The Control Room is a three-part drama on BBC Two, starting on 17th July 2022. It follows emergency call operator, Gabriel, who receives a call from a distressed woman who seems to know him. She claims to have killed somebody, but doesn’t give her name or location. Gabriel proceeds to make some life-altering decisions to find the woman, leading him all the way back to his childhood. Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews this murky and fast-paced TV drama.
The first episode of The Control Room got me hooked straight away; there’s nothing I love more than a good crime drama combined with a twisty story. Plus, the protagonist, Gabriel (or Gabo, as he is affectionately called over the phone by the elusive mystery woman), is instantly likeable. Unlike with some of these BBC dramas, his character is believable, and he doesn’t attempt to adopt the unrealistic ‘hero’ stance that is so often the case with protagonists; he is a man quite overwhelmed by his situation. As viewers, we pity him for this, and well done to Iain De Caestecker for his portrayal.
Surel the bad guys wouldn’t really go that far to get what they want
Unfortunately, the high of the first episode was not to last. The creators of the show seemed to display a somewhat clear pathway for the story to follow initially, but then it seemed to, quite literally, lose the plot! I won’t give away any spoilers, but the whole reason for the phone call just doesn’t seem realistic; surely, the ‘bad guys’ wouldn’t really go that far to get what they want.
Joanna Vanderham’s take on the second protagonist, Sam, was frankly irritating. Half the time, the look of surprise on her face almost convinced me that her eyes were about to pop out of her head. Alright for pantomime, but a little overdone for a BBC series! The actress playing the child version of Sam was better, and, surprisingly, more likeable, despite the fact that her dialogue was about as long as a shopping list. It was hard to see any similarities between the younger Sam and the older Sam; the match in this case wasn’t very good.
The atmosphere of the series lent itself to an almost horror-esque tone, which wasn’t really what The Control Room was meant to be. The gloomy shots of the Christmas tree field, and the supernatural-like burning of the barn felt like something out of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or even an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The last scene between the ‘baddies’ and the ‘goodies’, felt drawn out, and whilst tense, was rather anti-climactic. And the very final scene between Gabriel and his dad just felt out of place, as if it had been ‘thrown in’, simply to provide some closure to the family-drama elements of the show.
Overall, whilst not terrible, this was a very mediocre show that I wish I hadn’t bothered with. Once I had started it, I wanted to finish, simply to find out what it was all about! But even after finding out, it still didn’t leave much of an impact. In a series where the almost silent child characters are more engaging than their adult counterpoints, no more really needs to be said.
Featured Image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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