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Claudia Winkleman and the cast of season two of The Traitors UK (Photo: Supplied)
Claudia Winkleman and the cast of season two of The Traitors UK (Photo: Supplied)

Pop CultureFebruary 2, 2024

Why is The Traitors UK so bloody good?

Claudia Winkleman and the cast of season two of The Traitors UK (Photo: Supplied)
Claudia Winkleman and the cast of season two of The Traitors UK (Photo: Supplied)

Tara Ward on why The Traitors UK might just be the best reality show… ever.

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Season two of The Traitors UK came to a dramatic end this week, and with it, one of the most thrilling reality shows I’ve seen in a long time. For those yet to discover the delights of the award-winning series, The Traitors is a murder-mystery game that takes a group of strangers, chucks them in a Scottish castle and asks them to knock each other off. Three people are secretly chosen as Traitors (responsible for “murdering” the other players one by one), while the rest become Faithfuls (they must turn detective, expose the Traitors and banish them from the game, before they themselves are murdered).

In a delicious twist, the Faithfuls and Traitors have to work together to raise money for the prize pool by competing in a series of delightfully weird missions. If the Faithfuls weed out the Traitors at the end of the game, they win the money, but if a single Traitor remains standing at the end, they take all the cash. It sounds complicated, but in reality, The Traitors is simple. It’s an intriguing game of strategy, skill and luck, and season two delivered oodles of heart-stopping, mind-boggling, absolutely gripping telly. Here’s a few thoughts on why The Traitors UK is so bloody good.

It feels like a Shakespearean tragedy

What’s that sound? It’s old mate Shakespeare rolling in his grave, wishing he’d thought up this classic battle of good and evil. The Traitors is pure theatre, from the dramatic Highland setting to the big tartan curtains in the castle, to the traitors lurking in those long, dark cloaks. Tragic heroes everywhere! Hubris aplenty! Greed and revenge for all! If murder be the food of love, then crack on, as The Bard loved to say.

But also, it’s absolutely bonkers

See again: those cloaks, those missions, someone saying “am I or amn’t I” and meaning it. Also, every one of host Claudia Winkelman’s outfits was gorgeous and suitably ridiculous, and surely I cannot be the only one spending their free time Googling “where can I get Claudia’s coat that looks like Dougal from The Magic Roundabout”? Didn’t think so.

It features a cast of regular people 

The Traitors UK reminded me how fun it is to watch a cast of quirky regular people who, by virtue of only being themselves, make truly captivating television. While The Traitors NZ features a mix of celebrities and “normies” together, the game seems to unfold more organically with a civilian cast. Players like clairvoyant Tracey and chess master Anthony arrive as strangers and must quickly build relationships to survive the game, and with such a diverse mix of ages, backgrounds and personalities, we get to watch people who are essentially like us play a game that’s like no other.

These strangers arrive without preconceived ideas about who their mysterious competition is, which is different to The Traitors NZ, where half the cast attended each other’s weddings. Plus, this season’s Traitors were more ruthless and calculated than last season, and you’ll rarely see those sort of shady shenanigans from a celebrity influencer whose livelihood depends on securing that lovely new teeth whitening campaign. You heard it here first: please put regular people in everything.

A typically low key scene from season two of The Traitors UK (Photo: Supplied)

It’s the perfect length for a reality TV series 

The Traitors UK only has 12 episodes, but I hereby petition (ie I write my name in chalk on a piece of slate) for every TV show to be no longer than this. It’s the perfect length to pull you into the drama, get you hooked and then leave you wanting more, and it means the tension never wanes. Imagine if Love Island or Married at First Sight was only 12 episodes?! Good luck to one and all.

Maybe Claudia Winkleman is the best traitor of all

It’s a wild idea, but so is banishing a player because they didn’t raise a glass of water during a toast. Claudia Winkleman plays the perfect game as host of The Traitors, treating the Traitors and Faithfuls exactly the same, never dropping her guard or playing favourites. She is equal parts aloof and kind, stern and darkly funny, and she also doesn’t mind running into the dining room and cackling like she just stole the immunity shield. The way she shut that coffin lid in episode seven? Give her all the BAFTAs.

The finale was the best episode of reality TV…ever?  

I haven’t shouted so much at the television since the first Survivor finale when Susan dropped her famous “snakes and rats” speech. Without spoiling it, this finale was a masterful piece of television that climaxed with a shocking, unpredictable, emotional final banishment. I’m still thinking about it days later. It was a tactical masterclass – The Traitors at its finest.

Seasons one and two of The Traitors UK streams on Three Now.

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