Netflix’s ‘The Mole’ Delivers the Best Kind of Reality Drama

Netflix’s reboot of the early 2000s cult hit couldn’t be a better fit for today’s audience.

“The Mole” is your next reality TV obsession.

Netflix has rebooted the competition series, which originally premiered in 2001 on ABC. Anderson Cooper, Ahmad Rashad, and Jon Kelley served as hosts for all seven years of the series. Alex Wagner introduces the Netflix reboot, which is now streaming.

The basic premise of “The Mole” is that a group of contestants complete various physical and mental challenges to win cash prizes, but one of them is a mole, tasked by the producers to sabotage the missions and not get caught by the other competitors. . . Each mission includes twists where contestants can add more money to their collective prize or personal win, as well as risk losing it all for the group. After each mission, the contestants take a quiz to see how much they know about the mole, and the person with the most wrong answers is eliminated.

The actual gameplay aspect of “The Mole” can be dense at times, but viewers don’t need to struggle to understand every rule of every mission from the start. As with most challenging games, things fall into place once the players are in the action, and watching them in action is the most entertaining part. Challenges include walking down river rapids, stealing cargo from moving trains, and hiking through the woods, usually to retrieve boxes full of cash (or in one case, gold) prizes. It doesn’t matter what their specific tasks are or how much money they can earn, as long as they complete the challenges on time and without ruining the game for others.

Reality is one of the main genres of comfort TV, whether it’s the simplicity of watching contestants answer trivia questions or the sheer chaos of something like “Love is Blind.” (Yes, also on Netflix). “The Mole” strikes a different but powerfully satisfying note with its intricate challenges, mind games, and sabotage. It’s both cerebral and physical, even when viewed from the couch, an interesting confluence of 2022 itself, where everyone has experienced being stuck indoors and craving mental exercise through games and apps. It will have viewers itching to go to an escape room or search for Wordle and its many offshoots, or book a vacation that involves a lot of hiking just to feel the adrenaline rush these players seem drenched in. When players crack codes based on the periodic table or discover how magnetic chess pieces, a stool, and mysterious photographs work together, the audience can play along.

“The mole”

COURTESY OF NETFLIX

“The Mole” isn’t immune to reality TV tropes: heroes and villains, melodramatic editing, people misbehaving when they have a camera in front of them. But these are all staples of the genre, almost insignificant so many years after reality TV’s pop culture stranglehold, and “The Mole” ditches much of the interpersonal drama in favor of quests, gameplay, and the opportunity to speculate on. Who. or is not the mole. When it comes to prize money or avoiding elimination, players will stop at nothing to save their own skins and are refreshingly candid about it, even as they get coy about their mole status. Reckless acts like these increase with each episode, raising the stakes and the suspense.

But if anything, the reality TV drama could be ticked off; Due to the show’s dense competition element, you miss out on the player-versus-player drama, conversation, and downtime. Early on, a player claims one of his fellow competitors as a friend, a relationship that comes up repeatedly, but which “The Mole” never really shows viewers because he’s busy making them break out of jail, rob fake banks, and retrieve cargo from him. Ocean bottom. In one scene, the players go swimming home, a welcome change of pace where they’re still sniffing the mole, but also enjoying each other’s company. Wagner later puts up a challenge where they just lie to each other to win quiz immunity, and it’s one of the most tense and compelling scenes yet. While the remaining five episodes may not deviate from this structure, future seasons can and should enjoy those slower moments of developing character and relationships. Dom is one of the few contestants who creates a genuine connection with the audience, talking about his mother and how it will bring him the prize money if he wins, while most of the others remain blank beyond a name and occupation. , even after five episodes. Meeting people might just not be part of the premise of “The Mole” after more recent seasons involved celebrity contestants, but making connections with the audience is key to a show’s popularity and longevity.

“The Mole” comes expertly packaged. There is no way that the competing teams are completing all the challenges within seconds of each other, that people aren’t doing it in front of the cameras and each other. but it’s just fun to buy a 45 minute episode or five. Series director Kate Douglas-Walker and the team are focused on making the game digestible, set against the beautiful backdrop of Australian nature and history. Viewers can enjoy the added audience element of constantly trying to identify the real mole through clues in the editing, production design, and more. The identity of the mole is ambiguous enough that viewers debate and theorize week after week in ways that weren’t available or even possible when the original aired, in the world before “Lost” and “Game of Thrones” and the intense online discourse – like with the QR code that Netflix released after Episode 5 for viewers to take the quiz to see if they are close to discovering the mole’s identity. The first batch of episodes makes for an easy weekend binge, and Netflix’s weekly multi-episode drops allow for a clever mix of episodic and seasonal viewing. This revival could fuel a whole new batch of reality programming for Netflix, unless someone sabotages it.

Grade B

Episodes 1-5 of “The Mole” are now streaming on Netflix. Episodes 6, 7, and 8 premiere on October 14, followed by 9 and 10 on October 21.

Disclosure: The author of this piece is an acquaintance of one of the contestants, Pranav Patel., in Season 1 of Netflix’s “The Mole.”

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