The tale of resistance, rage and repression was created by James Graham, Michael Sheen and Adam Curtis

Fighting riot cops, overturning conservative trade union officials, sidelining the compromising Labour MP—and all of it in Port Talbot.

No wonder I loved so much of The Way, the new BBC drama series. 

It begins as a profit-hunting steel multinational looks to shut down bits of the iconic plant. The bosses of Shanan Profit Steel don’t expect resistance.

Port Talbot town is a place where, as one character puts it, there are “A lot of desperate people, angry and alone, just…stuck.” But some are also thinking, “I want something to burn all the clouds away, change everything, and it can’t come soon enough.”

As the workers and their families grasp what’s happening they decide it’s time to fight—like the miners did before, only better.

And they’re bolstered by the fury at the death of a steelworker due to safety lapses and his father’s reaction, which mirrors events at the beginning of the Tunisian revolution in 2010. 

There’s a strike ballot—in-person and completed in a few days—despite the union official urging caution and talks. And then the whole working class in the area launches an uprising with strikes, refusal to pay bills, and violent confrontations with cops and soldiers. It’s great.

Soon the whole of Wales is fighting back. 

The programme is created by James Graham, Michael Sheen and Adam Curtis. Sheen, you expect, is responsible for the stirring speeches and a Ken Loach-like public meeting where calls for resistance vie with hesitation and conservatism. 

If you’ve seen Adam Curtis’s work before you will instantly recognise the inventive filming, with scenes shot as if on CCTV, or a family movie camera from the 1960s, or leaping from black and white to garish colour.

Working class resistance in dramas can often look like a re-enactment society day out. Here it feels like a joyous fightback by real people.

Then in episodes two and three the focus shifts. The uprising faces brutal repression and a state that uses prejudice to break opposition.

Welsh people are plunged into the world of refugees. They are forced from their homes and fear round-ups, raids and “disappearances”.

They are faced with nightmarish decisions—and a small boat on a raging sea seems safer than where they are.

It’s powerful, but not nearly as exciting or subversive as the first episode.

This is a time when the era of resignation is coming to an end. It’s no longer, for many, the time when it was much easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

And it’s not giving too much away to say that although there is pain, sorrow and tragedy at the end of The Way, there’s also hope and resistance.

The Way is on BBC1 at 9pm on Mondays. All episodes are on iPlayer now

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