I've just finished watching Undercover, and though it tripped a little at the finish line, it still made for a riveting drama throughout.
Sophie Okonedo's Maya Cobbina was the centrepiece and the highlight, a criminal law barrister who is a popular contender for the next Director of Public Prosecutions – significant not only because of her gender, but her race as well. If she gets the job, she'll be the first black woman in Britain to hold the position.
But because it's such a high-profile job, she has to be squeaky clean. At first glance, that's no problem. She's got integrity, passion and commitment. Her husband Nick says of her: "Maya is the most honest person I've ever met," and it's true.
But the underlying premise of the drama is that her husband of twenty years is not who he says he is: back in the nineties he was an undercover police officer sent to spy on Maya, only to fall in love with her. Now with her new career looming, his superiors want to reactivate him as a plant and pass on what she plans to do about several high profile cases.
In a way it's more Nick's story than Maya's (he's the one with the internal conflict) and yet there's no displacing Maya as the show's main character. I read a few reviews that complained she was too good to be true – unfailingly righteous, compassionate and dignified – yet I fail to see why that's a problem.
There is plenty of room for inspirational women as well as fallible ones in fiction, and in the context of this particular drama it's her inherent goodness that makes her husband's betrayal so tragic. Only someone as brilliant as Maya could cause a man to bury himself in a twenty-year deception just to be with her, and as she starts putting the pieces together it's impossible not to empathise with her dawning realization that her precious family life is a lie.
I'm a sucker for female characters that are strong and vulnerable, and that's precisely the characterization at the core of Maya.