlling your destiny and the themes of the piece, it's baked into the story that if you haven’t made certain decisions that support certain actions, then various endings won’t be opened up to you. It's all thematically cohesive, in that sense," said Black Mirror executive producer Annabel Jones. Brooker added, "The Pearl ending is quite meta, where it sort of pulls out to reveal someone who has been writing all of this to appear on Netflix. To be honest, the whole thing was extremely meta. Throughout the whole process, we’ve often commented on how life has been imitating art, or the other way around."
The Jerome F. Davies Cameo
There are Easter eggs, and then there are "golden" eggs, which represent scenes that are unlikely or even impossible for a viewer to get to. One of the difficult-to-reach scenes features Jerome F. Davies in a cameo. The Bandersnatch author is played by Jeff Minter, a video game designer from the 1980s who inspired the character of Colin Ritman, and he visits Stefan in a dream if viewers choose the "Pick up Family Photo" option twice. That forces Stefan to finally pick up the book instead, which sends him down various paths that lead to the discoveries of what's in his father's well protected safe. The scene, in essence, pushes viewers back onto the path the creators want them to explore.
Why it matters: "Very few people will get to that scene," said Slade. "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."
The Netflix Ending (and Fourth Wall Break)
Netflix also has a cameo in Bandersnatch when viewers have the option to speak to Stefan through his computer. When Stefan begins to realize that he is being controlled by an outside force, he asks the question out loud. Viewers can respond by either sending him the branching narrative glyph (the symbol from Black Mirror's "White Bear" episode), or tell him he is being controlled by a 21st century streaming service that is "like TV, but on the Internet." This reveal sends Stefan back to the psychiatrist and when he explains to her that he's being controlled by the entertainment company from the future, she requests more action. Viewers can then enter into a fight scene with both her and Stefan's father, who ends up dragging Stefan out of the office while he rants about Netflix viewers being in control.
If viewers opt to take the path less traveled and send Stefan jumping out the window instead of fighting Dr. Haynes, a fourth wall breaks again. A director yells "cut" on the scene and the camera pulls out to reveal a movie set. The director explains to a confused Stefan that he's actually an actor named Mike and that leaving out the window "isn't in the script." She then calls for a medic.
Why it matters: "You are complicit," said Brooker. "When we first came up with the idea, that [computer] moment was the thing that made us go: We can do this as a story because that would only work in an interactive story. That drove the whole bus." Jones added, "It’s almost like you are sitting at home on your sofa with your remote control! It’s the moment when that reality has dawned."
The Ending Where Stefan Brings Down Tuckersoft
For the viewers who chose for Stefan to bury his dad's body instead of chopping it up, Stefan will get caught before he can perfect the game and end up scratching the branching narrative glyph into his prison walls. The person who catches him in the act will be either Colin, Kitty or Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry), depending on previous choices, when they visit Stefan at his house and see Peter's dead body. If Colin arrives, viewers have the option for Stefan to kill him; if Thakur arrives, it's implied that he kills him; Kitty escapes with her life. No matter who visits, the neighboring hound digs up the body and the murder leads to an investigation and the dismantling of Tuckersoft. If Colin is alive, he ends up getting arrested for narcotics. And if viewers decide not to kill dad at all, it's game over anyway.
Why it matters: "In this case, you’re definitely complicit," said Slade. "I don’t make you kill your father. I make sure that when it happens, it doesn’t disappear. That it hits you." McLean added, "Also, for the audience to think they’re in control and then they realize they’re not in control."
The Government Conspiracy Ending
When Stefan wakes up in the middle of the night and attempts to break into his father's safe, entering the passcode "PAC" unlocks a government conspiracy. ("JFD" and "PAX" are incorrect; PAC stands for "program and control," which is familiar from Colin's acid trip ranting.) Inside are the Program and Control Study files on Stefan, who has been monitored all of his life for an experiment to test the affects of trauma. Even his parents, and the final memory of his loving mother, were an act. This revelation leads Stefan to kill his father — but this time, it wasn't the viewers who made the choice, it was Stefan. As a result, viewers are tasked with a unique choice point of helping him figure out the phone number for his psychiatrist (20541 is correct, but any number will continue the story). Stefan still ends up getting caught and put away for the murder but this time, his game only receives a 2.5/5 rating.
Why it matters: "It’s one of those things that would be too depressing if you had no control and you knew you had no control," said Slade. "Stefan certainly believes [the conspiracy] to a degree where it makes him want to kill his dad. It made him angry enough."
The Ending Where Stefan Dies on the Train With His Mother
In this ending, Stefan also dies in present day — but first he takes a trip back to the past. When entering "TOY" as the passcode to his dad's safe, Stefan finds the rabbit stuffed animal that was the catalyst to his mother dying when he was a child. In Stefan's version of past events, his father hid the rabbit and because Stefan couldn't find it, his mother missed her train and ended up on a later one that gets derailed, killing her and other passengers. When present-day Stefan finds the rabbit in the safe, he is able to revisit the moment where his mother asks him to come with him on the train as a child. If viewers pick no, they loop back around to the safe. If they say yes, he and his mother end up on the later train anyway and Stefan also dies, along with his mother. The twist is that the story then pulls out to reveal a present-day Stefan dead in his psychiatrist's chair, much to the bewilderment of everyone around him.
Why it matters: "We wanted this to feel like a film and that you have that emotional engagement with the character, rather than lots of incidents happening to the character where you don't understand his emotional journey. All of the 'endings' hopefully build to one world in which Stefan has fallen into and all of them are possible alternative or parallel universes for him," said Jones. “Because he’s so consumed by guilt over what he perceives to be his hand in his mother’s untimely death, he’s obsessed with branching narratives because he wishes he could go back and change things.” (Netflix later revealed that the train ending was the hardest to reach.)
The Post-Credits Easter Egg
The Bandersnatch experience is officially over when the closing credits sequence rolls. At the end of the credits, however, savvy viewers have decoded a final surprise scene. In the scene after the credits, Stefan is back on the bus and a dial-up sound plays when he pops in his game. That sound, some viewers figured out, was actually data that led them to unlock a link to a secret Tuckersoft website where viewers can download and play Colin's "Nohzdyve" game (which is an Easter egg to the Black Mirror "Nosedive" episode). The website contains a few more Easter eggs (including the easy-to-spot "Metalhead" reference, which was an episode also directed by Slade). The catch is that viewers will need to download a ZX Spectrum emulator in order to play the game. There is also another Tuckersoft website that tells visitors to check back later, but includes a prompt to a job posting by Mohan Thakur that leads visitors to engineering job openings for Netflix.
Why it matters: "If you get to the final rolling credits and haven’t gotten something, then you’ll have to reset and replay it," said McLean. Slade added of the Tuckersoft relevance (explained here), "Charlie is building that jigsaw puzzle. We had conversations where we said, 'If there is real meaning, we need to know.' Just the form of this means people will really scrutinize it, so if there is real meaning, it needs to be real. The Tucker thing was definitely something, that was a definite thing."
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is streaming now on Netflix. The fifth season of Black Mirror is set to arrive in 2019.