Identity episode 2 review

After a disappointing first episode, Mark finds the personality of the second Identity story more to his liking…

2. Chelsea Girl

I’ll admit I didn’t warm to the first Identity story. There was far too much exposition, not enough character development, and some decidedly cheesy dialogue. The writer and creator of the show, Ed Whitmore, wrote to me afterwards and said I’d been ‘a little harsh’. And for the record I probably was, although I claim the mitigating circumstances of the opening Keeley Hawes conversation with the ‘damaged goods’ line.

So was the second outing, Chelsea Girl, any better? Yes, it was much better, I thought.

The facet of identity theft covered here is one where someone takes the life of another and then lives as them. Two girls are holidaying in Australia, when one decides she’d rather be the other and kills her. It’s up to the identity team to find the new ‘Olivia’, played quite convincingly by Joanne Froggatt, before she kills again.

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What we’re given is quite a tense little drama, which managed to inject some genuine tension into what could have been easily so predictable. Combined with some much more elegant dialogue, surprisingly slick cinematography and much less exposition, it made for a singularly better experience.

The other highlight of this was Aidan Gillen, whose bipolar life makes him by far the most interesting character. His duality with a foot in the world of organised crime is effectively the connecting story arc, and I can’t wait for this to come into the foreground at some future point. There does seem an urge to turn him into softly spoken Jack Bauer, but the mercurial Bloom persona is growing on me.

More of an issue is the Keeley Hawes character Martha, who after two stories we still know almost nothing about. It’s not Keeley’s fault, since there hasn’t been much for her to do other than fret about Bloom or give inspirational speeches to her subordinates. As she’s one of the two headline names, I’d feel slightly short-changed so far if it was me.

The other characters in the Identity team are rather low-key, with the only exception being DS Anthony Wareing (Shaun Parkes), who I predict will turn out to be a different identity to one he’s presenting to his colleagues. He’s being painted as a mole, possibly investigating Bloom, but I’m confident that his real identity will be more interesting than that suggests.

The resident hacker, Tessa Stein, did at least admit that accessing the congestion charging database was borderline illegal, which was a major advancement from the first story where privacy laws never got a mention. The problem for the actors in each of these secondary roles is that with only a six episode series, there isn’t enough space for them to get a story to develop their corner.

ABC has picked up Identity for a US version, with six initial stories and a full season option. If they like Identity there will be an opportunity for those minor character stories, just not here.

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Ed Whitmore told me that episode three is his personal favourite, and given the improvements in this one I’m now keen to see it. Here’s hoping Keeley gets more meat in her acting sandwich to get her significant acting chops into from this point onwards.

Read our review of episode 1 here.