Anna Dodd, English Literature, Second Year.
Season 1 of The Traitors hit BBC One in November of last year, attaining an unprecedented popularity, pulling in a total of over 34 million views by the end of February 2023. Season 2 has seen an unsurprisingly similar level of success, with a staggering 7 million people tuning in to the final on Friday. Whether it’s the loveable contestants, Claudia Winkleman and her fabulous fringe, or just the sheer tension of the game, something about the show works and it has earned its place as a true staple of British reality TV.
The format is simple. Recognisable in its resemblance to party games such as Mafia or wink murder, ‘traitors’ are selected from a group of 22 people, making the rest ‘faithfuls’, then the traitors proceed to ‘murder’ a faithful every night (or stealthily choose to recruit one of them to their bloodthirsty crew.) It’s not all bad for the faithfuls though, as they have the chance to banish someone from their midst every night, in hopes of catching a traitor. This all takes place in the delightfully gothic setting of a castle in the Scottish Highlands, and banishments and murders are dispersed with group challenges to build the prize pot. If there are traitors left in by the final, they take home a sum of up to £100,000, but if they succeed in banishing them all, the faithfuls split the cash.
I admit I was a little apprehensive when Season 2 was announced, worried that the model that had worked so well the first-time round may have been tarnished by its success, with new contestants being too concerned with self-image, and having the advantage of hindsight from the previous season. As soon as I met the contestants in Episode 1 however, my fears dissolved; I knew the game was in safe hands. The brilliantly chosen line-up of contestants are truly genuine and authentic. In contrast, the US version of the franchise sees celebrities play the game, making for arguably a less engaging watch. The great thing about having a cast of ordinary people with standard jobs and lives is that it allows us as the audience to see ourselves in them.
There’s teacher Diane with her down to earth attitude, cheeky Harry, whose charisma makes him a nifty gameplayer, and savvy Jaz, whose unwavering theories and commitment earned him the nickname ‘Jazatha Christie’ on social media. So much of the shows appeal relies on the basic fact that at its core the game is all about being human. The Traitors sees the contestants lie to their peers, form alliances, stab each other in the back, and, ultimately, find intense friendships, making the game all the more emotional. Though most of us will never be thrown into a castle with 22 strangers to compete for a cash prize on national telly, the experience is recognisably human; we all know what it’s like to feel unfairly targeted or be spoken about behind your back, and so we empathise on a real level how the contestants are feeling when they interact in this way.
Season 2 cannot be acclaimed without finally mentioning Claudia Winkleman as the host and heart of the show. She is the perfect woman for the job, whether she is slyly announcing murders at breakfast or brandishing a traitor cloak to the camera in a POV style, (as if we the audience are in the game!) she is an absolute firecracker to watch.
The show aired over the course of a month, with three episodes per week, allowing the viewer to spend just the right amount of time with the show. This choice effectively sustained tension throughout the series, making it feel addictive. The BBC truly have lightning in a bottle in their hands with The Traitors, with the charm lying in the characters who play the game. This creates a kind of magical ability for the outcome to be different and unpredictable every single time, and this is what will have me, and the rest of the nation, coming back for more next year.
Have you watched The Traitors?