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Who Is Erin Carter? review – the real question is: who cares?

This mystery drama is deathly dull, packed with cliches and atrocious dialogue. It’s the TV equivalent of a cry for help


Jordi (Sean Teale) and Erin (Evin Ahmad) in Who Is Erin Carter?. Photograph: Sam Taylor/Netflix


Who is Erin Carter? This is the question posed by a new seven-part drama on Netflix. Well, let’s see now.


Erin (played by Evin Ahmad) is a substitute teacher at an international school in Spain, where she has lived for five years – apparently without picking up more than eight words of the language – since fleeing England for reasons unknown.


She is the mother of Harper (Indica Watson), a preteen with a deteriorating eye condition and an admirable propensity to lamp anyone who tries to bully her about it.


She is the killer, in self-defence, of one of the people engaged in the armed robbery of a supermarket into which she and Harper have popped to use the loo. In his dying throes, he recognises her from her mysterious past life: “It’s … you!”


She is someone whose reaction to being identified by an armed robber – then having her picture plastered all over the papers and internet as a brave, robbery-foiling citizen – is to sigh, look pained and get into a childish spat with the mean-girl mother next door, Penelope (Charlotte Vega). Perhaps, instead, she might have packed up the gun she has hidden in the attic, tucked Harper under her arm and got the hell out of Dodge.


She is someone whose character notes seem to have read in their entirety: “Feisty but with a heart of gold.” In other words, she gets told off for swearing and cares about the kids in her class. “It’s a cry for help,” she says of young Dylan when he draws cocks and balls all over his exam paper. If you say so.


In short, Who Is Erin Carter? is not convincing (at least outside the scenes that Watson – a preternaturally gifted actor doing a great deal with woefully little – is allowed to dominate).


Nor is it suspenseful. Its tepid plot takes an age to get going, to the extent that it does. The camera loves lingering on pained or puzzled faces, or following people down the picturesque streets of Barcelona on their way to execute another decision likely to do them harm. Almost every scene loses momentum. The only exceptions are the occasional set pieces when Erin comes across another villain who recognises her from “before” – and whom she must dispatch after a sub-Buffy-style fight scene, all without letting a flicker of emotion cross her face.


It is very strange – and that is before we get to the school administrator Olivia (played by This Time With Alan Partridge’s Susannah Fielding), who is brisk, funny and on some kind of amphetamines that enable her to stay on top of her schedule. Ms Swearalot, by contrast, is always late! Crazy! Olivia seems to be from a different programme entirely – one that I would gladly watch. Fielding has funny bones.


Then there is divorced neighbour and cop-with-gambling-debts, Emilio (Pep Ambròs). He sees the CCTV of the robbery, notes Erin’s unexpected willingness and ability to kill bad guys, then recruits her – in return for cleaning up some of the mess she has left behind.


But he can’t do much about her spat with Penelope, which begins to take up an inordinate amount of screen time. This is felt particularly keenly after we are introduced to Daniel (Douglas Henshall), Dylan’s suspiciously successful businessman father, and Lena (Denise Gough), a prisoner on tagged release in England; they are waiting in the wings to deliver some acting and plot, if they could just get a clear run at things.


Cliches abound – the slow-motion shower shot, the dark drawings in the child’s schoolbook expressing unresolved trauma, an effortfully carefree moment frolicking in the sea. Characters say – actually say – “It’s OK not to be OK” and “All things considered, it could have been worse” and “Are you sure you’re OK?” For those of you who remember the early 90s, think of it as Eldorado with a crime thriller element that no one cares about. Younger viewers can think of it as Dylan’s exam paper in televisual form.

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