Gut-wrenchingly good, complex counter-terrorism drama Informer is just superb
“I just stood out in front of the Albanian massive with a gun at my head and my flopper hanging out”
Informer has long been on my list of things to get around to watching and as is so often the case, damn it was good if far too unexpectedly depressing for a cold January day! Created and written by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, this TV drama from 2018 takes a pleasingly cock-eyed look at the world of undercover counterterrorism cops and the informants on which they rely. Playing with structure in a way which is deliberately narratively obtuse, it is a show that delights in wrong-footing us, then smashing our hearts into smithereens with audacious plot developments.
At the heart of the story is Gabe, an officer for the Counter-Terrorism Special Unit (CTSU) for whom he has spent time in deep cover whilst also maintaining his ‘regular’ family life. When Raza, a young second-generation British Pakistani man, crosses his path after a drugs bust, Gabe presses him into service as an informant, urging him into spaces he can’t easily reach himself, as an investigation into a potentially massive terrorist cell gathers steam. That plot strand in itself is tense and engrossing but the flash-forward that opens the show tells us there’s much more going on besides.
Paddy Considine is superb as Gabe, a man whose soul would be haunted if he hadn’t already been hollowed out by his career. Trying to be a good father and husband is a constant battle as he balances his responsibilities to his network of informants and the importance of his work. And there’s an interesting parallel to the life that Raza is thrust into (excellent work by Nabhaan Rizwan) as his life as a dutiful son and big brother is thrown into disarray by the demands imposed upon him by Gabe, pressganged into caring about national security at a new level, while his personal safety is put very much in jeopardy.
The big picture is certainly gripping, particularly as the delay in making the jigsaw pieces fit draws out the thrills, but there’s subtlety in the writing too. The microaggressions of daily racism are achingly well observed in a blistering scene with a photograph, the ethics of relationships when undercover, the easy stereotyping we all fall on when race and crime intersect. It is aided by a stellar supporting cast – Jessica Raine as Gabe’s wife, Sharon D Clarke as his boss, Bel Powley as his bluntly spoken colleague, Arsher Ali as an officer currently undercover and Roger Jean Nsengiyumva in an astonishing debut as Raza’s cellmate early on. One to catch if you’ve foolishly left it this long like me.