Within the first couple of minutes of Identity, I’d realised that the glory days of ITV Drama were well behind us, and that the six episodes of this weren’t likely to cause us to forget Cracker in a hurry.
Why? Because when you put horribly clichéd dialogue where Keeley Hawes character, DSI Martha Lawson gets told by her boss that the man she’ll be working with is ‘damaged goods’, then in my book you’ve admitted defeat before you’ve even started.
The subject of identity theft is an interesting one, and should have offered plenty of resources to call on, but this is a by-the-numbers cop show where everyone in the team is a maverick of their own flavour, chasing an identity thief who’s smarter than all these plods. If it had been presented as a comedy store satire on CSI, then I’d have accepted it entirely, as all the characters seemed burdened with the challenge of being just two dimensional.
Let’s start with Keeley, who is the headline act here. She’s playing a tough and independent women who fancies her co-worker, so she’s never done that before. But more of an issue for her is at the end of the first episode I knew nothing more about her character than I did at the start.
I’m not the only person to notice this it seems, because in an interview Keeley did with the Manchester Evening News, she tried to head this off by explaining, “It’s only at the very end of the series that we see the other side of her. It’s good for her to be a little bit mysterious”.
Right, well we’ll look out for that then.
But I can’t really blame her entirely, because she’s got alongside her Aidan Gillen (The Wire) playing the man who went undercover for 15 years and appears to have come back as the unknown surly fifth member of Westlife. Remember, he’s ‘damaged goods’, which means not reacting to anything that’s said to him, and looking bored/annoyed in equal measure. He gets a minor reprieve in the storyline at the end, when we realise that he’s still living his undercover life, elevating his character to by far the most interesting on show. That’s hardly a serious competition given how plastic the rest generally are, however.
But what disappoints me the most isn’t any of the visible talent here, but the writer Ed Whitmore, who did some excellent work on Waking the Dead. There’s no great idea behind the story here so far other than it’s scary when people steal your identity, and we should all be worried by that. For an opening episode this should grab the viewer and make them want to watch more, but it played like the third story in a 13 episode run on BBC Three.
I’d also like to comment about how the ideas around identity theft were presented in the story, as this is a subject I’m quite versed in. I accept that they have to explain how it all works, and what bad things can happen. But the technobabble approach to delivering this was excruciatingly painful, as were the entirely implausible supporting map graphics. It also glossed over the fact that many of the searches they did to track their suspects were in contravention of privacy laws themselves, and as such wouldn’t be admissible in court. It was all sourced from the Ladybird Book of Identify Theft, and it played as such.
I’m hoping that after this poor start that Identity goes somewhere more interesting in episode two, but my confidence isn’t high.