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After his arrest, he told police we exist within multiple parallel realities at once. One reality exists for each possible course of action we take in life. Whatever we choose to do in this existence, there's another one out there in which we're doing quite the opposite - which renders free will meaningless, nothing but an illusion. If you follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, then you're absolved of any guilt from your actions. But they're not even your actions. It's out of your control. Your fate has been dictated. It's out of your hands. So, why not commit murder? Maybe that's what destiny wants. You're just a puppet. You're not in control.
~ A documentary on Davies

Jerome F. Davies is one of the possible villains of the 2018 Netflix interactive movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and a major contributor to the events of the main plot. As the visionary author of the novel Bandersnatch, Davies devoted himself to providing the greatest branching interactive narrative in fiction, a self-imposed mission that ended in madness and murder. Though reportedly long-dead by the events of the film, he nonetheless continues to influence the narrative - on some occasions more directly than others.

He was portrayed by Jeff Minter.

History

Claim To Fame

Most of Davies' past remains a mystery left unexplored by the film: all that is known is that he was married and middle-to-old aged at the time of his breakdown, and up until then he presumably made enough money to secure a comfortable life for himself through writing science fiction. However, at some point likely during the 1960s, Davies set to work on the novel that was to become his masterpiece: Bandersnatch, science-fiction/fantasy choose-your-own-adventure novel incorporating a vast number of parallel narratives and potential storylines to explore. However, according to pages glimpsed in the true crime novel The Lives Of Jerome F Davies, the process of writing the story was fraught with personal challenges: the completed version of Bandersnatch appeared to be in excess of five hundred pages, and the difficulty of forging multiple interactive plot threads into cohesive narratives proved immensely stressful.

Early in the book's creation, once his vocation as a sci-fi writer became known in his neighborhood, Daveies was invited to a meeting of a local Ufologist group. Out of politeness and curiosity, he decided to attend and soon found himself at a gathering of otherwise ordinary people who otherwise held the most extraordinary beliefs - including that Jesus Christ and other religious figures from across history were actually aliens in disguise, and that they had been contacted by a group of extraterrestrial beings who would be able to save them from the apocalypse they believed was imminent. Fascinated, Davies began delving deeper into the world of conspiracy theories, and though the full extent of his beliefs in this field remain unknown, a conspiracy theory narrative soon became part of Bandersnatch, complete with shadowy government agents and mind control.

As was fashionable for the time period, Davies also began taking hallucinogenic drugs in order to provide inspiration for his work; by all accounts, he soon became addicted, and required daily self-administrations in order to work effectively. Unfortunately, this quickly began to take a toll on his mind: by this time, the effort of trying to compose and maintain multiple narratives was already driving him to the brink of a nervous breakdown, but the mixture of hallucination and addiction proved too much for him. Davies became obsessed with what he believed were the limitations of his free will, believing that he didn't truly have any control over his own life; he even claimed that he could perceive and interact with multiple realities at once, allowing him to witness the illusion of choice in action. In his notes, he repeatedly sketched a lambda-like glyph reminiscent of a fork in a road, which apparently represented potential realities splitting into new timelines.

Finally, Davies even began to believe that a demon named Pax was commanding his wife to spike his food with psychoactive drugs; known as the Thief of Destiny, this demon was to become the main villain of Bandersnatch, and frequently haunted the author as he struggled to bring the novel to a conclusion. In the end, he snapped: decapitating his wife with an axe, he painted his distinctive glyph over the walls of his study in a deranged frenzy, believing that this was the only way he could escape Pax's control.

Though it's not known if this occurred before or after Bandersnatch was finished, it was nonetheless sent off for publication, and soon became immensely successful. However, its rise to fame was accelerated by the bloodshed that had occurred behind the scenes: by this time, Davies had been caught with the decomposing body of his wife where he'd left it on the study floor, and arrested for murder - ranting about multiple realities all the while. The grisly discovery made Bandersnatch a legend in literary circles and guaranteed Jerome F. Davies' place in history. Indications are that the imprisoned author died of unknown causes soon after.

Perhaps fifteen years prior to the events of the film, Stefan Butler's mother bought a copy of the book; following her tragic death in a train derailment, it was inherited by Stefan himself, and in 1984, it became the inspiration for the troubled young coder's first game...

History Repeats (And Repeats)

Though decades have passed since Jerome F. Davies' murdered his wife, his crimes still remain fresh in he public eye: when Stefan brings his demo version of Bandersnatch to Tuckersoft for exhibition, CEO Mohan Thakur and programmer Colin Ritman are aware of his exploits. Nonetheless, the book is considered respectable enough to be worthy of a game, and with Thakur's blessing, Stefan is given the go-ahead to begin work on the complete video game adaptation of Bandersnatch.

Over time, however, Stefan begins to develop worrying similarities to the original author: he quickly grows obsessed with forging the perfect narrative, compounded by the strict deadline from Thankur he's operating under; worse still, new plotlines added to the game makes the code too stable to be played, forcing Stefan to spend days on end trying to debug it. Regularly missing meals and staying up late into the night, his sanity begins to fray, and ultimately leads to him being sent to his therapist for an emergency appointment. However, should the viewer decide against this, Stefan can end up dodging the appointment and instead spend the evening getting high on LSD with Colin Ritman, drawing further parallels between him and Davies; depending on the viewer's decisions, this can even end with Stefan coming face to face with the demon Pax - only to wake up en route to the therapist's office.

