If you’re anything like me, you have a brand-new nightmare thanks to Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch: the Pax demon. The genuinely terrifying monster begins haunting leading man Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) as he descends further into the twisty tale of Bandersnatch. It pops up after a drug-fueled death. It creeps behind corners. It haunts your dreams.
Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t allow viewers to scroll through the interactive movie — or even rewind past their latest Choose Your Own Adventure-style decision — so it’s pretty hard to figure out what the Bandersnatch’s hellish creature actually is. Thankfully, after multiple viewings of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker’s latest creation, an explanation for the Pax demon starts to come together.
The monster is the bridge between Stefan’s increasing Bandersnatch-induced paranoia and the PAC conspiracy of one timeline.
Stefan’s blood-drenched tale centers around his creation of Bandersnatch the video game, which is based on a fictional interactive book written by fictional author Jerome F. Davis. Throughout the movie's first act, we come to realize Jerome committed a horrific murder, killing his wife. Stefan starts learning more about the writer as he begins adapting Davis' novel for the game. During a shopping trip, he picks up a book about Jerome and his crimes. In the book, we see one of Jerome's drawings — it’s of a lion-like demon.
Later, when Stefan gets video game help from idol Colin Ritman (Maze Runner’s Will Poulter), the more experienced programmer decides one of them has to jump off of a ledge. In the timeline Bandersnatch wants, Colin is the one who jumps. As Stefan flees the dead man’s apartment, a corporeal version of the Pax demon appears, frightening Stefan.
This is where the monster’s first role starts to become clear. Colin taped a documentary about Jerome for Stefan, who watches it. Prior to the Davis murder, Jerome became convinced an outside force was controlling his every action. Jerome believed his wife was spiking his beverage with hallucinations, therefore making it even easier to control him, at “the behest of a demon called Pax, a sort of lion figure.”
The appearance of the leonine Pax in Stefan’s life — and at the exact time he also is beginning to believe his world is controlled by an outside force — is meant to prove the teen is starting to suffer from the same murder-inducing paranoia Jerome had. This makes sense, since Stefan is also obsessing over the Bandersnatch story, which Jerome was writing when he had his own murderous breakdown (most Bandersnatch movie endings lead towards at minimum a single homicide).
But, Pax isn’t just a delusion plaguing Stefan. The demon also confirms Colin’s entire theory of the world and suggests the PAC — which sounds a lot like “Pax” — scheme in one version of Bandersnatch is real. Towards the end of the movie, Stefan learns he is a subject in a “Trauma Inception” experiment. This means his traumatizing cornerstone memory, the death of his mother (Fleur Keith), wasn’t real. It was a fake moment crafted by his “dad” Peter (Craig Parkinson), who is actually a scientist who has been monitoring Stefan his entire life. Stefan was convinced his “mom” died because Peter drugged his food, making the innocent boy more amenable to the play-acted fiction of his “mother’s” death. Since then, the apparent Program And Control (PAC) Program experiment has recorded Stefan, payed people to be his family, and held sway over his every move.
This is precisely the reality Colin described to Stefan, suggesting Pac-Man is an example of the PAC Program’s machinations. When Colin explained this conspiracy-laden worldview prior to his death, he mentioned the ghosts that follow Pac-Man, saying of the character, “He’s pursued by demons that are probably just in his own head.” The Pax Demon, which Stefan sees before learning all of this in different timelines, is his version of the ghosts.
While the Pax monster is likely just a figment produced by the many sci-fi stressors in Stefan’s life, Bandersnatch at least recognizes the outside force controlling his every move. As Colin ranted about Pac-Man, “People think it’s a happy game. It’s not a happy game, it’s a fucking nightmare world. And the worst thing is, it’s real and we live in it.”