Clique delivers a slick blend of thriller and friendship throughout a whirlwind of a first series, anchored by an impressive cast and strong writing.
Devised by Jess Brittain (Skins), Clique focuses on childhood best friends Holly McStay, played by excellent newcomer Synnøve Karlsen, and Georgia Cunningham, played by Aisling Franciosi (Game of Thrones, The Fall). Trotting off to university in Edinburgh, with the best years of their lives supposedly ahead, Georgia succumbs to the seductive lure of the Solasta Intiative and its clique of girls.
The series explodes into life during the closing moments of its first episode and from there, the twists keep coming with increasing weight. Left out in the cold, compelled by a conflicting cocktail of jealousy for Georgia’s newfound role and worry for her best friend, Holly pushes her way into the clique.
However, Holly begins to unravel corruption at Solasta’s very core, spliced with lavish parties, power and glamour. Finding herself faced with terrible darkness and looming danger, can she pull her best friend out? Or will Holly herself succumb to the seductions of Solasta, or fall to the lurking danger?
Brittain manages to successfully balance those thriller aspects, which fuel the series, alongside friendship, which is undoubtedly Clique’s core.
Throughout its six episodes, Clique never gives you all the answers – even in the finale. Having said that, it gives enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and hungry for more. It’s well paced and the twists pack a punch, with the concluding moments to episode 5 especially proving particularly shocking. It’s not afraid to go dark. It fully exploits the terror in its increasingly twisted material, genuinely leaving you fearing for Holly and Georgia as they sink deeper into this disturbing world.
Brittain manages to successfully balance those thriller aspects, which fuel the series, alongside friendship, which is undoubtedly Clique’s core. There’s a veritable patchwork of different friendships and relationships which all impressively intertwine and are given enough meat to matter. A particularly touching scene during the third episode in which Holly coaches Georgia through an anxiety attack typifies this, selling their friendship in a raw, beautiful way.
Although the friendships are fleshed out, there are certain characters who perhaps never really develop past their introduction, but it’s understandable considering the finite episode count and wealth of material to chew through.
The series is further enhanced by a haunting score and smart cinematography – especially gorgeous during the climax to episode 6. But it’s perhaps the cast that really allows this series to flourish, none more so than lead, Synnøve Karlsen.
In what’s her first major role (and surely the first of many more), Karlsen is a revelation. As with 13 Reasons Why, a lot of Clique’s success rests on having a lead we root for as we venture through this murky world. Holly is exactly that. She’s not perfect and that’s part of her appeal. She’s flawed. A troubled past is steadily revealed to us through brief, albeit effective, flashbacks.
In what’s her first major role (and surely the first of many more), Karlsen is a revelation.
Holly is genuinely interesting and Karlsen anchors her with likeability, tenacity and hits the emotional beats when she’s tasked with them. Whether it’s anger or despair, Karlsen powers everything she can into these scenes and has you believing her every step of the way.
She’s supported by the arguably underused Aisling Franciosi as Georgia, who delivers with all she’s given. Together, the girls sell a friendship that began in childhood, proving an appropriate heart for the series among the hammer blows of the various twists.
Louise Brealey (Sherlock) is formidable as Jude McDermid, the girls’ professor with an unapologetic view on feminism, while Sorcha Groundsell has you smitten with Holly’s fellow student Elizabeth. Rachel Hurd-Wood (Home Fires, Peter Pan) is the best of the clique of girls as she plays Rachel Maddox with an increasing variety of different levels. Mark Strepan as Rory has his moments as Holly’s love interest, while Emun Elliott (Threesome, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is entertaining as Jude’s brother, Alistair.
Although a twisted wider world looms large throughout Clique, it’s a show about friendship and never forgets this.
It’s a show refreshingly led by women and explores the pressures girls face with university and beyond. It’s a complex look at modern day feminism and both what men can do to women, if allowed, and what women can do to women, dressed in the guise of a psychological thriller.
Although a twisted wider world looms large throughout Clique, it’s a show about friendship and never forgets this. Brittain gets it just right, balancing the elements, making for a meaty, entertaining watch which has exceeded my expectations over the last six weeks.
It’s not perfect, but there is no doubt it warrants a second series – should Brittain be willing to provide.