'The Tower' review: Gemma Whelan on cracking form in fast-paced thriller

'The Tower' wastes no time in setting up the mystery of what happened at Portland Tower.

TV tonight Gemma Whelan plays DS Collins
(Image: © ITV)

What to Watch Verdict

The very first episode of 'The Tower' is a breezy ITV crime drama full of twists and turns.


  • +

    Gemma Whelan is a great lead

  • +

    Very fast-paced

  • +

    Loads of little mysteries to suck you in


  • -

    Plot could be a bit predictable, but let's hope not!

Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan is on fine form in ITV's latest crime drama, The Tower

The tense affair sees Whelan star as DS Sarah Collins (Gemma Whelan), who is called to Portland Tower after a veteran London police officer and a teenager fall to their deaths.

When she orders the place on lockdown and heads up to the roof, she finds young officer Lizzie Adama holding a traumatized five-year-old boy; plus DI Kieran Shaw with them. From there, Sarah and her partner, DC Steve Bradshaw, leap into action to try and get to the bottom of what really happened at Portland Tower... 

Almost immediately, it's clear that something dodgy has gone on, as Kieran Shaw tries to delay Sarah's investigation, and she starts getting pressure from her superior to close the case as soon as she can. We wonder why?

However, Sarah and Steve never get waylaid by red herrings for very long, and there are flashbacks to the events leading up to the deaths of PC Hadley Matthews and Farah Mehenni. This means the show continues to accelerate, as we never get bogged down in any side stories. 

New revelations arrive quickly, so, even if you do feel like you see something coming before the show gets there, there's bound to be something coming up to hook you right back into the investigation. Plus, there are still enough things left unsolved that will keep you coming back for more. 

As far as the cast is concerned, Emmett J Scanlan does good work here portraying an officer who's clearly hiding something but still playing his part at work. Kieran Shaw is a calm and collected character whenever he interacts with Sarah, but we can't help but feel that there's something sinister waiting to burst out at any moment. 

Special mention should also go to Tahirah Sharif for her performance as Lizzie Adama. Even in the first few minutes, you could tell that Lizzie had an awful lot on her mind about what happened and is struggling to process what's going on now that's she on the run. We're looking forward to seeing more from her now that Sarah is willing to push back against her stifling commanding officer to go public so they can bring her in for questioning.

Nevertheless, it's clear from the off that The Tower is Gemma Whelan's show. From the off, Sarah is a commanding presence and plays her role with so much determination that she's the centre of attention whenever she's on-screen. If there's one person who I believe will get to the bottom of whatever happened that fateful day, it's DS Collins.

Overall, The Tower opens with a strong first episode that establishes the story well. Yes, you might see some of the plot points coming before the show gets there, but there's bound to be enough here to keep you glued to your TV screens for the next two nights. 

The Tower continues tomorrow at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub. The miniseries is also coming to US BritBox on Dec. 1. 

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.