Ana Valeria Becerril is Sofia Hererra in Netflix's Control Z.

Control Z

Dept. of Smelly Teen Spirit


The first half of the first episode of Control Z had me thinking it was something of a modern Mexican Gossip Girl. The series opens at a high school, where we meet Sofia, our brooding, ponderous protagonist, a friendless outcast who walks the halls alone, shutting out the world with the kind of diegetic music we’ve come to expect from a Netflix series of this sort.

Three minutes later, I thought I was watching Psych.

We follow Sofi as she makes her way to class. We observe her fellow students as she does. And then, when she encounters Gerry, the school bully, we bear witness to her “special power.” Sofi, you see, is a lot like Shawn Spencer. She too has the kind of heightened observational skills that allow her to see things that others can’t; and often don’t. Here, she uses her abilities to save the school sap, Luis, from yet another beating.

It was only 20 minutes in, when the big plot device kicked in, that I realised what Control Z was. It wasn’t Gossip Girl. It wasn’t Psych. It was a cross between the two. And from that point, I just couldn’t get The Dandy Warhols out of my head.

Because Control Z is very much a loosely remade Veronica Mars.

“A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all…”

The big plot device in question takes place during a school assembly when a presentation on responsible mobile phone use is replaced by a video which reveals a damning secret about one of the girls at school. The anonymous hacker, who claims to have dirt on everyone, has all the popular kids at school running scared. And one of them, Raul (Yankel Stevan), aware of Sofi’s acute observational skills, approaches her to try and solve the mystery before all their darkest secrets are revealed.

And thus begins our eight episode whodunnit, with Sofi, along with the new kid in school, Javier, on the case.

Ana Valeria Becerril as Sofía Herrera and Yankel Stevan as Raúl León in Netflix's Control Z.

Control Z works because of the way its characters are drawn. What begins as a show about everyday archetypes – the freak, the hot girl, the jock, the overachiever, the poor little rich kid, the bully, and the bullied – is actually very much a fake out on the part of the writers. Throughout these eight episodes, the characters fall in and out of their stereotypes, using their roles as genre tropes in order to mislead you. They are cleverly employed as red herrings.

Take Javier, for example. The new kid who ends up being Sofi’s sidekick. He is a jock. He is the son of a famous footballer. And when he’s first introduced, it is done in a way that’s meant to have us judge him with the narrative baggage of every high school drama we’ve ever seen.

It is a technique that’s employed throughout the series, with every one of its characters. And it’s what keeps you guessing right up until the curtain is finally pulled back and the great and powerful Oz is revealed.

Control Z is a series that is well aware that the key to every great soap is escalation. The action, the drama, the sexual tension between the characters, the puzzle at the core of the story, all of it needs to increase in seriousness and intensity. And it does. What seems, at first, like a relatively low stakes drama, with teenagers facing incredibly first-world problems, eventually makes way to something far more interesting and, dare I say, meditative.

Ana Valeria Becerril is Sofia Hererra in Netflix's Control Z.

Ana Valeria Becerril is incredibly watchable as Sofia. She and Javier have a great Holmes and Watson dynamic that’s well written and convincingly performed. She and Raul have romantic tension that is cunningly underplayed. She portrays the character as sad but not broken. Sofi isn’t someone who can’t form meaningful relationships, she just hasn’t found anyone that she trusts enough to do so with.

The MVP of the series, however, is Patricio Gallardo’s Gerry. Ostensibly the villain of the piece, Gallardo plays the character as someone who is hateful, yet sympathetic. Which isn’t easy. Gerry is a dumb kid, who does some irredeemably horrible things. Gallardo’s performance is so controlled, always keeping Gerry on the very brink of a complete and utter breakdown, that you feel sorry for his complete lack of self-awareness.

A tense moment from Netflix's New Mexican original, Control Z.

I should point out that while the Control Z of the title refers to the computer shortcut key used to undo or reverse your previous action, the series doesn’t explicitly lean into this as a theme or a trope. In fact, it feels almost like the series creators just needed the title to imply that this was a show that’s somewhat centred around something techie.

A scene from Netflix's latest Mexican original, Control Z.

Control Z is very much an old-fashioned mystery. A relatively linear story that doesn’t rely too heavily on flashbacks or other narrative tricks in order to pull you in and keep you invested. If you enjoy your high school soaps with a side of Sherlockian intrigue, then this one’s for you.

Control Z
Netflix, Season 1, 8 episodes
Showrunner: Carlos Quintanilla
Cast: Ana Valeria Becerril, Michael Ronda, Yankel Stevan, Zión Moreno, Macarena García Romero, Andrés Baida, Patricio Gallardo, Samantha Acuña, and Rodrigo Cachero

Control Z is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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