The Similarities Between Black Mirror's 'Bandersnatch' and 'The OA' are Too Strange to be Coincidental

There are also major parallels between these shows, Russian Doll, and Stranger Things. (This article contains spoilers).

(This article contains major spoilers for both Black Mirror's Bandersnatch and The OA Season II.)

For a moment, the camera remains focused on the protagonist's bewildered face.

Then it pans out to reveal that the entire world of the show we've just been watching was nothing more than a TV set. Cameramen and directors scurry around; the actors fix their costumes. The main character stares, open-mouthed.

If you make a particular series of choices, you'll arrive at this scene in Black Mirror's Bandersnatch. You can also see it in Season II of The OA, when—extreme spoiler alert—detective Karim Washington finally peers out the mysterious Rose Window, and sees a dimension in which everyone he knows is only an actor in a movie set.

In Bandersnatch, this revelation occurs in a therapist's office, and in The OA it happens on the top floor of a San Francisco mansion, but despite these immediate differences, the two scenes are uncannily similar.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch -- Neflix Fight

The OA: Part II - 2x08 - Ending Scene (1080p)

This is only one of the many major parallels between two of Netflix's most mysterious, mind-bending shows. Initially, they start with very different premises. Charlie Brooker's Bandersnatch is a two-hour-long roller coaster, notable for its "choose your own adventure" feature, which allows viewers to design their own plot by making various decisions at different points. (Choices range from which kind of cereal to choose to whether the protagonist should kill his father). The protagonist in question is a young computer game coder named Stefan, and the show follows him as he descends into madness while designing an ever-more complex computer game.

The OA is Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij's ambitious, fourteen-episode brainchild. Its first season follows Marling's character, Prairie, as she tells the story of her near-death experience and subsequent abduction by the show's villain, Hap, a scientist who has become obsessed with studying the brains of people who have brushed close with death. The first season ended on a major cliffhanger; the second begins in a new dimension, when Prairie awakens to find herself inside the body of Nina Azarova, a Russian socialite and medium living the life she would have if not for her NDE.

Objectively, the shows aren't that similar—after all, Bandersnatch takes place in the '80s and mostly focuses on an isolated Stefan as he descends into homicidal madness. On the other hand, the ultra-modern cast of The OA includes everyone from Zendaya to a massive, talking octopus named Old Night.

Still, upon closer inspection, the similarities are undeniable. Here are some of the most notable places where the two shows' universes meet.

A Computer Game as a Portal to Multiple Realities

In The OA's second season, children lose their minds as they attempt to win money by playing a computer game, which leads them into a mansion that's actually a portal to other universes. The mansion itself is designed to work as a continuation of the game, which allows winners to reach the Rose Window and its mind-bending, reality-altering view.

Similarly, in Bandersnatch, Stefan loses his mind while designing a game that leads him to question every aspect of his reality. While attempting to understand these games, both the kids in The OA and Stefan draw cryptic illustrations on their bedroom walls, isolate themselves, and wind up harming themselves and everyone around them. In each show, the central game lures characters in by promising greatness and wealth—but instead leads them towards either a state of enlightened understanding or paralyzing madness.

Ultimately, both shows use games and technology as vessels that can be used to leap between worlds. Both identify alternate realities that run alongside each other and that intersect at certain points; and both claim that—through deep science, communion with nature, or a few well-placed dance movements—it might be possible to cross from this world to the next.

A Charismatic Tech Guru with Dangerous Theories

One of the most memorable moments in Bandersnatch is the scene where Stefan drops acid with Colin, the Steve Jobs-esque brains behind the tech company Tuckersoft. As soon as the drug kicks in, Colin delivers one of the trippiest monologues in modern television history.

Colin is a prophetic source of wisdom throughout the show—just like The OA's leading tech guru, Silicon Valley 'prophet' Pierre Ruskin, orchestrator of the game that leads children to the house. Ultimately, both gurus are firmly convinced that there is more than one reality, and both are dedicated to reaching it, no matter the cost.

Childhood Trauma as a Point of Divergence

At the heart of The OA and Bandersnatch—amidst all their static and science—are specific instances of childhood trauma, which are identified as the points where the characters' lives began to diverge into multiple pathways. In The OA, that moment is Nina/Prairie's NDE, an experience she's forced to revisit when trying to re-access Nina Azarova's memories. In Bandersnatch, that moment is when the young Stefan spent too long searching for his toy, causing his mother to miss her train and catch a later one, which derailed.

Prairie lost her father and her vision in her traumatic event, and Stefan lost his mother, but both shows give their protagonists the ability to revisit these traumas and, effectively, to undo them, to experience lives in which these moments had never happened. Prairie's moment of recollection and reversal is in a bathtub, where she relives her own drowning; Stefan's is in the reality in which he has the choice to accompany his mother on the fatal train ride.