During his appointment, Stefan confesses to feeling powerless, as though he's not the one making decisions - and even gets the impression that someone is secretly controlling his life, a further parallel with the original author. Later, the due date of the game goes awry when bugs in the code force Stefan to request an extension of one weekend to continue working on Bandersnatch, with Ritman providing inspiration in the form of a taped documentary on Jerome F. Davies. Upon viewing it that evening, Stefan begins to panic as he realizes that he is experiencing the exact same symptoms that Davies himself suffered from.

In an effort to calm him down, the viewer can have him read a book on adventure game creation before going to bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night and decide to investigate his father's mysterious safe. Depending on what pathways the viewer has taken up until now, Stefan has a choice of three-letter codes that include Pax, Toy, PAC (Program and Conrol), or simply JFD. Choosing the last one results in an incorrect password notification from the safe; however, Jerome F. Davies suddenly materializes behind Stefan, laughing maniacally - causing him to awaken suddenly from what appears to have been a nightmare. In some plotlines, the next day can also end with Stefan being stabbed to death in his room by another ghostly version of Davies, only to wake up again.

In the overwhelming majority of conclusions to the game, Stefan ends up being driven mad by contact with the viewer and murdering his father Peter - either in a fit of panic over his inability to control anything, or in rage over the discovery of a mind control conspiracy arranged by both his father and his therapist. In the case of the former, if he chooses to decapitate Peter Butler's corpse in much the same way that Davies butchered his wife, Bandersnatch will be completed on time and to his satisfaction. The game is a critical success, immediately becoming a bestseller; however, the discovery of Stefan's crime and his subsequent arrest result in the game being pulled from the market due to the controversy, and all copies of the game are pulped.

However, the end credits to this particular plotline, one copy of Bandersnatch survives the purge and is eventually discovered by Pearl Ritman, Colin's daughter, who eventually decides to rerelease it for the modern gaming public. However, she soon begins to experience the same game-breaking hiccups that Stefan and Davies experienced before her; this time, though, Pearl decides to end the experience before it gets any worse, and smashes her computer to pieces.

Possible Explanations

Due to the deliberately ambiguous nature of the film's narrative, multiple explanations are possible for Jerome F. Davies' role in the game. At first seemingly only a predecessor to Stefan, as time goes on, Davies' madness begins to be experienced by the young programmer as well; this could be regarded as simple mental illness, brought about by similar cases of stress, drug use, and the influence of equally-eccentric figures - the Ufologists for Davies, Colin Ritman for Stefan.

However, the overt similarities have inspired other theorists to believe that more is at work, particularly given that Stefan's belief in outside forces controlling his life can actually be proved correct: in one plotline, the viewer actually has the option to explain the nature of Netflix to him. With this in mind, a possible assumption would be that Davies really did become aware of the true nature of the universe.

In yet another possible interpretation of events, literally everyone who works on Bandersnatch or its adaptations begins to experience the similar symptoms, beginning with a loss of control over their lives and an inexplicable inability to get the narrative to work; in one ending, Pearl encounters some of these symptoms before she wisely gives up on the game, and in another possible conclusion, the actor playing Stefan suffers a breakdown and becomes lost in character. From this, it may be inferred that Bandersnatch itself is cursed in some way, and everyone who attempts to work on it being doomed to obsession, loss of control, and madness.

On the other hand, if Stefan listens to Colin's LSD-fueled rant on conspiracy theories and the sinister true nature of Pac-Man, he will later have the option to enter the code PAC into his father's safe - whereupon he discovers that he is under the influence of a scientific experiment known as a Program and Control study, and has been for his entire life; his father is really a scientist, and his mother's death was faked to make him more pliable through manipulation of the neurosis that ensued. Assuming this is not a dream, the PACS also becomes a possible explanation for the demon Pax: Davies was also under the influence of such a program, and misinterpreted the mind-control as the efforts of a supernatural being.

Finally, given the importance of parallel universes in this film, it is possible that every single theory or interpretation of the story is correct, each possibility occurring in a different universe: in one universe, Davies may have been insane, or he may have been under the influence of a government conspiracy - and so on.

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Lambda-like glyph used by Davies has actually appeared in Black Mirror before, originally in the episode "White Bear." Having initially been worn as a tattoo on the neck of convicted child-murderer Ian Rannoch, it was later reused as an emblem at White Bear Justice park - the facility used to punish Rannoch's partner in crime, Victoria Skillane. Much like Stefan, Victoria has little say in what is actually happening over the course of each session at the park, and any course of action she decides on has been arranged for her well in advance.
  • The character of Jerome F. Davies may have been inspired by a variety of real authors, including William S. Burroughs (who was a lifelong drug addict and killed his wife in a drunken game of William Tell) and Phillip K. Dick (who was a frequent drug user and experienced a number of "paranormal" experiences).

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Arquette | Catherine Ortiz | Dogs | Dr. Haynes | Garrett Scholes | Jerome F. Davies | Kenny | Mia Nolan | Matthew Trent | Pax | Peter Butler | Robert Daly | Rolo Haynes | Stefan Butler | The Hackers |

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