TV Review: The Way

Created by James Graham, Michael Sheen and Adam Curtis, The Way is a quirkily ambitious but overstuffed piece of TV

“Maybe you could come to Łódź, maybe”

Coming from the illustrious trio of writer James Graham, actor and activist Michael Sheen and celebrated documentarian Adam Curtis, The Way certainly has creative heavyweights behind it. Over its three ambitious and adventurous hours of storytelling, it is clear that they’ve been allowed free rein to let their imaginations run wild in a plausibly near-future version of our world that doesn’t feel too far removed from our own. It’s possible they may have roamed just a touch too far.

Set in Port Talbot, the show centres on the Driscoll family who are estranged in multiple ways – Dee is leaving steelworker shop steward Geoff, their kids Owen and Thea aren’t speaking either as she arrested him for possession. When an industrial accident leads to a breakdown in communication between the Chinese management and the Welsh workforce, Dee helps to whip up support for a strike but when the British government opt to crack down hard on the burgeoning civil obedience, tensions explode into a conflict akin to civil war.

The first episode is excellent, setting up this extraordinary situation in circumstances that are believably ordinary but also pushing it further with hints of mythology sitting alongside archive footage, radically political action mixed with intensely personal debate. As the older couple, Steffan Rhodri and Mali Harries are painfully well-observed as they work through their disappointments, and Sophie Melville and Callum Scott Howells are both excellent as the squabbling siblings.

As the inflamed situation leads them all to flee Wales and essentially become refugees, they’re left with no choice but to confront everything between them all and here, The Way loses, well, its way a bit. It becomes less unique as the focus shifts to the family dynamic away from the societal shifts explored earlier on. But as the list of topics considered covers globalisation, xenophobia, treatment of refugees, multi-generational trauma, technological progress, corporate greed, the role of mythology and more besides, it can’t hope to explore them all significantly.

At three hour-long episodes though, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. And the fast-paced storytelling means there’s tons of bright cameos – Danny Sapani, Luke Evans, Georgia Tennant, Patrick Baladi and more pop up as people-smugglers, mercenaries, foursome-havers and more. With lines like “The British don’t revolt, they just grumble”, it’s also darkly funny at times which makes it watchable if not quite entirely satisfying in the end.

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