An ode to Paul from The Traitors: Reality TV’s ultimate villain

Give the man an OBE for services to great telly

There was a lot of trepidation for The Traitors series two – along with the excitement. Season one was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, and I did wonder if perhaps BBC had caught lightening in a bottle with how thrilling things turned out. The perfect casting, and the perfect selection of just the right people as Traitors. It also had the novelty of no one playing the game having any game plan to compare to or any rules of what was necessarily suspicious behaviour or not, which gave Wilf a good base to play a blinding game where he had no suspicion at all and might have won it all had it not been for Kieran’s controversial “parting gift”. But those fears and worries needn’t have happened – because The Traitors series two is arguably stronger than the first. And one of the reasons why this series of The Traitors has been as good as it’s been is because of Paul.

I heard your gasps, I heard your horror. There has been nothing short of loathing for Paul online since Claudia Winkleman committed life’s most fateful shoulder tap and declared the man a Traitor. Paul took on this task like a duck to water. For the first few weeks, it looked like nothing could stop him. He raised no suspicions in the group because they all really liked him, and he gave a Meryl Streepian performance of emotion every time any doubt was chucked his way. It made Paul unlikeable to the viewers, but I think a lot of people are forgetting how much shows like this need a villain.

Wilf was a ruthless Traitor in season one, but only when the chips were down. Paul was willing to be ruthless instantly. True, Ash had it coming because she was dreadful in her role – but it sort of doomed Paul because he became totally untrustworthy to the people on his own side in the long run. Paul played such a villainous game that it meant the only satisfying way he could finish The Traitors would be by getting found out. He was his own worst enemy.

Pure, delicious evil

But by doing this, Paul made TV history. His Traitors villainy makes his downfall some of the most compelling reality TV you could ever hope to watch – and I’m not being hyperbolic. He had the smug confidence of someone who genuinely thought he was cleverer than everyone there and could charm his way out of situations and win it. When viewers all knew Harry was planting seeds of doubt and Jaz didn’t trust him, Paul had no clue. He’s sort of established himself in his own head as the unofficial head Traitor. All of these unwise and over-confident decisions we simply must thank him for.

I’ve seen a lot of comments online saying Paul must be “the worst type of middle manager ever”, or going as far as to call him a sociopath or whatever. If that’s the kind of behaviour that throws you off, you’re watching the wrong game show. This is a game of ruthless lying and backstabbing, and whilst Paul went too hard and fumbled the bag too soon he played a blinder of a game. He played it so hard he became his own downfall. It was a bit Shakespearean. As Paul fell, Harry rose – because Harry being generally more malleable a guy makes him more of a hero. It’s weird, because Harry and Paul play the same role but do it so differently. Paul flaps it, pulling naysayers for intense chats trying to campaign to them he’s a Faithful whereas Harry quietly and softly sits back. When he does go in on Paul, it hits harder because he has taken his time to get to that stage of ruthless.

Writers up and down this nation could only dream of writing a villain as great as Paul was on The Traitors series two. We might celebrate him being banished and how his downfall came about, but the only reason we care is because he was such a great player and such next level TV. His casting is something to be celebrated, and whilst he is clearly a bit obnoxious in or out of the game (saying Harry learned from him how to be a good Traitor is both patronising and laughable) he is arguably the greatest thing to come out of this series. Watching The Traitors is camp pantomime, and Paul was practically brimming with supervillain menace. It won’t be the same without him

The Traitors UK season two is available on BBC iPlayer now. For more like this ode to Paul from The Traitors and for reality TV and entertainment news, like Pop Culture Shrine on Facebook

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