An Extremely Meta Ending

Bandersnatch not only breaks the fourth wall—it shatters it. In one scene, viewers are literally able to choose whether or not to tell Stefan that his actions are being controlled by something from the future called Netflix.

Then, of course, there's that television set-scene, the moment where the whole illusion collapses and we're faced with the reality of what's happening: all that we're seeing has been filmed in some Hollywood studio. Stefan's therapist is an actor. Stefan himself is an actor. Nothing is real. That same exact idea is at the crux of The OA's finale; in its final scene, Brit Marling and Jason Isaacs call themselves by their real names, effectively annihilating the line between our reality and the one(s) onscreen.

So, Is Netflix Using the Same Algorithmic Plot for Many Shows On Purpose?

Though The OA and Bandersnatch might be particularly alike, they aren't the only shows on Netflix that revolve around the concept of other realities and alternate, interconnected universes.

Recently, Netflix's Russian Doll made use of a nonlinear view of time, giving its protagonist the ability to transcend death in order to correct her mistakes and—you guessed it—make peace with a childhood trauma, which had to do with blaming herself for her mother's death. The show also uses concepts based on quantum physics to explain its multiple timelines.

Another hit — Stranger Things—also relies on quantum physics-based ideas to explain its Upside Down, a parallel universe that operates similarly to the alternate dimensions in The OA.

Millie Bobby Brown's character Eleven is also a startlingly similar figure to Brit Marling's Prairie/Nina; both were trapped by scientists for many years, and both emerged from their imprisonment endowed with the ability to create portals between dimensions (and sometimes, to levitate). The list goes on.

It's not that these shows are copies of each other. They all seem to utilize similar plotlines, ones that revolve around suppressed childhood traumas and a quantum-physics-inspired tangle of dimensions. In a way, the shows themselves seem to be parallel universes to each other. In each, the traumas and the multiple realities both unveil themselves about three-quarters of the way through, sparking climactic endings that, ultimately, imply that the bonds between humans are strong enough to transcend time and death.

So what's the draw to the multiverse idea? Is our era of catfishing, fake news, and mediated simulacra making us feel like we're living in many realities once? Are we all just seeking ways to escape our linear lives, to escape the passage of time, or to change the past? Can we all sense that this isn't the only world, that we're not the only ones here (after all, what's religion other than a poetic promise that other worlds and greater forces exist)? Does this subject just make for great television?

Regardless, people are into it. YouTube just announced that it will be creating interactive content like Bandersnatch; Season 3 of Stranger Things will officially drop on July 4, 2019; and Black Mirror's fifth season will also be released this year. It seems like TV's journey through interconnected parallel universes has just begun. (Though of course, it's probably already finished in the universes next to this one).

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Tweet your best conspiracy theories to her @edenarielmusic.

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Film Lists

Now in Theaters: New Movies for the Weekend of January 25

What's coming out this weekend? Glad you asked.

Movie Theater

Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

Welcome to the first edition of "Now in Theaters."

Never again will you be forced to ask yourself, "What movies are coming out this weekend?" We got you.


The Kid Who Would Be King:

The Kid Who Would Be King | Official Trailer [HD] | Fox Family

What if King Arthur was...AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KID?!?!? That's the premise of The Kid Who Would Be King, a modern day retelling of King Arthur with a Harry Potter twist. It's about a normal boy who finds the legendary sword Excalibur and, with the help of the famous wizard Merlin (also in the form of a kid), needs to form a new roundtable of knights to fight the evil villain Morgana. It's definitely cheesy, but the trailer looks kind of fun.


SERENITY Official Trailer (2018) Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway Movie

In this thriller, Matthew McConaughey plays a fishing boat captain whose ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) asks him to kill her abusive new husband. Honestly, this one just seems bland. The trailer feels generic and unexciting, which is surprising for a movie starring such talented actors. Expect some characters you don't care about to cross and double-cross and triple-cross each other in predictable ways. Maybe wait for Netflix.


In Like Flynn:


In Like Flynn is a biopic about Errol Flynn, the famous Hollywood Golden Age actor best known for playing Robin Hood in 1963's The Adventures of Robin Hood. Based on the trailer, In Like Flynn seems to portray its subject as more of a legend than a man, content to mythologize Flynn rather than deconstructing his humanity. That being said, if you're into old Hollywood films, this one might be an especially fun romp.

Never Look Away:

Never Look Away | Official US Trailer HD (2018)

This is a limited release run of Germany's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor) is a drama about two art students, Kurt and Ellie, who fall in love in post-WWII Germany, and their relationship with Ellie's father, a doctor who participated in the Nazi eugenics program. As you can probably gauge from the premise, this is sure to be a light, feel good film that is sure to bring a smile to your face. Just kidding; bring tissues.


JIHADISTS Documentary Trailer | In Theaters January 25,

A French documentary that asks the question, "What do Jihadists actually have to say?" It's an interesting look at fundamentalist terrorism that attempts to go beyond "they're evil monsters," parsing their ideology in pursuit of their motivations. That's not to say they're sympathetic. This one might make you angry and doesn't necessarily provide answers either. But sometimes insight can be gained simply by staring into the eyes of horrible men.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at

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​THE REAL REEL | Better Things​

Sam Fox's depiction of single motherhood

BETTER THINGS Trailer SEASON 1 (2016) New Louis C.K. FX Comedy

Better Things focuses on having a sense of humor, the necessity of friendships, hard work, and most of all love and gratitude…you know the Better Things.

Watching Pamela Adlon's Better Things makes me feel like I am marching in the Women's March all over again… except really I'm just watching Sam Fox (the lead character played by Adlon) go about her day, working, mothering, and navigating the mind field of being a woman. Adlon gives us realistic insight into what it might be like to be a woman over 40, have a career in Hollywood, and be the single parent to three girls, all the while resisting the allure of Hollywood cosmetic surgery, which her line of work makes a strong case for almost every hour of every day. The FX website, calls the show a "semi-autobiographical series" which after a little digging around proved to be more true than not. This realistic bent is likely why the show has a laundry list of awards attached to its name, because it's so freaking believable. Clearly the bones of this show are a reflection of Adlon's real life experience. Adlon not only stars in the show, but also directs and executive produces it. You likely will never notice that she is juggling three different roles, as her performance is effortless. At the end of each episode, you want to hug her (and I hate hugs) and say YEAH GIRL! I FEEL YOU!

Much like the show, Adlon's parents are divorced, her father is Jewish, and her mother (who converted to Judaism) is British. Adlon's character, Sam Fox lives just across the street from her single, spacey, and nothing short of hilarious British mother. It is not uncommon on the show to see her mother pruning trees topless, or stopping by Sam's house for a nightcap wearing only a 1920's bralette and underwear. Other key relationships on the show are of course Sam's relationships with her daughters, each of whom is extremely different from the other. While her oldest daughter Max fills the role of femme, spoiled, teenager, her middle daughter Frankie appears gender neutral/possibly trans. The beautiful part about the story line with Frankie is that they barely touch on Frankie's appearance. She is just Sam's daughter in the first season…not "the trans kid."

The other stars of the show are Sam's colleagues and girlfriends. While this is not a "mommy and daddy family," the father role so to speak, is not missing; it's simply occupied by other characters, mostly women. It is a true joy to watch the intricacies of so many female relationships play out. It's also a true joy to watch a single mother be caught off guard by her teen and tween daughters, and rarely have a well thought out, "television-mom" response. The show avoids well-rehearsed (and unrealistic) perfectly timed sarcastic quips (think Gilmore Girls, which I love and respect, but this show is different). It's not that Sam is not sarcastic, it's just that Adlon does a great job of portraying realistic parenting moments, the one's where you're in the car with your kid and they suddenly bring up a big question about sex, drugs, or death and you have 4 seconds to come up with some "parental" response. (This is why my kids now believe you can have a conversation with dead people…I just didn't have the time to read an article about how to talk to kids about death between 39th street and home…so now we talk to dead people…it's fine).

The show also tackles seemingly "big" topics like abortion, divorce, and teenage sex. Again, it does an amazing job of showing the realities of modern families…the kinds where a bunch of single/divorced/married/re-married/ people are sitting around Sam's house drinking wine and talking, and Sam's oldest teenage daughter Max happens to be there. Max becomes privy to conversations about abortion, relationships, and other topics adults tend to avoid discussing around teens. It's awkward and unrefined… but the viewer is compelled to see that in reality, Max is the perfect age to be hearing these topics discussed by older people who have actual life lessons to share. It is rare that we get to see the benefit of multigenerational communities on television as it's usually the "kid plot" verses the "adult plot," but if you were raised by a single parent, you know that you often spend much time around a different kind of family… a family that is created out of friends of the parent that is currently parenting you.

Our society (and thus our media) is often so focused on the negative affects of divorce, we rarely discuss the benefits of being raised outside a nuclear model. In fact, just the phrase "benefits of non-nuclear model" sounds like an oxymoron… but of course nothing is all good or all bad… not marriage, not divorce, and not nuclear family-hood. The children in Sam Fox's life have issues, challenges, hardships, ect… but they also have opportunities and perspective, insight, and community. Sam Fox curses in front of her children, tells them things about adulthood that likely they don't need to hear, and doesn't pretend to have hall her ducks in a row…but she has a minivan full of appreciation. Even with all of the work and none of the time, you get the sense that Sam appreciates her role as a mother. The viewer never doubts that Sam wanted to have kids…she mothers as thoughtfully and purposefully as she can, and she loves her girls with gusto. Sam Fox's depiction of single motherhood focuses on having a sense of humor, the necessity of friendships, hard work, and most of all love and gratitude…you know the Better Things in life.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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