There is a deep sense, after viewing ‘The Driver‘ that the story is one we have seen before. That is not to say it isn’t an enjoyable watch, just a familiar one. While that familiarity certainly doesn’t breed contempt in this case, it does leave you with a vague urge to shrug and ask ‘what’s on next’?
With scripts penned by Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless, Exile, The Street) and Jim Poyser (Shameless, Heading Out), and a cast ably lead by David Morrissey (The Walking Dead, Blackpool, The 7.39), this three parter has an impressive pedigree but also a lot of expectations to live up to. The story revolves around Morrissey’s Vince, a cabbie in Manchester who is tired of the daily grind and his indifferent family. As punters vomit in his taxi and do him out of fares, a meeting with an old friend, Colin (played by the always wonderful Ian Hart) who is fresh out of prison, offers something a little more exotic and, before long, Vince is encouraged to sign up as a driver for ‘The Horse’ (Colm Meany), a menacing ‘businessman’. This can only end well.
The performances from Morrissey and Hart are the highlight of this opening episode, especially Hart’s Colin, who comfortably oscillates between a down on his luck slacker to a brutal thug. However, even a lengthy build up showing Vince’s awful passengers, the monotony of driving and his wife’s (Claudie Blakley) disregard for anything but marathons doesn’t quite present a strong enough incentive for his actions. They are presented as excuses but, while I won’t claim to be an expert on the life of a private hire driver, nothing really seems to be that far from the norm.
Of far more interest is the missing son, Tim, who is mentioned so fleetingly I’m not entirely sure if he’s dead, abroad or none of the above. Whatever Tim’s fate, it seems to be something Vince is distracted by to the extent that he confusingly hallucinates mowing his son down. This will no doubt be revealed further in the upcoming episodes but sadly does remain the one element of ‘The Driver’ I didn’t see coming – especially as the opening flashforward showed Vince escape from the most tense sequence the episode delivered.
Part of this reaction to the opening episode may be due to the plethora of dramas we’ve seen about the ordinary man who grows weary of his lot and reaches for something more exciting. Shows like Accused (that Brocklehurst also worked on) have investigated these in recent year to great acclaim and even David Morrissey’s last appearance on UK television in The 7.39 was concerned with this idea. Clearly a subject with great scope, I feel that some of that scope is lacking in ‘The Driver‘ so far; it hasn’t distinguished itself from the crowd. It seems to be a case of another white working class man wanting more money or respect and, although the writing and the performances are solid enough, I can’t help feel there are other stories from other perspectives yet to be told.
The Driver Continues Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC ONE.
Contributed by Jane Harrison