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Three weeks after releasing the stand-alone Black Mirror interactive film — Netflix’s first offering in the genre for adults — the streaming giant is sharing some data around how Charlie Brooker’s choose-your-own-adventure story is being experienced by viewers.
Netflix has confirmed that there are five “main” endings, though there are enough variants on each to create additional conclusions for viewers to uncover as they spend anywhere from 75 minutes to two-and-a-half hours watching the film. Brooker, Black Mirror‘s creator and writer, has explained that, due to the millions of permutations created by his interactive script, it’s unlikely that a viewer will reach all of the endings, and certainly not all of the story paths.
Of the five main conclusions, Netflix has revealed that the ending where Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) travels back in time to go on the tragic train ride with his mother was the path least traveled. In that conclusion, Stefan puts Colin Ritman’s (Will Poulter) rantings about time and space to use when he goes back to his childhood so he can die alongside his mother on the train that will eventually derail. The story then flashes forward to the present, to show an adult Stefan dead in his therapist’s chair, showing the impact of his choice.
This ending is arguably the most emotionally powerful conclusion to Stefan’s journey, and it’s also the most meta for Stefan, since it allows the protagonist to have his own alternate ending in the CYOA story that often ends with Stefan in jail for killing his father. Whether or not the train ending is a fantasy or reality, however, remains up for debate. “There’s a truthfulness in his longing to go back and be reunited with his mother,” executive producer Annabel Jones explained to THR, keeping it open-ended for the viewer. “Because Stefan is so consumed by guilt over his influence or 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 also shared some other most-popular statistics from earlier on in Stefan’s journey. Seventy-three percent of viewers chose to “Accept” the job offer at Tuckersoft, the gaming company that holds a key meaning in the Black Mirror universe; and more than 60 percent of viewers picked Frosties over Sugar Puffs, the entry choice point of Bandersnatch over which cereal Stefan should eat to start his day.
The streaming giant also shared a cheeky update for viewers in the U.K. Bandersnatch viewers in Britain chose “throw tea” only 52.9 percent of the time, compared to the rest of the world’s 55.9 percent, making them less likely to waste a good cup of tea.
Initially, when debuting the interactive film, the streaming giant was hesitant about whether or not it would reveal popular choices made by viewers. Speaking to a group of reporters, including THR, ahead of the Dec. 28 launch of the film, the Netflix team assured reporters that it would not, for example, publish the names of viewers who chose to “kill Dad” and “chop up the body” — two of the most morally challenging choice points in the story. But in terms of making it available to see how a viewer’s individual choices compared to the rest of the world’s after they played, that was not yet part of Netflix’s plan, though they were in discussion about what data should be shared.
“We’re Netflix, we know what percent of folks are taking one path or another,” Carla Engelbrecht, Netflix’s director of product innovation, told reporters including THR. “Most of the time we think choices are generally going to fall in this 40 to 60 range but that there’s moments where having it be a bigger split could actually be a great thing for the title. And so on Bandersnatch, there is a moment that I predict is probably going to be more like a 90-10 split. Where the vast majority of people when they encounter that choice are not going to want to make the decision. And I promise you, you will know that moment when you encounter it.” (That moment is in reference to the choice of whether or not to “kill Dad”; whether that split prediction is right remains to be seen.)
Netflix’s Bandersnatch data dump, which came via several of the streamer’s official Twitter handles, arrived shortly after the streaming giant released rare viewership numbers for some of its other titles, including series You, Sex Education and Elite, and more numbers for the Sandra Bullock-starring film Bird Box.
Bandersnatch, which is now streaming, is separate from the forthcoming fifth season of Black Mirror, which is set to arrive in 2019.
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The Fien Print
William Jackson Harper