Since the demise of BBC3 just over a year ago, I have been a bit sceptical about the future of the channel. Sure, the BBC announced that it would still produce content online, but could it continue with the success of programmes like Being Human and In the Flesh? The channel specialised in quirky television made for a younger audience, but now that this audience are moving away to online platforms it seems to be trying its best to keep up.
The arrival of Thirteen last year – a tense drama about a kidnapped girl returning home after 13 years – put my mind at ease. It was punchy, dramatic, and exactly what I would have expected if the channel was still on television screens. A few months later followed Fleabag, a funny yet poignant look at a modern woman’s life in London. BBC3 was back in business.
Now Clique has continued in a similar vein. When I watched the trailers popping up on Facebook I was first drawn in by the fact it was set in Edinburgh. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for Scottish representation, and it’s rare to see a programme like this set anywhere else but London. Now I could watch beautiful actresses crying in familiar locations like the University of Edinburgh, the Meadows, and North Bridge.
To be honest, quite a lot of the series is just beautiful actresses crying. Part teen drama, part psychological thriller, this programme followed freshers and best friends Holly and Georgia as they are sucked into the glamorous yet dark lives of the ‘clique’, a group of four leggy interns whose only job seems to be to go to posh parties, where they use a cocktail of drugs and alcohol to numb themselves from the world that’s about to come crashing down around them.
And it does with a thud. More precisely, the thud of clique leader Fay’s body on a car after she leaps to her death from a rooftop. The next five episodes follow Holly as she attempts to find out what exactly is going on at the interns’ company Solasta Finace, as well as save her best friend from the horrors within.
The six-part series is a truly interesting look at girl power; both the good sides and the bad. In the first episode Professor Jude McDermid (played by Sherlock’s Louise Brealey), the head of the internship programme, begins Holly and Georgia’s first lecture with a scathing attack on modern feminism. A character about as different from Molly Hooper as you could get, the professor all but tells her class that although they have pussies, they don’t have to be one.
Despite alienating the audience twenty minutes into the first episode, you can’t help but feel sorry for the professor when her philosophy backfires and she discovers that her precious interns have been using sex and backstabbing to get their own way. The way that the girls treat each other, their friends, and their colleagues are a comment on how hard it can be to go far while still maintaining your principles.
A less convincing point of the series was the friendship between Holly and Georgia. Georgia had stood by her side when Holly was ostracised after the death of a small child back when they were kids. A friendship that was able to survive this seemed to wither immediately at the prospect of one of the girls getting an internship over the other. Best friends Holly and Georgia barely talk throughout the series except to confront each other. It seems unlikely that years of friendship could be destroyed through simple jealously.
Another fascinating character was the girl’s flatmate Elizabeth. She is the only normal one in the whole series, yet is still a little too creepy. Why does she constantly keep track of everyone’s movements? Why does she know everything about the clique, yet not go for the internship herself? I expected Elizabeth to be part of the mysterious goings-on at the company, but instead she was simply used as an accessory for Holly. A red herring? Maybe. But for one of the most interesting characters, it does seem like a waste of potential.
The truth behind the company is revealed bit by bit in a touching way, with each discovery Holly makes being overlooked by the imagined ghost of Fay. A series of intriguing flashbacks reveal Holly’s guilt behind the death of the child, and how she sees saving Georgia from Fay’s fate as repentance for her mistake.
If the programme had been left there, it could have tied up all the loose ends without losing the mystery of the story. However, the final twist in the last episode – when intern Rachel is revealed to be Holly’s long-lost best friend – adds an element too far to the already unwieldy narrative. Dramas too often turn out this way by ruining themselves in the last episode. You desperately seek a conclusion, but all you are left with is more questions.
What starts off as your average teen drama quickly spirals out of control into a tale of deceit, betrayal and scheming. Ultimately this psychological thriller is about the importance of friendship, encased in a wild goose chase featuring crime lords, dodgy companies and murder. But I feel that this theme does get slightly lost among the glamour, just like Holly and Georgia.
You can watch the six-part series here.