The Best Ending Reveals Black Mirror: Bandersnatch's Dark Twist
The underlying theme connecting all episodes of Black Mirror is the focus on how technology impacts our lives in subtle yet insurmountable ways. This can be the Twitter mob making the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have relations with a pig on live TV, a cartoon character meming his way into being a politician, or love transplanted into a computer farm. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch brings this in spades, using the freedom given to the viewer to explore the impact it has on a no-longer-autonomous character and the very nature of free will. This is a story made for the form.
But the method of the form itself is the story. Just as season 4 finale "Black Museum" brought together ideas from across the show in microcosm (playing with the long-held fan theory of a Black Mirror shared universe), Bandersnatch's use of choice impacts the viewer. The agony over which cereal to eat at the start or the quick response to killing Stefan's father, everything that happens is about the reverse impact on the player and not the character. This is compounded by how each ending is incompatible with the others (Stefan can't be part of P.A.C.S. and a TV show); your choices rewrite the fabric of this reality.
And this is where the optimum story order comes in. If the "best" story for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is the one that Netflix pre-programs, then there is limited freedom in the choices made in the game: you are best following what the streaming service suggests, just as Stefan is following your "commands". This is true no matter which way you play the game. It only ends when you've got every ending, when you've exhausted the narrative. The one true ending is exactly the same and inevitable. You can change small things along the way, but this is still a meticulously planned out experience. What Charlie Brooker has done is given viewers unprecedented freedom to tell a story where the long-term impact is already predetermined.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is ultimately about the illusion of free will, presented not just by the character in his story but in how you make choices when the end goal is unchangeable. That's the only real ending. And certainly the best way to get it is to give that sense of autonomy back to Netflix.