A star rating of 3 out of 5.

For a show with a bold and timely plot, and an absolutely stacked cast, it's telling that most of the talk around The Way centres on the team behind the camera.


The series comes from a creative team made up of writer James Graham, known for his stage work and creating the BBC crime drama Sherwood, Michael Sheen, with the Good Omens star making his directorial debut here, and Adam Curtis, the documentarian turning his eye, for the first time, to drama.

It's a bold mash-up of creative forces, and one which is immediately evident on screen – these three people have all brought something unique to the table, and are clearly passionate about the project.

The collaboration makes for a series which is innovative, eye-catching and thought-provoking, but also a little messy and overblown. It really is ambitious to a fault.

The Way centres on the Driscoll family, made up of Geoff (Steffan Rhodri), his wife Dee (Mali Harries), their daughter Thea (Sophie Melville) and their son Owen (Callum Scott Howells).

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The cast of The Way standing by a wooden building, looking confused
The cast of The Way. BBC

When a civil uprising starts in Port Talbot, and the Driscolls find themselves at the centre of it in different ways, the family, along with another young woman Anna (Maja Laskowska), decide to flee their home town, their home country and their way of life, becoming a form of refugees in the process.

That is, of course, just the story in a nutshell, but there is so much more going on throughout these three hours of television. The series explores modernity, culture, community, globalisation, family, technology, inequality, xenophobia, mythology, generational trauma and so much more.

In many ways it feels like a treatise on modern life and the human condition, one which uses the micro of a single family to explore the macro of... well, everything, all of human history and society.

Steffan Rhodri pointing and making an impassioned speech at a meeting in The Way
Steffan Rhodri in The Way BBC

It's not hard to see Curtis's influence here. Not only has the unconventional documentarian had an impact on the show's visual aesthetic, with archive footage being used to illustrate thematic underpinnings throughout, but his fingerprints are also all over the show's tone, and the heady discussions it's having with the audience.

Like Curtis's documentaries such as, most famously, HyperNormalisation, The Way is fascinating and thought-provoking, but can be somewhat impregnable, perplexing and overwhelming.

In some ways, this is balanced out by what we can assume to be Graham's focus on character and family dynamics, but in others, this just makes the whole thing even more packed with ideas, concepts and story points – it's absolutely brimming at the seams, and with only three hours to play with, this mean's something's got to give.

The end result leaves some of the show's explorations and story threads feeling incomplete and underdeveloped, and the central through-line of the family's journey feeling cluttered and without focus. It also feels as though it, at times, loses sight of its emotional hook, only recovering it in the show's final, admittedly powerful, moments.

Callum Scott Howells with his mouth open wide, shouting at a riot police officer in The Way
Callum Scott Howells in The Way BBC

Thankfully, for those tuning in specifically to see Sheen's directorial debut, they won't be disappointed. Here, he displays a strong command of tone, as well as a distinctive sense of both visual and narrative style.

The series flits between a foreboding, horror-infused atmosphere to comic family bickering and absurd character introductions with apparent ease, and yet still feels like a cohesive whole, even if it is overflowing in other ways.

As with so many actors-turned-directors, he also manages to get the most out of his cast, with each of the central plays delivering strong, nuanced performances. Particular shout-outs should go to Rhodri, Howells and Melville, each of whom have perhaps the most emotionally taxing roles and carry them off with aplomb.

Meanwhile, the series also sees a vast array of stars make limited, cameo-like appearances across the run, including Luke Evans, Patrick Baladi, Georgia Tennant and Danny Sapani, to name just a few.

Sophie Melville wearing a police uniform in The Way
Sophie Melville in The Way. BBC

These additional characters help to pad out the world, and the actors behind them give the show further prestige, but they can at times feel superfluous and distracting – once again, it's a case of the series at times doing too much, rather than honing in on the characters and ideas that are at its core.

Where the series is at its strongest is in its political storyline surrounding inequality, workers rights and the unstoppable march of 'progress', and how this intersects with and can dismantle a family's personal relationships.

This is where the series is most emotionally resonant and the most astute in its observations. It's when it veers away from this that it gets somewhat lost in the weeds.

Steffan Rhodri as Geoff in The Way, looking at the camera and stood in front of a manakin wearing a red monk's robe
Steffan Rhodri as Geoff in The Way BBC/Red Seam/Jon Pountney

In so many ways, The Way feels like it should be a slam dunk – all of the ingredients are there, the collaboration between the trio at the helm is hugely enticing and the performances are top drawer.

Unfortunately it never quite reaches the same heady heights of some of the best BBC dramas, certainly not for lack of trying, but its intellectual ambitions can get in the way of its greater point, and its emotional heft.

Whatever you think of it (and my instincts tell me some viewers will absolutely love this show), it is still smart, innovative television, and deserves credit for its ambition and its flair.

As a dramatic experiment, it may not quite fire on all cylinders or coalesce perfectly. But as an advert for the concept of more experimental TV, and as a unique slice of cultural and intellectual interrogation, it is far more impressive.

The Way will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer from 6am on Monday 19th February, and will air on BBC One from 9pm the same day.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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