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|“||You weren't supposed to know...||„|
|~ Peter upon discovering Stefan investigating the safe.|
Peter Butler is one of the many possible antagonists of the 2018 Netflix interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The father of film protagonist Stefan Butler, Peter acts as a neutral figure through most of the story, doing his best to keep his son from losing stability in the face of mounting stress; though emotionally disconnected from Stefan and unable to relate to his son's interests, he genuinely seems to want the best for him. However, in some paths, Peter is actually revealed as a villain, part of a conspiracy intent on controlling Stefan's life from behind the scenes.
He was played by Craig Parkinson, who also played Shaun the Probation Officer and his Nazi counterpart in the TV series Misfits, and Sainfoin in the Watership Down miniseries.
Little information is known concerning Peter Butler's past, and given that travel between parallel universes is a reality within the setting, much of what is known about quickly becomes subject to change over as Stefan begins unwittingly hopping across multiple timelines. However, in most possible narratives, perhaps fifteen years prior to the events of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Peter was happily married and raising a child in a relatively normal manner.
Unfortunately, a disagreement emerged between him and his wife over how they were raising their five-year-old son, Stefan: when he was a baby, Stefan's mother had knitted him a toy rabbit as a gift, and he'd very quickly grown attached to it, refusing to go anywhere without his new security blanket; though keeping such a toy well into childhood was regarded as perfectly normal by his mother, Peter believed that Stefan should give it up sooner rather than later, claiming it was inappropriate for a boy to be "playing with dolls." For good measure, his father-in-law reportedly also despised the doll, often ranting at Peter about the evils of "permissive parenting" and clearly wearing on the younger man's nerves.
One day, just before Stefan and his mother were due to pay a visit to the family grandparents, Peter decided he could do without another lecture from the in-laws, and set out to confiscate the toy rabbit without his son's knowledge. In some timelines, he left the rabbit in a code-locked safe in his office, assuming that nobody would ever find it there or guess the code. However, without his favorite toy, Stefan refused to leave the house at all; having already missed their 8:30 train in all the confusion, Stefan's mother was forced to take the 8:40 alone, leaving her husband and son behind.
Later, the two learned that the train had derailed en route, resulting in a massive death toll that included Stefan's mother. Both Peter and Stefan were grief-stricken by this course of events, but neither of them were able to reconnect and bond over it: Stefan secretly resented his father for inadvertently triggering the death of his mother, and Peter gradually lost his ability to relate to his son's interests.
Over time, both became emotionally distanced from one another, even prone to keeping secrets: Stefan found a copy of Jerome F. Davies' classic choose-your-own-adventure novel Bandersnatch among his mother's belongings, and soon became completely obsessed with both the narrative and the focus on free will - which he felt he lacked - and refused to share any of his feelings on the subject with his father; similarly, Peter got into the habit of spending a great deal of time in his office, always locking the door behind him when he left (which eventually becomes tied with overtly villainous behavior in certain plotlines later in the game).
By the events of the film, Peter and the now nineteen-year-old Stefan are still living in the same house, perfectly courteous with one another but clearly emotionally strained. For good measure, they are unable to exchange much more than a few sentences with one another before lapsing into awkward silence. Peter will occasionally try to reconnect with his son, while Stefan remains too distracted by his own obsessions to follow up on it. Because of this and many other emotional problems, Peter has been ensuring that Stefan remains in contact with a therapist - one Doctor R. Haynes at the Saint Juniper Medical Center - and regularly medicated with unspecified drugs.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
The game begins in July 1984, with Stefan setting out to create a game adaptation of Bandersnatch in collaboration with gaming company Tuckersoft. Though Peter is quite proud of his son for taking this step, he seems a little bit concerned that Stefan has set out to create the game at home and unsupervised.
Having been given until September to complete the game, Stefan retreats into seclusion, naturally inspiring further concern from Peter. Towards the end of this development period, driven to the brink of a meltdown by his inability to debug Bandersnatch, Stefan snaps angrily at his father, though he cannot explain why. Under the guise of taking him to the pub for lunch, Peter then takes his son off to Dr Haynes' office for an emergency therapy session; here, Stefan has a choice between complying with his father's suggestions and meeting up with Collin.
