When you find out where they’ve been, you’ll discover where they’re going.
Identity is a crime-drama – when you encounter a new drama on ITV there is a better than evens chance that it will be a crime-drama. Though it is new to STV it is not new to British TV. British people not living in Scotland (I am now navigating a political trip-wire here!) would have had the chance to become acquainted with DI John Bloom and DSI Martha Lawson back in 2010. Why the STV program controllers thought to hold it off to its Scottish viewers to 2012 I do not know. We are quite provincial about Scottish crime dramas it seems – much loved but now deceased crime soap The Bill always had significantly lower viewing figures north of the Hadrian Walls than south of it and when it comes to geographical divides it is never about North versus South but West versus East and I am not invoking the Cold War either rather of Glasgow’s Taggart and Edinburgh’s Rebus and never the twain shall meet – joined up policing, as if! But as much as we Scots like Taggart and as ever-running as it is, it cannot have been this that kept Identity off the STV schedules.
Perhaps that is what Scottish Independence will come down too – good riddance to you say the English and you can keep your Taggart too and with two fingers back in return (for the sanctity of stereotypes if not poetic license at least, we are less polite) ‘aye and the same to you and you can take your Midsomer Murders and stick it where the sun don’t shine and I don’t mean Manchester!…shame on me for making parochial meteorological allusions in a blog being read all over the world!!
The Scottish Independence debate will not of course be as churlish as this.
But as gripping as the vagaries of regional TV scheduling is for us all I think I should move on to the show itself.
Just as there is a high chance that a new ITV drama will be a crime drama there is in turn another high chance if it is a crime drama that it will be an adaptation of a crime book, preferably a long running serial And in turn yet again if so a very high chance that its author will be Lynda La Plante.
So what about Identity. This does seem to be written for Television. It is certainly not an adaptation of Milan Kundera’s 1999 Identity and the only other book titles I could find called Identity were dry sociological studies and tracts concerning what it is that makes us who we are, and who we are not.
Its creator is Ed Whitmore. He wrote it, directed it, produced it. Identity then is his baby. His TV CV is threaded through by crime too – Silent Witness, Waking the Dead, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and on – he has even written one episode of US crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The Internet Movie Database tells me this and that he wrote a TV movie also called Identity in 2011. I have not seen this but it is as you might expect based on this TV series. It stars Angela Bassett and Orlando Jones so I am just guessing that it is a version made in the USA. Curiously though it has no reviews and is awaiting five ratings – what exactly does that mean?! And like the falling unheard tree in the woods if a film has not been reviewed did it ever exist. For a film called Identity it seemed somewhat fitting.
What’s that you say, there is a TV program to be reviewed, oh yes, so there is…
Before recording this to review – sorry going to have to keep you waiting a bit longer, or am I by now talking to myself – that would have been a good strapline for my blog actually – I had to make space for it on my PVR and so watched another program toward deleting it. This was Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook broadcast on BBC2 December 2011. It was a look at Mark Zuckerberg’s astonishing Facebook success – his life before Facebook, his life since. It was presented by Emily Maitlis and it was a surprising yet also unsurprising reveal of Mark Zuckerberg depending perhaps on whether you had seen The Social Network. But this paragraph does have a relevant point to this review. Namely that Facebook is about identity, about privacy, about truths, half-truths and lies. The identity we want the world to see.
The opening episode of Identity was called Second Life an obvious allusion to the Second Life website and digital world within a world. Except that Second Life could also describe Facebook.
This opening episode is about stolen identity.
Are we rightly vigilant about our identity becoming lost let alone stolen online or have we been scare-mongered into paranoia, paper-shredding away our existence, by a traditional mainstream media using fear to sell copy?
Alas fear it seems sells more than hope.
The stealer of identity in this opening episode was near-invisible, a shadow of a shadow, wreaking havoc on seemingly unrelated victims.The thief-of-selves had no government records, no private financial accounts or traces of purchase transactions, no credit card used – a cash only circumspect existence.
