Last year, as we prepared to be stuck indoors and stare at screens for amusement, Netflix fatefully delivered exactly what we needed: a reality competition about people stuck indoors, staring at screens for amusement.
Though it technically premiered before the pandemic began, "The Circle" became one of the earliest COVID breakthrough hits, its isolated competitors providing odd comfort and escapism during our own isolation.
And unlike some of the early pandemic streaming crazes that we now look back on with regret – oh hi "Tiger King"! – "The Circle" wasn't just good because we were desperate for something to take our minds off of (*gestures at everything*). It was actually good – bizarre considering, on paper, it definitely shouldn't be. After all, it's a show about people glaring at screens while reading text messages back and forth – not exactly a scintillating television concept. But thanks to its charming batch of inaugural contestants, clever blend of cold strategy and warm humanity, and host Michelle Buteau's genuinely funny quippy asides (hard to find amongst Netflix's competition shows; just ask "Floor is Lava" or "Too Hot to Handle"), "The Circle" earned its influencer status.
And now it's also earned a second season, dropping new episodes on Netflix these past several weeks.
The premise is the same for round two: Several strangers move into separate apartments in the same circle-emblazoned complex (that, despite what the B-roll says, is not located in Milwaukee), linked only by a social media network called The Circle. There, they communicate with each other, post photos, play games and strategize – whether as themselves or as a "catfish," aka a fake identity. Throughout the game, they rank their fellow players from favorite to least favorite; those at the top of the leaderboard get "influencer" status while those at the bottom are at risk of getting "blocked," aka eliminated from the game. At the end, the most liked player – or at least the one who played the game the best – gets the title of "The Circle" champion ... oh, and $100,000.
But while the outline is the same, season two feels very different. While season one was very chummy amongst the contestants, season two is cutthroat, and strategy is in the front seat as opposed to sincerity. Also, instead of the usual blend of new everyday faces, there's some oddly familiar faces this season – from a contestant from another Netflix reality show (hey, you already had your chance to take the Big Red Streaming Monolith's money!) to the brother of a past "Circle" contestant to a YouTube personality and ... Lance Bass? And, in perhaps the biggest twist of all, no one seems to know what NSYNC was. Great, now I feel old.
What better way to take in a reality show about people talking on social media than by talking to people on social media about it? So, just like with season one, I took to Facebook Live to chat about it all. And with this week marking the finale, there's A LOT to talk about. How will Chloe react when she discovers Trevor ... isn't Trevor? Will the rest of the cast be as charmed by Lisa and Jack as I am? Will Savannah and Terilisha still be at each other's throats? And most importantly, who will come away the winner of "The Circle" season two?!
Let's drink and talk about it (and drink more about it):
The finale recap
Episodes 9-12 recap
Episodes 5-8 recap
Episodes 1-4 recap
And now on to the next streaming binge watch! Cheers!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.