TV Review: The Tower (Series 1)

Gemma Whelan is highly effective in the short and sharp first series of police procedural The Tower

“You’re a good detective Sarah but man do you waste your talents”

Despite a fair amount of evidence to the contrary these days, I’m always still a bit surprised when an ITV drama turns out to be really good. Anchored by a strong performance from Gemma Whelan, just about to open in Underdog: The Other Other Brontë at the National Theatre, The Tower is just that. As another police procedural it can hardly be described as essential but at a taut three episodes, it really did the job for me.

Based on the novel Post Mortem by Kate London and written by Patrick Harbinson, it opens in the distressing aftermath of an incident on the roof of a London tower block. Two people have fallen to their death, a grizzled Met police officer and a teenage Libyan girl, and the rookie constable Lizzie Adama who witnessed it soon disappears on the run. Tasked with finding out what happened on that roof, DS Sarah Collins of the internal affairs-ish Directorate of Special Investigations thus has it all to do.

There’s shades of Line of Duty to be sure, particularly as it emerges that there’s a tangled web of inter-relationships going on in this nick and as Collins tries to untangle the compromised from the corrupt, she’s met with much institutional hostility. Unrelenting in the pursuit of justice as she reads it, Gemma Whelan’s Collins is resolute in the face of this, whether in the outright antagonism of Emmett J Scanlan’s Inspecter Shaw or the mealy-mouthed word salad of Karl Davies’ DCI Baillie.

Directed by Jim Loach, the show succeeds because it balances this with playing out revelations about what happened on the roof in flashback. Nick Holder as the deceased and decidedly un-PC PC Matthews and Tahirah Sharif as Adama play out an effective storyline about the challenges of policing in contemporary British society and how bad decision-making can quickly snowball out of control. I particularly liked that The Tower offered hints of the personal lives of the police officers but didn’t make them plot points, keeping its narrative nicely streamlined and succinct.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *