Revenge is a dish best served cold. Only, what happens when instead of being served a plate full of sweet vengeance it’s the bitter taste of regret? Netflix’s latest teen drama Control Z aims to answer that question with 8 episodes of mystery wrapped up in high school politics, hierarchical character drama and a simple but effective mystery hook. It is a little rough around the edges to begin with but if you can persevere with this one, there’s actually some good stuff that’s well worth sticking around for.
The story itself revolves around outcast Sofia. Through an early and relatively cliched musical montage we see her high school consumed by their mobile phones and wrapped up in their own cliques and issues. When new boy Javier arrives in class and takes a shining to her, the two start to hit it off, as Sofia shows off her inquisitive detective skills (which are basically just obvious observations to be fair).
It’s not until near the end of the first episode where things start to get interesting when a hacker takes control of an assembly and spills damning secrets about one of the girls at school. As the balance of power starts to shift, the anonymous hacker known as @allyoursecrets makes their presence felt. As more secrets about other students begin to spill out, Sofia and Javier form an unlikely team and try to work out what’s happening and more importantly, just who the hacker is.
Without giving too much away, the series does well to consistently throw curve-balls into the fold but admittedly the opening 20 minutes or so do feel very cliched as these different archetypal characters show up. The quiet class bully, the popular girls, the preppy, athletic boys and all the other cliques in between are present and this may put some people off.
It’s worth sticking it out with this one though because where Control Z stands out is the way it turns these tropes upside down and presents a completely different side to almost every character. Expect plenty of emotional character drama to spill over through the season and although some of the early romantic implications act as simple foreshadowed moments for later in the show, seeing the chaos ensue at school is reason enough to stick with this. All the different tight-knit groups implode, outcasts rise up and the balance of power shifts making for a pretty decent character study.
Stylistically, the series uses a lot of musical cutaways and montage segments as well as plenty of floating emojis and translucent videos to show what each student is looking at on their phone. There’s a lot of themes explored during this time including online bullying, manipulation, sexism, racism and everything in between but Control Z actually handles this material pretty well and it never feels overly preachy or agenda-driven which is good.
The episodes are pretty easy to get through, with each clocking in around 30 minutes or so, and although the show is unlikely to hit the same heights as other foreign high school dramas of its kind, it’s another decent enough watch nonetheless. It can be a little too soapy and melodramatic at times, while the main narrative perhaps has one too many twists for its own good, but if you can persevere through the rocky opening episode and take to some of the usual tropes from his genre, Control Z may have enough in it to see you through to the climactic end.
Control Z releases on Netflix worldwide May 22nd 2020.
Verdict - 6.5/10