The sophomore season of Netflix’s reality/game show adds more intrigue & double dealing to the mix.
Netflix is back with the second season of The Circle, the social media reality game show where contestants compete to be influencers, wielding their power to block their rivals and win $100,000. Season one was a lovefest, with bro-y Joey Sasso winning by playing honestly (aka “The Sasso Way”) and befriending his competitors. The contestants of season two of The Circle are less interested in making friends and more interested in strategy, dialing up the drama, and building alliances within the first four episodes.
If you’re late to The Circle, the premise of the show is that strangers live alone in apartments in the same building. They only interact with each other via “The Circle,” the game’s social media platform. Each of them creates user profiles, choosing to either be themselves or be a “catfish” (i.e. using someone else’s photos to lie about their identity). There are group chats, DMs, and games aplenty, with rounds of players rating each other from first to last. The top two rated players become influencers and choose a player to block from “The Circle,” kicking them out of the game. With twists and turns and dreaded alerts lurking around every corner, the object is to be the last influencer standing, winning a $100K prize.
The contestants this season are an entertaining mix of real personas and catfishes. Amongst the real personas are Bryant, a breathwork instructor who’s playing the game because “This might be my last lifetime, so I’m going to go for it.” Savannah hopes to put her data research career to the test in the game, using her analytic skills to kick out catfish. An interesting strategy, but she’ll also have to compete with teacher Terilisha, whose calculating tactics lead to strong alliances and even stronger haters.
She’ll have to watch out for Deleesa, who’s catfishing as single father “Trevor.” Joining in the catfishing is Jack, a male college student playing as a female college student named “Emily.” Another catfish is Lee, a 58-year-old romance novelist playing a 24-year-old waiter named “River.” Lee is one of my favorites so far, creating the hashtag #JFTF which means “Just for the Fun” and saying things like “Circle, you are so lit.” Courtney walks the line between catfishing and revealing his real persona, hiding his “entertainment host” career behind the veneer of a “barista.”
The contestants of season two are less interested in making friends and more interested in strategy, dialing up the drama, and building alliances within the first four episodes.
This is also the first season introducing some “celebrities” into the game. The first celeb is Chloe from Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle. She’s playing as herself, dropping in her signature “babes” catchphrase, and trying to get a grasp of the American lingo as she’s the only Brit in the game. Then there is *NSYNC’s Lance Bass…or should I say Lance Bass’s assistant Lisa, who is playing as her boss. The reactions to “Lance” are a healthy mix of skepticism (why would a rich celebrity play a game show?) and bewilderment (some of the younger players don’t know Lance’s previous boy band *NSYNC). Watching Lee as “River” do the mental gymnastics to figure out if it’s the real Lance Bass is fascinating – would a 24-year-old have a full-blown “fangirl” moment, or would he play it cool?
Back to guide us through the episodes is host Michelle Buteau. She appears once at the beginning to welcome us to the season, then exists as energetic voiceovers to pull the audience into the world of the Circle. Buteau is a great choice to host the show as she calls out the ridiculousness of The Circle without being condescending.And at the very least, her snark was comforting when half the contestants didn’t know *NSYNC.
Netflix has only dropped the first four episodes, but there’s plenty of tension and drama to kick off the season. The players seem pulled apart into teams by the first two influencers, Savannah and Terilisha. They had a tense deliberation when deciding the first player to block, sending them on a tempestuous path that ignited a feud and started some fiery reality tv drama. Helping to fan the flames are new constructs to the game, such as introducing access to “The Inner Circle.” We’ll have to wait for the next episode to see the reveal of “The Inner Circle,” but it’s an engaging twist that will leave the audience waiting for more episodes to drop on April 21st.
The idea of watching people live alone in apartments and shouting at screens in their homes might not sound too appealing, especially after most of us have been quarantined and doing just that (aka living #TheCircleLife) for well over a year at this point. The appeal of The Circle is seeing the players decide how much truth to reveal in the game. They can choose to either strip away their profile persona or double down on the identity they present. In a world where social media is an ever-present utility, we all make similar decisions daily, just without the promise of $100,000. The Circle may be a game show, but it’s also a microcosm of society as a whole, showing a hypercharged reality basing survival of the fittest (or “Influencers”) based on ratings and rankings. As Terilisha says in episode 4, “All is fair in Circle and war.”
Season 2 of The Circle is now available on Netflix.