'Bandersnatch,' Black Mirror's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Episode, Is Now on Netflix

Stuart Hendry, Netflix
Stuart Hendry, Netflix

If you’re looking for some more psychological torment to follow up your recent viewing of Bird Box, Netflix has just the fix for you. As Variety reports, the streaming service just dropped a much-anticipated Black Mirror episode with an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure narrative.

The standalone installment, titled "Bandersnatch," could last as little as 40 minutes or longer than the average viewing time of 90 minutes, depending on the viewer’s choices. Options will be shown at the bottom of the screen, and viewers will have about 10 seconds to make a decision. According to Variety, there are trillions of unique combinations but only five possible endings. If a viewer makes several “wrong” choices and strays too far from the intended outcome, they will be given the option of a do-over.

As the trailer indicates, the episode is set in 1984 and follows a teen programmer named Stefan (played by Fionn Whitehead, of Dunkirk) who wants to turn a choose-your-own-adventure book called Bandersnatch into a computer game. The word bandersnatch was invented by Lewis Carroll, who used it to describe a curious creature in the 1872 book Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, and in Black Mirror, Bandersnatch the game is an Easter egg: According to Bustle, it was briefly referenced in the season 3 episode "Playtest."

In true Black Mirror fashion, things start to get creepy when Stefan learns that the author of the book he's trying to turn into a game went crazy and murdered his wife. Meanwhile, Stefan is also struggling to keep track of what’s real and whether he actually has free will. At one point, he seems to become aware that someone else is making his decisions for him—a plot twist that led Stuart Heritage of The Guardian to deem "Bandersnatch" a “meta masterpiece.”

As for the endings: “One is bleak. One is hilarious. One is abrupt and creepy,” Heritage writes. And those are only three of the five possible outcomes. We don’t want to spoil the fun, so you’ll just have to watch it for yourself and compare notes with friends who may have gotten different versions of the same episode.

In the meantime, the premiere date of season 5 has yet to be announced. However, filming began in March 2018, so we might be seeing some new Black Mirror episodes in 2019.

[h/t Variety]

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One

Round Two

Round Three

The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.