Spoilers below for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch tells the story of Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), an aspiring game developer who becomes obsessed with the concept of free will, control, and diverging realities. But this is no ordinary episode of television: The viewer essentially co-writes Bandersnatch with Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, deciding how the plot will develop based on a series of interactive choices. Some of those choices are minor (like whether Stefan should eat Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast), while others are intense, violent, and bone-chilling (like how Stefan should dispose of his father’s body after smashing his head in with a glass ashtray). Of course, amid all that bloodshed and nihilism, it wouldn’t be Black Mirror without sly references to past episodes embedded in the fabric of this latest story. Here are the major nods to Black Mirror hidden within Bandersnatch.
Bandersnatch director David Slade isn’t new to the world of Black Mirror, having directed season four’s black-and-white nightmare “Metalhead.” And so it seems appropriate that Slade’s previous episode gets one of the biggest shout-outs in Bandersnatch, as seen in a poster for one of Tuckersoft’s hits, Metl Hedd. The game was designed by Stefan’s idol, Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), and it’s later shown on the cover of a gaming magazine and as one of the best sellers at British retailer WHSmith. Given the straightforward narrative of “Metalhead” and its emphasis on action, it’s easy to see how it could’ve been a video game. Too bad we can’t actually play it!
One of the best Black Mirror episodes starred Bryce Dallas Howard as a woman confronted by society’s emphasis on constant rating and approval. Its title, “Nosedive,” is attributed more literally in Bandersnatch in a game designed by Colin, in which the player navigates through a literal headlong fall. When the game is actually released in Bandersnatch — presuming you saw that branch of the story — the title of the game is Nohzdyve, à la the Tuckersoft-ization of “Metalhead” to Metl Hedd.
This nod to Black Mirror’s sweetest episode is just quick enough to be missed: Throughout Bandersnatch, Stefan regularly visits Dr. Haynes (Alice Lowe) for therapy sessions. The name of the medical building in which his sessions take place? Saint Juniper’s. Sound familiar?
The glyph that became an obsession for Bandersnatch author Jerome F. Davies (Jeff Minter) — and which also becomes an obsession for Stefan — is clearly meant to replicate the structure of a flowchart. But it also recalls the masks worn in the harrowing season-two episode “White Bear.” If you’re not totally convinced of the Black Mirror-verse connection, consider this: When Bandersnatch gets to the moment in which you can choose to tell Stefan about the glyph, it’s been thickened in a way that makes it look identical to the symbol from “White Bear.”
“Hang the DJ” and “Be Right Back”
In one particular ending to Bandersnatch, you’ll see a newspaper cover from the Sun that references four other Black Mirror episodes. The main story, of course, is about Stefan Butler chopping up the body of his father, but there are three teases for stories deeper in the paper on the right column. The first reads: “Futuristic ‘love machine’ is being developed by BRB software. The developers hope to connect people with their perfect match. For our lonely hearts go to Page 20.” This “love machine” sounds an awful like the plot of season four’s “Hang the DJ” while the name of the software company, BRB, clearly recalls season two’s “Be Right Back.”
The second blurb on the Sun cover is headlined “Space Fleet” and reads, “The long awaited third chapter of Space Fleet has been aired. The popular sci-fi TV show continues to win over viewers. Full Review on Page 12.” Of course, Space Fleet is the favorite program of the maniacal Robert Daly from the season-four episode “USS Callister.” (Later, during a Bandersnatch story line that jumps ahead to the present day, a TV report also teases a Space Fleet reunion at the Emmys.)
“Fifteen Million Merits”
The final “SUN EXCLUSIVE” goes all the way back to season one for its Easter egg. Its headline is “15 Million Talent Team” and it reads: “‘Hot Shot talent show to start a new series in the beginning of 1985. If you think you have what it takes, see Page 10 for details.” Black Mirror fans will know that it’s no mere talent show: It’s a reference to the season-one episode “Fifteen Million Merits,” set in a dystopian future where people can only escape enslavement through a show called Hot Shot.
Remember the very first episode of Black Mirror? The one about the British prime minister who’s forced to have sex with a pig? It’s hard to see in Bandersnatch, but one of Tuckersoft’s other games appears to be a nod to that infamous episode: In the hallway outside of Thakur’s office, we briefly see a poster for a game that’s titled “Pig in a Poke.”
Later, “National Anthem” also gets a shout-out at the end of the story line in which Stefan chops up his dear old dad: After he’s sent to prison, Bandersnatch flashes forward to the present day, where Colin’s daughter Pearl is developing a new interactive version of the game. (And for Netflix, no less!) The news crawl on the television says, “Former PM Michael Callow Wins Celebrity Bake Off.” Good for him.
“Hated in the Nation”
The same news crawl continues with “Granular to Unveil Prototype Pollinator Drone.” That’s a reference to the bee-centric Black Mirror episode in which those “pollinator drones” turn out to be a really, really bad idea.
“The Waldo Moment”
The crawl continues over an interview with Pearl Ritman and includes the headline that “Liam Monroe Enters Buckingham Palace.” Tobias Menzies played Liam Monroe in season two’s “The Waldo Moment,” a.k.a. the Black Mirror episode with the cartoon bear who becomes a dictator.
The final bit of news is yet another Black Mirror reference that reads “UK Police Test Groundbreaking Memory Recall Device.” That’s clearly a nod to the plot of season four’s third episode, in which a woman played by Andrea Riseborough tries to hide a hit-and-run killing from a police investigator.
This one is a surname shout-out: Stefan goes to see a doctor named “R. Haynes,” which recalls Rolo Haynes, the proprietor of the Black Museum in Black Mirror’s season-four finale. It’s enough to make you wonder: Just how connected are these stories, really? Is Rolo the son of Stefan’s doctor? Or maybe her brother?
In Bandersnatch, a quick mention of virtual-reality tech feels a bit like a “Playtest” shout-out, but there’s actually a much more direct connection to that season-three episode — in reverse! It turns out, according to an eagle-eyed redditor, that Wyatt Russell’s character had a copy of Edge Magazine that promised a review of Bandersnatch. To be fair, a real Bandersnatch video game was announced in the ’80s and never released, but the “Playtest” reference feels more like a pre-Easter egg for this very special Black Mirror movie. It’s a fitting nod for a story that jumps back and forth through time so often, writing then rewriting its own history, and it raises a very big question: What other Black Mirror references might be hidden in Bandersnatch that we won’t even realize until season five drops?