Should he choose to ignore his father and follow Tuckersoft's guro down the street, the two programmers spend their evening getting high on LSD and having a long talk about the nature of reality. Among the key topics under discussion include the belief in multiple dimensions that can be perceived and theoretically traversed, and a conspiracy theory concerning government mind control: according to Colin, the government routinely has unsuspecting individuals monitored, filmed, drugged and secretly manipulated by people pretending to be their relatives, all part of a Program And Control system (secretly depicted in the Pac-Man game). Regardless of how this night ends, Stefan ends up back outside Dr Haynes' office with Peter trying to talk him into paying a visit.
With an upgraded dose of medication, Stefan returns to work (but not before throwing the pills away); however, bugs in the software force him to take a weekend extension, only amplifying his stress levels further. Colin's attempts to provide additional inspiration in the form of a Jerome F. Davies documentary do not help, and when Stefan begins noticing the unsettling parallels between himself and Davies, he can begin openly breaking down in stress - to the point that the viewer has the choice to make him destroy his computer in a fit of rage and be comforted by Peter (though this results in the viewer being sent back to the divergence point).
However, in the event that the computer is not destroyed, the next divergence point results in two pivotal decisions that can decide the ending of the entire game.
The Program And Control Ending
In the event that the viewer does not choose the family photograph at this decision point, Stefan will decide to go to bed that evening after reading through his book on adventure game design, only to wake up in he middle of the night. Spotting a chance to do some snooping while his father is still asleep, he sneaks into Peter's room and steals his keys, then using them to unlock his study. Finding the room relatively sparse, Stefan is immediately drawn to the safe.
The options of potential passwords for the safe vary depending on the viewer's decisions up until now, but if Stefan has already met up with Collin and heard his rant on the government conspiracy behind Pac-Man, he has the opportunity to input PAC as a code. Accepting the password, the safe opens, revealing that it is full of confidential patient files on Stefan himself, all part of a secret Program and Control study conducted on behalf of the government. Disturbingly, all of them are marked with the same distinctive lambda-like glyph daubed on the walls by Jerome F. Davies following the murder of his wife, suggesting that Davies actually fell victim to a similar P.A.C. study - which he misinterpreted as the doings of Pax.
Opening one of the folders, Stefan finds that his patient files contain schedules of drugs used over many years, papers discussing various attempts at psychopharmaceutical programming enacted on him, and, much to Stefan's shock, photographs of him taken throughout his life, from his infancy to less than a few days ago; these have been taken on the street, at front doors, and from all possible angles, indicating that he is being followed at every hour of the day without realizing it. There are even shots of Stefan at work in his bedroom - taken via a hidden camera directly behind his desk. Horrified and disillusioned, he nonetheless continues exploring. In the upper drawers of the safe, he locates numerous test tubes of the drugs that have been used to control him over the years, along with a stash of surveillance video tapes: these include recordings of his therapy sessions with Dr Haynes, indicating her involvement in the conspiracy.
Finding a reference to a "Trauma Inception" experiment in one of the folders, Stefan locates the corresponding video tape and discovers it shows his own father, perhaps fifteen years ago, dosing a child's cookies with psychoactive drugs. In the tape, Peter then approaches the five-year-old Stefan, takes his toy bunny away from him, and gives him one of the spiked cookies to eat before slipping a blindfold over his head. Leading his son through a corridor of an unknown research facility, he then deposits him in what appears to be his bedroom and removes his blindfold before leaving; drugged and not knowing what happened to the toy rabbit, young Stefan begins hunting around for it, at which point his mother enters, asking him to join her on the fateful train trip. As in he past, Stefan refuses to leave without the toy, once again prompting his mother to leave, except that this time, the tape shows that Stefan's mother leaves the room and vanishes back into the laboratory, where Peter is clearly controlling everything from behind the scenes. Her death was faked just so Stefan could be traumatized, allowing Peter and his government masters to control him more easily.
At this point, the tape ends and Stefan turns to find Peter standing in the doorway. Angrily confronting him, Stefan demands an explanation - and when he receives none, slits Peter's throat with the sharpened end of a glass ashtray. Immediately afterwards, Stefan awakens, as if from a nightmare.
Returning to work on Bandersnatch, Stefan slowly begins to notice that someone appears to be actively controlling his decisions, and begs for a sign. Here, the viewer has the option to answer via his computer, and one possible option is to reply with the title of the Program and Control study. Realizing that what he witnessed in the "dream" was real, Stefan is immediately pushed over the brink of madness by sheer paranoia; when Peter arrives upstairs to check on him, he accuses him of trying to control his life, and in the ensuing confrontation, fatally wounds his father with the same glass ashtray.
