A Bit of a Clickbait by Netflix

I am a big fan of mini-series. Starting and wrapping a whole plot, story, and twists in 6-8 episodes gets me wet; it’s the same as watching films, however, I like the idea of having screenplay writers’ minds punctuated with twisted characters coming out of nowhere and turning the whole show around, makes my world go 'round. I also like how little weight I carry while watching mini-series; if it’s great, it feels like nothing bad was ever seen or made and if it sucks, you don’t feel like you’ve invested too much time. Mini-series are reminiscent of casual dating, the effervescence of the time invested and the returns gained are unparalleled.

To that end, I’ve been in and out of several casual relationships, I mean, mini-series. They’re easy to enjoy, easy to start and finish. Bonus, when they attempt thriller and they usually get you going. That’s what got me to Clickbait. I was also intrigued that a show which sounded too good to be true (mystery/thriller/new media in 8 episodes) was hardly thrown at me by anyone. Not even one person online, among friends or family threw in the recommendation. This got me thinking if it’s worth it or not. Perhaps, nobody had the time. Perhaps, they all hated it.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to dislike Clickbait. Created by Tony Ayres and Christian White, the show lives up for the most part true to its title. Sure, it may be cheesy and predictable in parts, but directors including Brad Anderson, Emma Freeman, Ben Young, and Laura Besley have put together a story in the form of a jigsaw puzzle with digital footprints and investigative material as clues for the audience to take on this series. At 8 episodes, showrunner, Tony Ayres did a fantastic job at keeping the story succinct while opening it just enough to pan through the lives of the characters.

At a birthday dinner for their mother, the Brewer siblings- Pia (Zoe Kazan) and Nick (Adrian Grenier) get into an argument and Nick asks Pia to leave him and the family alone. What follows the day after is Pia’s discovery of a trending video online—her brother Nick holding a placard that conveys he dies at 5 million views on the video. This starts as an accidental discovery of the video and ends up opening a pandora’s box. With Nick missing, other skeletons start to tumble out of the closet. Episodes titled “Sister, “Brother”, “Mistress”…all lead to discoveries about Nick and others, all of whom play a part as domino’s falling down, from one investigative clue to the next, leading the audience to a trail to find Nick but also to learn more about the said character, their relationship with Nick, and their personality as a whole, in an attempt to locate him. This includes his wife, his son, sister, the investigating cop, the reporter covering the story among others.

What truly works in the show is nailing the digital relationships and footprints right. At no point, does the series back off from the central track of what is real vs what is virtual, as you’re constantly taken from one lead to the other; all of which are either tracked via virtual or the simulation of the real through flashback memories and instances. You live your life wondering how the technology has been a real game-changer and helped you connect with people, networking opportunities, jobs, etc and yet the show opens up into a sinister story built around regular people, occupying regular jobs and using everyday services, platforms and apps like emails, Google, reddit, Tinder, YouTube.

Clickbait attempts to put the fear of god about opening up to people and technology in the people watching it but fails, due to the complexity of the storyline. In all regards, Clickbait is a highly binge-able show, until the very end, when the build-up somehow disappoints and makes you wonder if they used the technology just as a rosebud instead of actually trying to convey something. The interpersonal relationships are not delved into; the relationships suddenly take over instead of the internet and the importance of it in the story. The internet that took precedence and also helped find the perpetrators is all painfully side-lined in the last episode when the story of 7 episodes is being put together in the stencil filled with memories and narration.

For something that starts strong and takes you on a journey through 7 episodes, you’d expect the finale to go out with a bang, and not disappoint in the way it did. It isn’t the killer, you’re disappointed to learn, it is the entirety, the coming together of it all, and the role of the person who did what they did. Mega disappointing. It's as though the creators went all, "Surprise, motherfucker. This was the real Clickbait. We screwed you!"

On the acting and the performance front, thankfully nobody disappoints. I thoroughly enjoyed Betty Gabriel’s portrayal of Sophie Brewer and her bereavement through the series and how she copes through each discovery made. Both her and Kazan carry the series on their sturdy shoulders. Kazan’s chemistry with the brooding hot Phoenix Raei deserves a spin-off and I am so devastated to learn nothing about their future. Roshan Amiri and Pia Brewer may have been my favourite and unlikely on-screen romance this year (that’s as much romance and intensity I’m willing to take in socially distanced times).

Clickbait on Netflix is easily one of the more enjoyable yet frustrating shows that have been written and streamed this year. At the heart of it, Clickbait conveys an important story that Arjun Rampal sang and danced to with Amitabh Bachchan in Ek Ajnabee (2005), “Mama told me, don’t be talking to a stranger…stranger is danger.” If only we had paid that number any heed before befriending strangers online, there’d be no precautionary fictional tales like Clickbait being written. If you're looking for a weekend with yourself and no interruptions in life, stream this. You will sure as hell be cut off from everyone you in the virtual world.

The series is available for streaming on Netflix in India.

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Anisha Saigal

Pop-culture omnivore. Entertainment and culture writer for now; publishing in the past. Retirement in the future.
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