Netflix series review: Clickbait

Sushmita Bose /Dubai
sushmita@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 16, 2021

An edge-of-the-seat thriller, and yet a cautionary tale: how much more insidious can your lives get in tech-and-social media-enabled times?

Here’s one more example of the “critics” getting the wrong end of the stick. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critics’ weightage is 52 per cent, whereas the audience score is close to 70. Never mind the small niggles, this is definitely a must-watch and is one of the most binge-worthy serials I have seen of late, being constantly on the edge wanting to know what happens next (I cancelled all my social plans one weekend, to not get sidetracked).

What adds to the “watchability” is the identifiability; this is not some sinister plot unfolding in a sleepy suburb or in dark alleys — this is about technology, and how in our Net-ridden lives, you don’t even need a physical ambience, it’s all happening virtually… and relentlessly.

Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) is a “family man” and a popular school sports coach. On paper, he’s a loving husband, affectionate dad, dutiful son, and very close to his troubled sister Pia (Zoe Kazan). One day, there’s a video uploaded on a social media site, where he appears to be beaten up, and holding a placard that says: “I Abuse Women”. Nick, meanwhile, goes missing, a case of kidnapping is registered, and the cops try to get on the trail — not very successfully since the ‘footprints’ and leads are all virtual — as to where he’s being held captive.

The video goes viral (what else?). Another video pops up soon enough, where Nick is shown holding up a placard that says ‘At 5 million views, I die’. Net net, it’s a race against time to track him down before the virality of social media catches up with the death threat.

Alongside, other sides to the story emerge from the woodwork, leading to the question: is Nick really the person everyone thought he is? Does he have a different life on social media? Are the people he surrounded himself with leading only “filtered” lives in real life — and being twisted selves on social media? And therefore, could it be that someone he knows well has plotted something sinister against him? And why?

I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to know there is a murder, and it becomes an official investigation, integrating family secrets, lies, double lives and a somewhat unconventional process (a hacker as an aid?) to unravel the truth. Then there’s a little peek into the world of journalism, giving interesting insights on how a newsroom has to adapt to remain relevant in a time when everyone is a ‘reporter’ or an opinion maker on social media.

The eight-part mini-series gives a personality-driven title to seven chapters: The Sister, The Wife, The Detective, The Mistress, The Journalist, The Brother, The Son, before rounding it off with the last one, The Answer. You may think it’s the creators’ endeavour to create a kind of Rashomon effect. You are not entirely wrong, but it’s also a way to take the story forward instead of just getting parallel perspectives.

Interesting trivia: the series is “set” in Oakland, California, but was actually filmed in Melbourne, Australia.

sushmita@khaleejtimes.com

author

Sushmita Bose

Sushmita, who came to Dubai in September 2008 on a whim and swore to leave in a year's time (but then obviously didn't), edits wknd., the KT lifestyle mag, and writes the Freewheeling column on the Oped page every Friday. Before joining Khaleej Times, she'd worked for papers like Hindustan Times and Business Standard in New Delhi, and a now-defunct news magazine called Sunday in Calcutta. She likes meeting people, making friends, and Facebooking. And even though she can be spotted hanging out in Dubai's 'new town', she harbours a secret crush on the old quarters, and loves being 'ghetto-ised' in Bur Dubai where she is currently domiciled.