Once Peter has bled out, Stefan then calls Dr Haynes' office, and though she is unable to take the call, her receptionist is able to take his message, in which he freely admits to murdering his father and threatens to kill Haynes next. Alarmed, the receptionist calls the police, and Stefan is arrested mere minutes after burying his father's corpse in the back garden; soon after, he is imprisoned (presumably on a life sentence), and Bandersnatch is released to a rating of two and a half stars out of five.
To date, it's not certain if the Peter that Stefan murdered was actually guilty of mind-controlling him, or if Stefan merely received information concerning events that took place in another reality and mistakenly believed they applied to his father.
The Netflix Ending
The only other plotline that features Peter as a villain is the "Netflix ending," which can occur at any time following the events of the dream sequence (so long as the "toy" ending isn't discovered). Here, when Stefan becomes aware of being manipulated by forces beyond control and demands to be given a sign, the viewer can instead reveal to Stefan his true nature as a fictional character, informing him that he is being watched and controlled by a Netflix user well over thirty years in the future.
Clearly not understanding, Stefan asks for more information, but all the details on streaming services only end up leaving him even more bewildered. In the end, the conversation comes to a halt and Peter enters the room, whereupon Stefan confesses to the impossible conversation he just witnessed, naturally extremely concerned by this, he takes his son to see Dr Haynes immediately. Over the course of their session together, Stefan explains what he witnessed as best as he can, including the notion that the entire situation is nothing more than entertainment for people in the future. Puzzled, Haynes raises the notion that if this was entertainment, surely the hypothetical viewers would want to watch something more action-packed.
Here, the player is given two options: "Yes" and "F*** Yeah". Picking either of them results in Stefan throwing coffee in Haynes' face and going on to destroy everything on her desk; Haynes then attempts to attack him with twin batons, though if Stefan chooses to fight instead of flee, he will ultimately defeat her. At this point, Peter bursts into the room, not only showing a sudden and inexplicable proficiency in martial arts but actually managing to grab Stefan by the throat one-handed and hoist him into the air like an action movie villain.
Regardless of whether he decides to kick his father in the balls or simply karate chop him, Stefan will manage to escape, only to be dragged out of the office, cackling maniacally.
However, if Stefan chooses to try and jump out the window instead of fighting, he will suddenly find himself on a movie set, where he, Peter, Haynes and all the other people in his life are nothing more than actors.
Other Possible Endings
In other endings to the storyline, Peter fares differently: should viewers choose to communicate with Stefan via the lambda symbol instead of P.A.C. or Netflix, Stefan will be overwhelmed by the viewer's control and go on to murder Peter in a fit of madness. After this, he can either bury the body in the back garden, and go on to murder either Colin or his boss, before ultimately being caught when the next-door neighbor's dog unwittingly digs up Peter's corpse. The "Jail" ending follows, in which Stefan is imprisoned, Bandersnatch is never finished, and Tuckersoft is forced to close its doors.
On the other hand, should Stefan chop up the body and keep Peter's head on a shelf, he will be able to complete the game on time in a way that leaves him satisfied, as Bandersnatch is released to five-star ratings from critics, and the game is guaranteed to become a bestseller. However, Stefan is arrested when a bag of Peter's dismembered organs is found by police in the nearby forest, leading them right to his door. In the media furore that follows, the game is pulled from the market and all copies pulped, ultimately paving the way for the "History Repeats" ending, in which the game is re-released in the modern era by Colin Ritman's daughter.
Finally, if players have Stefan learn about time traveling via mirrors from Colin and decide to study the family photo instead of reading about game design, Stefan will ultimately decide to put Colin's theory to the test: passing through a mirror, he emerges on the other side as a five-year-old and finds himself in the past, on the very night before his mother's death. Seeking out the safe, he unlocks it using the password "toy" and finds his toy rabbit inside; he is soon caught in the act by his father, but Peter decides to let Stefan keep it after all. As a result, the viewer has a choice when the time comes to leave the house on a late train: they can either stay at home at let events proceed as they did, or they can allow Stefan to join his mother on the 8:45 train and knowingly face death along with her. In the case of the latter, Stefan dies in the past - and yet back in the present, Stefan's present self dies of inexplicable causes in Dr Haynes' office as a distraught Peter cries over his body.