The Bandersnatch Easter Egg That Ties In To One Of Black Mirror's Most Unsettling Episodes

Although "Black Mirror" is an anthology series, the show has never been afraid to throw in little references to past episodes every now and again. One of the most memorable, most direct Easter eggs came in its 2018 special "Bandersnatch," where the symbol shown throughout the season 2 classic "White Bear" shows up on the main character Stefan's (Fionn Whitehead) computer. 

In an interview with The Wrap, showrunners Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones explained:

"Well, that was a happy accident, in that, in the early stages of discussing how we do this — when we were mapping it out in the very early stages — we were drawing a flowchart on the white board and I noticed the drawings to the path splitting into two separate things," Brooker said. "So we thought, 'Oh, my God! That's the symbol of 'White Bear'! So we gotta use that.' And then we leaned heavily into that."

"And then Stefan in the film had equally the same experience that Charlie had," Jones added.

The thematic link between the episodes

Although "Bandersnatch" originally seemed like a clear-cut choose-your-own-adventure story, the decisions we made for Stefan soon start to take an extra, unexpected toll on him. Depending on how badly you chose to ruin Stefan's life (and there are a lot of ways to do that), he starts to realize that some of his decisions aren't his own, that his actions are being controlled by some callous, omnipotent force. There's a strong meta element to the episode, as the viewer is forced to realize that they are the real villain here, that they're playing God with another person's life without their consent.

Stefan tries to fight back against the choices you pick, but it's ultimately a pointless battle. With most of the viewer's decisions leading to a grisly end, we realize along with Stefan that the game was rigged, that his very existence served little purpose except to amuse someone who didn't really think of him as a full human being. 

With that in mind, it makes sense for the episode to repeatedly call back to "White Bear," a season 2 episode about a woman who realizes, in one of the show's most iconic twists, that she doesn't have any real free will either. The protagonist Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) is suffering from amnesia while trying to survive in a phone-induced zombie apocalypse. She makes a series of decisions throughout the episode in her pursuit to both survive and to figure out who she is, only to discover that the whole situation was fake. Turns out, she was arrested for taking part in the abduction of a child, had her memory wiped, and is now forced to relive the same harrowing day over and over again, for the amusement of countless spectators.

Like with "Bandersnatch," one of the most soul-crushing aspects of the story is Victoria's realization that none of her choices mattered. The people running the park already knew exactly how she'd respond to every situation, and with her memory wiped at the end of the episode, we know she'll simply make the same decisions again and again, never being able to escape or meaningfully fight back. 

"White Bear" is widely considered one of the best episodes of the whole show, so a lot of fans were definitely excited to see it referenced here. Although "Bandersnatch" was not without faults, its similar exploration of free will (or the lack thereof) served as a nice reminder of why "Black Mirror" is such a widely beloved anthology series, even if it never quite matched the height of its earlier seasons.