When you hear the name World Productions, you think thriller, you think mystery. The company has become the go-to production house for the genre, thanks to its work on Line of Duty, Vigil, Malpractice, The Suspect and more.


Now, the studio's latest effort, The Gathering, has arrived on Channel 4, and it's being sold in very much the same vein. Marketing for the series, and in fact even its title, has hyped up a central whodunnit storyline which runs through the six episodes.

However, early into the first episode it quickly becomes clear that this show isn't nearly as interested in that element as has been suggested, and neither will you be.

That's not to say the series as a whole isn't interesting, or isn't worth your time. It's just that it has a lot going on – perhaps too much – and the mystery/thriller aspect is, in truth, an unnecessary distraction.

Eva Morgan as Kelly and Sadie Soverall as Jessica in The Gathering, wearing gymnastics costumes and stood next to each other
Eva Morgan as Kelly and Sadie Soverall as Jessica in The Gathering. James Stack / Channel 4 / World Productions

The Gathering stars Eva Morgan as working-class Liverpudlian teenager Kelly, an elite gymnast in training who is still grieving her mum, who died a few years past. When she's not training, she finds an escape in free-running with a group including her friend Adam.

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Meanwhile, we also meet Sadie Soverall's Jessica, Kelly's teammate and gymnastics rival who comes from a substantially more privileged background, as well as Kelly's father Paul, played by Warren Brown, and Jessica's mother Natalie, played by Vinette Robinson.

That's really just scratching the surface – there's a whole host of other characters whose lives are intertwined with Kelly's, such as Syrian refugee Bazi, privileged and prejudiced lawyer Jules, and his secretly gay son Charlie.

The central thriller surrounds the titular gathering, an illegal rave which takes place late on in the show's timeline, at which Kelly is attacked. Throughout the series we see flash-forwards to the event, while we get to know more about the characters and why one, or any of them, could have been behind the attack.

Eva Morgan as Kelly and Warren Brown as Paul in The Gathering, sat at a table with a document in front of them
Eva Morgan as Kelly and Warren Brown as Paul in The Gathering. James Stack / Channel 4 / World Productions

It's understandable why Channel 4 and World Productions would want to hinge the show on a thriller element and a central mystery. It's far easier to sell to audiences then a straight-forward drama, particularly one with so many disparate parts at work.

However, the limited, brief flash-forwards really fail to spark the imagination or create any sort of excitement to find out the culprit of the attack. Instead, they feel strangely like an add-on, and the whole attack storyline feels lesser than everything which has come before it.

There's a sense that writer Helen Walsh doesn't care nearly as much about their element either, with it ending up feeling like an obligation rather than where the real heart of the story lies.

This would make sense. Walsh's background is in novels, getting under the skin of an area, a character, a topic in great detail, rather than constructing tightly wound puzzle-box plots or cliffhanger episode endings.

Sadie Soverall and Vinette Robinson stood looking confused at something.
Sadie Soverall and Vinette Robinson in The Gathering. James Stack / Channel 4 / World Productions

It's, therefore, perhaps unsurprising The Gathering is at its most interesting when its focus on its characters and its thematic interrogations.

The series explores class divides in a way which is far more nuanced than it may initially appear at the outset, particularly through the friendship between Kelly and Jessica and the character of Adam, who has one foot in the world of the working class and another in the middle class.

His character is one of the most fascinating of Walsh's creations, in no small part thanks to stellar work by actor Sonny Walker. In fact, the young actors here are generally strong, particularly newcomer Eva Morgan, who is a real find, while Vinette Robinson, Warren Brown and Richard Coyle put in typically assured, compelling performances.

The exploration of modern parenting is perhaps the series's strongest point and, in reality, its USP. This is really a parenting story through and through, whether it's Natalie's pushy, strict, controlling approach or Paul's more hands-off approach, the downfall of which is his overly protective nature when threatened by outsiders.

Then there's Jules, whose interactions with Charlie are at times the warmest of all, but only when his son is fitting into the rigid life structure he sees for him – if Charlie doesn't behave exactly as he expects and his world-view allow, things turn nasty.

Richard Coyle as Jules in The Gathering, wearing a suit
Richard Coyle as Jules in The Gathering. James Stack / Channel 4 / World Productions

All of these stories are distinct, authentic, and each offers a different piece of the puzzle when it comes to parenting in the modern era and the age of social media.

There are questions surrounding how much control is the right amount to exert on your children, while the series also examines how class and social expectations play into this. It's a fascinating discussion, and one the series seems desperate to have and to explore fully. The sense that we should be looking for an attacker amongst the group only detracts from this.

Another element which is perhaps underdeveloped is the story of Syrian refugee Bazi, who strikes up a relationship with Kelly, and his mysterious background and life story.

The mysteries surrounding him do unfurl throughout the series, but it does feel as though they struggle for time and prominence, given how much else is going on. Given the subject matters explored and their potential weight, this feels like a misstep and he feels like somewhat of a spare part, a holdover who should have been placed instead in his own series entirely.

Luca Kamleh-Chapman as Bazi in The Gathering, riding a bike through a street at night
Luca Kamleh-Chapman as Bazi in The Gathering. James Stack / Channel 4 / World Productions

All in all, if you're looking for a thrilling, pulse-pounding whodunnit from The Gathering, you may be left wanting. The mystery is really not all that engaging, there's too little to go on to make any sense of a guess at the ending, and the reveal itself, without giving away any spoilers, is disappointing and lacklustre.

However, if you instead arrive at it looking for a character drama, one with thoroughly explored themes surrounding parenting and class, as well as a real sense of style and vibrancy, then it could be for you.

There may be a bit too much going on at times, but the stories of these characters are propulsive enough on their own without the assault and the gathering itself hanging over everything.

It's an impressive, engaging drama in its own right, one filled with nuance and complexity. It doesn't offer easy answers or stereotypes surrounding some of the issues it raises.

Had Channel 4 and World Productions been brave enough to hang the show more on its exploration of parenting, it may have helped the latter to branch out and re-shape its image as a purveyor of all dramas, not just thrillers.

However, it seems perhaps that's not what they were going for, and who can blame them – if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's just that, with this show, one can't help but feel The Gathering is either an impressive, yet mis-marketed drama or an unsuccessful thriller.

The Gathering is available to stream now on Channel 4.


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