Somehow Informer flew under my radar earlier this year, so when I caught the trailer, which suggests a dynamic drama about how people of color in London projects are used by authorities to snitch on each other, I started watching it immediately. It hooked me right away with an anonymous public shooting in a coffee house. Cue the “One Year Earlier”, where the story starts. Raza Shar (Nabhaan Rizwan) is a second-generation British Pakistani twenty-something living with a somewhat implausibly complete and happy nuclear family in a London estate (project). Raz seems like a pretty good kid, but with a penchant for mischief. When he gets picked up for possession of 4 Ecstasy pills, DS Gabe Waters (Paddy Considine) trumps up the charge so he can flip him into a snitch for the Counter Terrorism Unit. “But I don’t know any terrorists!” protests Raza. “You will,” promises Gabe.
Whenever we spend time with Gabe and his fellow officers, the show takes a steep turn downward for me. Gabe is a former undercover officer who was so dedicated to his White Supremacist legend that he actually got racist tattoos. The dialogue is ham-fisted (see above), and Paddy Considine just doesn’t have the tough guy bona-fides, despite playing an evil priest in Peaky Blinders 3. You want to see an Emmy-worthy performance of an undercover cop with unclear intentions, watch Stephen Graham in Line of Duty 5. But when we cut over to Raz’s story, I immediately brighten. Raz’s mark is an African Muslim named Dadir, a charismatic drug dealer whose brother, one of Gabe’s informants, is murdered, maybe by a terrorist cell operating in London. Dadir is likable, but a loose cannon. It’s Raz’s task to get close to Dadir and find out what he knows about these terrorists. Raz and Dadir’s story, which takes place mostly between two estates, is engaging, and dare I say it, kind of fun. I began to dread the outcome of the coffee-shop-shooter story.
Informer originally aired on the BBC in late 2018, and some critics hailed it as an antidote to Bodyguard withdrawal. It’s not. Informer is beautifully shot with saturated colors and clearly has some money behind it (Sam Mendes is an executive producer), and the premise is a good one, especially when it addresses racism. (Some of which is played lightly, such as when Raz’s dad reminds Raz before he goes clubbing to say he’s a Hindu, not a Muslim. Raz jokes, “Don’t freak, I’m a Sikh!”) But the eye-rolling dialogue and worn stereotypes that are part of the cops’ story literally make me sigh whenever the show focuses on them. And the ending takes a left turn that nobody would have expected. I did binge it, though, and I’m not one to stick with a show if I don’t like it. Even if it doesn’t live up to its trailer, Informer still entertains.
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