Informer is a complex and well thought out look into the world of police informers and the art of being both the enemy and hero.
A tense and high-stakes mood is kept throughout the show’s six jam-packed episodes. We are dropped right into the action with a sequence that cements the show as something that will soon have you on the edge of your seat. The main plot of ‘Informer’ focuses on the circumstances that led to a fatal mass shooting at Café 66, shown to us within the first five minutes, a sure-fire way to capture the audience for the remaining episodes.
Every episode begins with a nerve-wracking courtroom scene where counter-terrorism officer ‘DS Gabe Waters‘ (Paddy Considine) is questioned over his knowledge of the perpetrator who killed four in civilians Café 66. More often than not, however, he claims to be unable to discuss the issue in an “Open Forum”. The frustrating reality of secrecy in a show such as this is something that we, along with our main character ‘Raza Shar‘ (Nabhaan Rizwan), have to get used to. Gabe especially loves to talk in metaphors and analogies to both confuse and divert.
With Raza, we are introduced to the lives of youth living in London, complete with partying, taking and selling drugs. When Raza rushes his girlfriend to the hospital for a bad reaction to the drugs she has taken, he is arrested for possession of the drugs he sells. This is where Holly Morten (Bel Powley), Gabe’s new and determined partner takes notice of Raza’s alluring personality that makes him easy friendships; a perfect candidate for a new police informer.
The guarded, mysterious nature of Gabe’s character is contrasted well by Raza. He is youthful, charismatic and turns the serious tone the show initially portrays on its head. He does, however, have a good heart which is on display throughout the show. He risks his life repeatedly to help catch the terrorist cell, even when it’s later revealed that he could have stopped at any time.
Informer focuses on how a life of crime, even just looking in from the outside, can tear away at one’s humanity. The show does well to keep this idea at the forefront, even with the complexity of the plot. Gabe, Holly, Raza and those who are close to them, are all deeply affected by the investigation, and it leads them, Gabe especially, to make decisions that may not seem moral or right. Gabe’s character shows us how life undercover can have continual effects on you, even years after the fact. He still feels a connection to his undercover alias ‘Charlie’, a fascist with a completely different life to his own.
While this storyline, and Gabe’s subsequent secrecy, is there to highlight the toll undercover work takes on a person, I found myself genuinely disliking Gabe’s character throughout. Raza himself never really finds out about the misgivings of his handler and so, after everything has happened and the show concludes with a touching scene between the two, we are left still not trusting Gabe – ruining the catharsis.
Informer does, however, manage to bring something we have seen countless times before with this type of crime-fighting show, a new twist with new perspectives. Instead of just being fed the same tired police drama with “the goodies and the baddies”, we see the world of crime, drugs, and terrorism from the point of view of the people who live it, and the toll even pretending to be a part of that life can take. This puts the show at a unique advantage because the way it has chosen to tackle the common misconceptions of not just street crime, but terrorism as well.
Informer has everything it needs to become a really interesting retelling of a facet of policing often overlooked or not shown on TV at all. Raza is a brilliant, and well fleshed-out character who has a clear motive throughout; get his mum a British Passport. He is both a charming and tactical “Chess Master” who makes both brilliant decisions and realistic mistakes. ‘Informer’ is not a happy show despite its funny well-executed comedy at points. It tells the truth about police work and how it can become you. Again and again, Raza finds himself in life or death situations and every time I feel as though I am right there with him.
While I feel the show could have done with tying in his final storyline with that of Gabe’s, Informer is a thrilling dive into the life of a police informant.
Review by Jade Fakokunde
Catch all episodes of Informer on BBC iPlayer here.
Read TBB’s interview with Roger Jean Nsengiyumva here