Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
21 November 2018updated 03 Aug 2021 5:47am

The second season of BBC Three’s Clique is risky TV

But the first series of Clique managed to pull off its mix of social commentary.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The first series of BBC Three’s drama Clique was a dark, sexy thriller about rich, entitled Edinburgh students, following Holly (Synnøve Karlsen) as she took on a competitive internship alongside a clique of beautiful, elite young women. Its twists and turns were sometimes ridiculous, with a fanatical serial killer at the heart of its climax. But it was also a layered, complex takedown of corporate feminism, demonstrating the dangers of “leaning in”: you can try and beat sexism by running with the wolves, but you’ll end up getting eaten.

The second season is again dogged by uncomfortable questions about feminism. This time, Holly’s housemate Rayna (Imogen King), a student involved in feminist campaigning, accuses a male student, Jack (Leo Suter), of sexual assault. Holly struggles to believe Rayna’s version of events, and in an obsessive hunt for the truth, intentionally gets close to Jack and his (male) friends: the “clique” of this series.

It’s risky ground for a drama: if Rayna is telling the truth, the tension at the heart of the story evaporates; if she isn’t, the show may be peddling sexist stereotypes about women (suggesting they might lie about sexual assault for some kind of personal gain). It’s not the only discomforting plot point here: the show also paints an exaggerated picture of overly sensitive left-wing students (who say the phrase “God bless you” is a “microaggression”) and hints that all is not as it seems with Jack’s mother, a feminist MSP who, when asked about her son’s alleged crime, says simply: “women don’t lie about these things.”

But the first series of Clique managed to pull off its mix of social commentary and sensational drama, against all odds. I’m excited to see how this series does the same. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

This article appears in the 21 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The real Brexit crisis