This then was not just any old crime but a rarefied crime. The police investigating it would need to be of a specialized unit – and as likely to be sat infront of a computer screen as burning up rubber in pursuit of some common-place knife-wielding villain. And how to make police officers in swivel chairs and a mouse not a gun in hand dramatic? Well there would be plenty of opportunity for going undercover – good old fashioned private dick stuff – and those that do remain stuck back in the office have plenty of opportunity to overwhelm if not astound us by bleeding edge tomorrow-is-already-happening technology.
The head of this team was the aforementioned (aforementioned about a thousand words ago weren’t you paying attention?!) DSI Martha Lawson played by Keeley Hawes. She is the people-manager of this team of inevitably brilliant misfits. It is also her brain-child and baby and she is keen to nurture it in the face of a not always empathetic police hierarchy. Her career and reputation are on the line. It might not be worth mentioning that she has played a TV cop before as any British actor worth their salt – and Keeley Hawes is definitely worth her salt, whatever that actually means, I understand it to be something damn well good – as played at least one TV cop – in her case as Alex Drake in the insufficiently over-rated Ashes to Ashes. It might not be worth mentioning but as you can see I did anyway.
Her team includes the also aforementioned DI John Bloom played by Aidan Gillen who first came to my attention in the late 1990’s as Stuart Jones in Queer As Folks. For any American readers (as if, there are always American readers!) you may have seen him as Mayor Thomas ‘Tommy’ Carcetti in The Wire – I watched and enjoyed The Wire and only say this because as a blogger-reviewer of TV programs I am not allowed to say otherwise. You as a reader of blogs may have been watching one of the endless CSI franchises instead. The key factor about John Bloom is that he worked previously as an under-cover cop, deep undercover – he thinks like criminals do having breathed their company for longer than he should have, it takes one to no-one, that sort of thing…
These were the two characters allowed to spread their wings in the first episode. DS Anthony Wareing’s wings were kept in check but his character’s brooding more black-and-white view of crime and criminals was clearly as counter-weight to his more liberal-minded colleagues. Moral relativists in the police force, what is the world coming to! He is played by Shaun Parkes.
In programs such as this – let us say ‘CSI like’ as it has the widest cultural resonance – don’t all reflex at once – largest viewership then – there is at least one on the team who is office-bound, socially awkward, a super-intelligent geek, who will be feverishly tapping away at his or her Mac keyboard (sorry PC users but you know its true!) muttering to themselves as they go as no-one else will listen to them or certainly not understand them anyway. In Identity this is Tessa Stein played by Holly Aird.
In this Second Life her first moment of earning her cop chops is being able to track this seemingly invisible villain’s location to a petrol-station because, get this, they used their Nectar card. For all non-British readers this is a Supermarket Loyalty Card – I won’t say which Supermarket as well for one thing WordPress does not allow advertising on this blog so where’s the Quid pro quo in that. At the time I was musing to myself ‘wow fancy that my supermarket loyalty card can betray my movements, not just my guilty purchases’.
But wait for a moment. We are being asked to believe that this stealer of identities, so careful to protect their own identity that they leave not even a footstep in the snow behind, cannot stomach buying their petrol with cash without getting Reward points from their supermarket of choice?! Though I guess when you are running up other people’s credit cards to the tune of hundreds of thousands of British pounds those loyalty points really do add up and unlike the cocaine you are wolfing back they are not to be sniffed at.
Nevertheless it is this complacency with their customer loyalty card that leads the detectives to close in.
I found the final reveal to be surprising and clever if also a little contrived – as if they realized the hour was soon to be up and this was no two-parter and they better move from a stroll to a canter. It was a story-line that would have been better served over a couple of episodes.
I hope you have appreciated how I have not overly plot-spoiled for those who have not seen it – which I am guessing will be most of you – even to the extent of using gender-neutral language to describe him sorry her, them!
This Second Life episode has certainly whet my appetite for more even one whose appetite for crime drama is a sated one.
Identity has identified a current visceral fear no matter how reasonable or not that fear might be. It is certainly a contemporary bogey and ripe for TV drama.
I hope that Identity delivers.