One of the standout scenes in Deceit has nothing to do with sex or drugs and everything to do with the way women are seen at work.
Dancing under the disco lights, drinking bottles of beer and flirting with men she’s met on the dancefloor, you’d be mistaken for thinking that Sadie Byrne (Niamh Algar) is just a regular club-goer. And that’s exactly the point. You’re supposed to think that she’s just like anyone else. Except in reality, she’s an undercover police officer in the middle of busting one of London’s biggest criminal gangs.
You see, in Channel 4’s new true crime drama, Deceit, Sadie – codename ‘Lizzie James’ – is brought in by the police as an undercover officer to entrap local man Colin Stagg after they become convinced that he is responsible for murdering Rachel Nickell in 1992.
Though this honeytrap operation is the main plot of the series, episode one introduces us to her other missions, and we see how she is used to going undercover to shut down drug rings.
As she moves across the dancefloor, flirting with suspected criminal Kash, it’s clear that her crop top, face gems and quick-witted chat is a façade. Soon enough, she’s on Kash’s side and on her way back to his place, enabling the police to intercept and raid the flat and seizing “enough AK-47s and ammunition to take out half of Tottenham” as well as £20,000 worth of crack.”
Sadie’s good at her job. Like, extremely good at it.
But after watching episode one of the four-part series (which can be viewed in its entirety on All 4), we can’t help feeling that Sadie just isn’t getting the recognition she deserves. As Sadie is violently pushed against a wall, screaming her heart out and left to spend a night in a cell, the realities of what she endures as an undercover police officer is plain to see.
As her superiors congratulate her team for their success, ensuring them that they shouldn’t “think it’s gone unnoticed,” there’s a brief moment of hope that her efforts will be recognised. However, as the camera pans in on her bloodied and bruised face – a symbol of her key role in the mission and her willingness to put herself at the heart of the action – for the men around her (who, coincidently, have skin as clear as day), her war wounds are not even worth batting an eyelid over. Besides, it’s what she’s there to do, right?
And as it’s announced that “all this thanks to one fearless officer, someone who always goes over and above to get the job done… De Costa,” our concerns are confirmed. Her actions mean nothing.
As Sadie and Lucy (Rochenda Sandall) give each other that look – one that countless women in workplaces across the country have shared – it’s obvious that they’re used to being disregarded in their jobs.
Sadly, this is a universal experience for women in the workplace. In fact, a Stylist study found that 87% of British women had experienced sexism while at work. Whether it’s having a male colleague repeat your idea and receive all the praise (or, ’hepeating’ as it’s been coined), being a victim of the gender pay gap or losing a promotion to a male co-worker, most women will have a story to tell about a time where they’ve been treated differently in their job because of their gender.
But just because it is so normal, it doesn’t make it less of an issue. In fact, as many Twitter users have been pointing out, showing scenes like Sadie’s dismissal on screen actually makes for pretty disturbing and heart-breaking viewing.
With episode one ending with Sadie being scouted as part of the Colin Stagg honeytrap operation, there are no signs of her previous work going rewarded. As the men around her continue to control her every decision and put her life on the line, Deceit continuously shows us the wrongs done to women. It may be part fictionalised, but it touches on something that all women can relate to.
Deceit is available to watch now on All 4.
Image: Channel 4