TV: Control Z (Season 1)

It’s embarrassing to admit that I started watching Control Z because I thought it was a science fiction series. By the end of the first episode, I realized the trailer and title had misled me, and I’d stumbled into a heightened-reality Mexican teen drama. It occurred to me, though, that to a viewer from 1995 this might still very much look like science fiction. Unfortunately, its social politics might also have come from that era.

Set at the posh National School in Mexico City, Control Z focuses its lens on a collection of privileged students whose lives are turned upside when a hacker takes advantage of the school’s inadequate network security to access everyone’s phones. What follows is a reign of psychological terror, as the hacker uses stolen data to manipulate everyone, threatening to reveal everyone’s secrets. Enter Sofía Herrera (Ana Valeria Becerril), a whip-smart loner with a razor-keen eye for detail, who has the antisocial habit of knowing everything about everybody. Sofía, who has her own closet skeletons to conceal, sets about using her deductive powers to uncover the hacker’s identity and end the school’s collective nightmare. With the help of nice-guy new kid Javier Williams (Michael Ronda), Sofía wades hip-deep into the school’s dirty laundry to investigate the crime, working hard to solve it before it changes—or ruins—everyone’s lives.

Control Z is compelling enough, and Becerril is a charismatic presence who holds the lead appealingly. There are also fine performances from the rest of the cast, particularly Patricio Gallardo, Zión Moreno, and Yankel Stevan. And at first, it looks like it’s shaping up to be an upbeat hybrid of Veronica Mars and Skins, with Sofía and Javier bringing a plucky Veronica/Wallace-like chemistry to a seedy teen noir case. Unfortunately, Control Z doesn’t really have a coherent point of view; it’s largely an exercise in clever plot, characterized by soapy high drama and outrageous emotional explosions. Alas, what messaging is on display doesn’t amount much more than punching-down nihilism about how terrible both people and technology can be. Ultimately, it ends on an abrupt and unsatisfying cliffhanger, mystery solved but tension unresolved. It’s a well made, watchable show, and I quite liked the ensemble, but I left it questioning the time investment.

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