REVIEW: ‘Clickbait’ Has a Solid Premise, but Subpar Execution

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Clickbait

Clickbait is a Netflix Original Limited Series created by Tony Ayres and Christian White. Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) seems to have a perfect life; he’s happily married with two kids and has a successful job as a high school coach. One day, Nick goes missing and then appears on a live stream video holding a sign that says, “I Abuse Women.” Another sign says that Nick will die when the video gets to 5 million views. As the views rack up and time runs out, Nick’s family—including his wife Sophie (Betty Gabriel) and his sister Pia (Zoe Kazan)—learn that the man they thought they knew had more than a few secrets.

While Clickbait has a genuinely intriguing concept, its execution is somewhat lacking. A large part of that is due to how the characters are written. For a mystery to be truly successful, the characters have to be people that the audience can invest in. Unfortunately, Nick’s family comes off less as a collection of well-rounded characters and more as a collection of tropes. Sophie is perpetually stuck in one of two modes: the grieving widow or the mother who has to hold everything together. It’s a waste of Gabriel’s talents, as she’s showed she has plenty of range in other projects, including Get Out and Defending Jacob.

Kazan’s Pia fares slightly better. Often disregarded as the “rebel child” of the family, she is a major driving force behind the investigation of Nick’s disappearance and even ends up finding some important clues that lead to the central mystery’s solution. The downside: nearly every interaction she has with a male character ends up with them making a move on her. It got to the point where I had to pause in the middle of an episode and say, “I get it, she’s good-looking, but this is ridiculous.”

Clickbait

Another aspect where the series is hit or miss is how its story is structured. Each of the eight episodes focuses on a different character’s perspective, as more secrets about Nick are unveiled. This is perhaps the strongest aspect of the series, as it allows the story to unfold at a pace that isn’t too fast or too slow. The issue is that the two most interesting episodes don’t focus on members of Nick’s family. That honor goes to detective Roshan Amiri (Phoenix Raei) and reporter Ben Park (Abraham Lin). To its credit, these episodes show the lengths some people will go to for recognition as both Amiri and Park see the case as a way to further their careers. But I was hoping for the people closest to the victim to get the most character development. It would have also helped if the series had an episode from Nick’s perspective; this would have helped flesh out his character.

The idea of crafting a thriller using social media as the driving force has been explored before in films like Searching and #Blue_Whale, and to its credit, the series does have a solid grasp on how the Internet can make demons and/or martyrs out of people. When the video featuring Nick is first released, the comments range from people horrified at the idea of a man being executed to people calling for his head. His family also has to deal with the media trying to wring a story out of the tragedy and people believing the worst of a man. The final episode also shows what happens when people get a little too deep into their online lives, and the result is truly tragic.

The concept of Clickbait doesn’t quite match its execution. As a social media-driven mystery, it is hampered by thinly-developed characters. If you want to kill a few hours or you love drama, this series is right up your alley. If you’re looking for a mystery with more well-developed characters, I recommend Knives Out.

Clickbait is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Clickbait
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

The concept of Clickbait doesn’t quite match its execution. As a social media-driven mystery, it is hampered by thinly-developed characters. If you want to kill a few hours or you love drama, this series is right up your alley. If you’re looking for a mystery with more well-developed characters, I recommend Knives Out.