Channel 5’s Intruder review: A daft and predictable thriller with nothing meaningful to say

This four-part crime drama is a complete dud.

Elaine Cassidy in Channel 5's Intruder
1.0 out of 5 star rating

You have to admire Channel 5 for trying. Their new drama series, Intruder, which kicks off on Easter Monday, was filmed in Ireland in late 2020 as the country and its neighbouring nations braced for one of the toughest winters in recent memory. Countless industries have been hit hard by the pandemic and television production is among them, with work on most scripted shows grinding to a halt last year and cautiously proceeding now with a raft of complicated safety guidelines to follow.

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These factors considered, Intruder must have been a tough project, with the cast recently telling RadioTimes.com about the rigorous protocols that were followed on set, resulting in a shoot that was very tight on time. The end product is a drama that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell was filmed during a pandemic (assuming you’ve been asleep for the last 12 months). But aside from that modest technical achievement, there really is very little here to get excited about.

The story begins with a boozy dinner party held at the luxurious abode of radio presenter Sam (Tom Meeten) and journalist Rebecca (Elaine Cassidy), where the couple and their friends share anecdotes over a few lines of cocaine. Unbeknownst to them, their large house is the target of a burglary by two local teenagers, who gain entry through a window shortly after the guests leave. Of course, a wired Sam is still awake at this point and catches them red-handed. One intruder scarpers but the other is not so lucky, getting a knife to the back as he tries desperately to wriggle out a window.

Elaine Cassidy and Tom Meeten in Intruder on Channel 5
Channel 5

Quickly realising that his lethal force was completely disproportionate to the threat posed by a single frightened youth, Sam comes to the conclusion that a cover-up is needed and asks his wife for help in staging an alternate version of events. It’s hardly an original premise but with the right execution this could have been a serviceable, if not hugely memorable, crime drama. Alas, the script is utterly daft and disappointingly predictable with two of the biggest twists visible from a mile away.

But the biggest hindrance that Intruder suffers from is its largely unlikeable roster of main characters that fail to offer any emotional entry point into the story. Sam is shown to be an arrogant and selfish man from the outset, which makes it rather tiresome when Gareth Tunley’s script never settles on whether he’s a troubled protagonist or maniacal villain. Sure, some classic antiheroes have been a bit of both, but there’s simply nothing sympathetic about Sam or his plot to get away with slaughtering a defenceless boy.

Tom Meeten gives an unconvincing and exaggerated performance but still comes out looking like the ‘straight man’ in scenes shared with BAFTA nominee Helen Behan (The Virtues), who plays Rebecca’s boss and friend, Angela. It’s hard to overstate the ridiculously sharp turn this character takes in the second episode. Behan’s performance spirals into unintentional hilarity during a sequence ripped straight out of a farcical comedy. (On that note, I would genuinely love to see Meeten and Behan reprise these roles in a screwball sitcom – it would be hilarious if their dynamic here is any indication make it happen, Channel 5.

Helen Behan plays Angela in Intruder
Channel 5

Elaine Cassidy and Sally Lindsay are the strongest out of the main four, with their respective roles showing potential that sadly isn’t realised in the script. There’s definitely something interesting about Rebecca and how she responds to the terrible situation she’s drawn into, but ultimately the backstory she’s given feels half-baked and leaves more questions than answers. Meanwhile, FLO Bailey (Lindsay) is painted as a noble and astute detective yet this doesn’t always come across in her actions, making her difficult to connect with on any meaningful level.

The only character that Tunley’s script really gets right is Haalim (Kriss Dosanjh), the grieving father of murdered teenager Syed, who might well leave some viewers heartbroken. For this reason, it’s very frustrating that he’s relegated to being a side character, a move that also makes Intruder’s attempted commentary on racial prejudice feel rather half-hearted and shallow.

After watching the first episode of Channel 5’s Intruder, you might be inclined to believe that it could warm up as it sputters along. It’s my sorry duty to report that isn’t the case. The script only gets sillier as the story unfolds with no compelling mysteries or character growth to cling onto, culminating in an underwhelming conclusion that leaves certain themes and plot threads not fully resolved. Sam and Angela’s surreal scenes in episode two are probably the only reason to tune in, so you can be there for the moment the nation discovers its next comedy double act.

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Intruder premieres on Channel 5 at 9pm on Monday 5th April. Check out the rest of our Drama coverage or take a look at our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.