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21 November 2018

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. 

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

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