Clickbait - Show time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

If Manmohan Desai was alive and was directing a whodunnit web series today, he would probably do the Clickbait. Full of masala, interesting characters, countless twists and turns built on a wafer-thin plot, Clickbait surprisingly delivers. Aptly titled Clickbait, the eight-part Netflix thriller series draws you in from the first episode, moves at a breakneck speed, brings in newer characters-all suspects and has an audience-rewarding twist in the climax, mounted in an old school linear storytelling format.

The Australian-American co-production entices you with a mystery whodunnit orchestrated by unseen villains of an anonymous viral internet message, but diverts to a meandering saga of red herrings that’s as interesting as they are annoying. Clickbait is like good fast food that leaves you feeling satisfied not compelling to analyse the recipe. It is highly bingeable, and its eight episodes are consistently outlandish enough to keep you watching. 

Created by showrunner Tony Ayres and Christian White, Clickbait begins with disappearance of a physical therapist and a family man in Oakland, California Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier). The day after a fight with his sister, Pia (Zoe Kazan), a suspicious video appears online which has a bruised and bloodied Nick holding placards that read “I abuse women,” and “At 5 million views, I die.” The video burns the Internet, amasses thousands of clicks in minutes, taking over news networks, and soon becomes the only one thing anyone is watching on their phones, computers, or TVs.

The news comes as a shock to Pia and Nick’s wife, Sophie (Betty Gabriel), who vigorously defend his reputation as the incompetent police investigation unfolds. This is where Clickbait comes up with the winner in its format, dedicates each episode to a different character and the story progresses through their narratives. The episode titles like The Sister followed by The Detective Rohan Amiri (Phoenix Raei), The Wife, The Mistress Emma (Jessica Collins), The Reporter (overzealous television reporter Ben Park played by Abraham Lin), The Brother of a woman on a dating site found through the investigation (Daniel Henshall), The Son Ethan (Camaron Engels), the high schooler before ending the series with The Answer. Each episode introduces the lead character of the next episode and the story moves along but the perspective changes.

Kazan as the brash Pia, with stomping strides and fiery dialogues, contrasts well against Gabriel’s Sophie, who is more contained. Clickbait attempts to bring in nuances of colour in characterization of Pia’s brashness and Sophie’s restraint or Roshan’s middle eastern roots by showing his Persian speaking family and him praying at a mosque. But these are just to add grains to the characters and never to divert from the main plot.

I end by quoting Pia from episode five, “In all this media bullshit, how are we supposed to grief for our brother? My brother is dead and I don’t even know who he was anymore.”

We live in the times of media trials and social media and online dating platforms are filled with false identities, and Clickbait rides on these popular #trends and delivers a bingeworthy winner.

 

On Netflix

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