mon 20/05/2024

The Traitors, Series 2, BBC One review - back to the mind-labyrinth | reviews, news & interviews

The Traitors, Series 2, BBC One review - back to the mind-labyrinth

The Traitors, Series 2, BBC One review - back to the mind-labyrinth

Spoiler-free paean to keeping the murder mystery game fresh

'Still the very best in pure TV entertainment'

Asking whether there could be an end to melody given only 12 notes to work with, Sergey Prokofiev compared the possibilities to a chess game: “for the fourth move of the White there will be about 60 million variants.”

So it is with the basic formula of The Traitors, subject to the infinite variety of human foibles, ambiguities and treachery, plus superficial twists introduced by the master planners, with the wry and stylishly, sometimes outrageously, clad Claudia Winkleman as their conduit.

This is one game show that shows little signs of getting tired. The contestants are knowing when they arrive for the set-up, and there’s surely a wee bit of faking surprise at the beautifully-located Scottish castle and other peripherals they will have seen in Series 1. But bring on the selection of the initial three Traitors whose task it is to blindside the Faithful and bump them off one by one, and the unpredictable begins.

I’ll confess I didn’t stay with the American version: too many telly-experienced contestants, and a surprising disappointment in arch host Alan Cumming. But the Brits are a very mixed bunch, and if the inevitable moving stories are behind many of them – I won’t even mention these, since the programmers only choose to reveal some of the histories at a relatively late stage – they run the gamut of ordinary-yet-extraordinary human beings. The ones you think are smart reveal surprising chinks in their armoury: why should one of them, for instance, make a judgment based on taking against another competitor before the Traitor selection has even begun? And let’s just say there’s an unforced error at a very late stage which makes for sheer exasperation (but excellent TV). The Traitors Season Two FuneralSometimes we could do without the group tasks, though several are laugh-out-loud funny – bird-call identification and imitation springs immediately to mind – and most show off the pluck of the competitors. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that a mock-funeral game should have become an instant classic (Winkleman pictured above). This, as much as the mind-games around the table when an eviction has to be made based on who the majority of the voters think is a Traitor, must mess with the heads of our doughty combatants. Bravo, in all the outdoor sequences, to the filming – Scottish beauty virtually hands it on a plate – and the rich variety of it all.

The viewer is, of course, placed in the superior position of knowing who the genial assassins are, and liable to wonder how the Faithful can be so stupid: easier judged than being in the thick of it. Even so, you want to scream when "100 per cent" becomes a cliche – how can any of the Faithful be sure of anything? – and the fact that few have learned how one may "smile and smile and yet be a villain". Our own emotions are played with when we think we hate a liar who’s only playing a game, only to find the person sympathetic at unexpected points (I wish I could offer chapter and verse, but this review should serve to some as an encouragement to watch from the start). We miss the clever ones who meet their doom for that very reason. There’s one very rancorous and uncomfortable episode towards the end before our finalists decide they love each other dearly. Until… Well, let’s just say that the last battle is just as stomach-flipping as it was the last time. Still the very best in pure TV entertainment.

The mock funeral, as much as the mind-games around the table, must have messed with the heads of our doughty combatants


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters