Have you yet joined the Resistance (viewing audience)? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on the thrilling tale of a group of young Parisians who evade German occupation and formulate plans of their own —an underground newspaper called Resistance.
Without spoiling anything significant, just know that one of the main members of the resistance goes undercover into the life of the Gestapo, and man, there’s almost nothing as exciting as a character going undercover somewhere dangerous, as they’re stuck with their own ruse, whether or not it falls apart
Here are some of our favourite TV plotlines where a character goes undercover
Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) – Burner salesman | The Wire
Lester and the gang spent a long while inching their way towards dead-eyed dealer Marlo Stansfield, but it was Lester’s seamless shift in personality from wise veteran detective to jive-talking criminal that got a bunch of burners (cheap and disposable mobile phones) into the hands of Stansfield’s soldiers.
From then, it was only a matter of time (get it, because of the clock pictures?) before Lester gets his man (well, kind of).
Danielle (Lola Glaudini) – Tacky sidekick | The Sopranos
In the season four premiere, an articulate, well spoken detective gets dressed for her day on the job as Adriana’s new bestie (while husband Will Arnett hovers around in the background.
Danielle’s task is to gather as much intel on Tony and the rest of the Soprano crew, while maintaining the air of a street-wise ditz, and fighting off the sleazy hands of Adriana’s man, Christopher Moltisanti.
Unfortunately, Christopher covers his ass and tells Adriana she’s been trying to hit on him, which ends the friendship, and hence, the undercover operation.
For the moment, anyway.
Tobias (David Cross) – Mrs. Featherbottom | Arrested Development
Possibly the most convincing undercover character since Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs, Tobias Fumke borrows the plotline from Mrs. Doubtfire in order to stay close to his family.
When I said most convincing, I meant least, which only gets worse the more Tobias wishes to be noticed as Tobias, not knowing that everyone knows anyway, and they merely appreciate Mrs. Featherbottom’s surprising fastidiousness.
Tina (Paula Garcés) – Prostitute | The Shield
When Garces first joins the cast of the gritty The Shield, we almost judged Shawn Ryan for stooping low and hiring a female cop that could be a model, but as her character develops we realise that we’ve judged her as harshly as those around her.
Though initially experiencing teething problems, Tina more than becomes a vital member of the team, and one of her first high-stakes situations is playing bait as a prostitute to a van full of deplorable men. She shows moxie that belies our expectations.
Johnathan (Tom Hiddleston) – Heroic, mysterious playboy | The Night Manager
The entire conceit of The Night Manager is that guy from Thor with whom every woman on earth suddenly fell in love, infiltrating the inner circle of Hugh Laurie’s shifty billionaire.
Slick and sexy apply to both the production and the romantic leads, with Johnathan befriending (!) Dr. House’s kind-of mistress, our own Elizabeth Debicki.
Hiddleston brings a palpable sense of prodigious intelligence to the role, which helps sell such a difficult undercover operation.
Lisa (Lily Taylor) – unsuspecting woman with back pain | Six Feet Under
Sometimes, going undercover is subtler, and well, less official. After relentless worrier Lisa entertains thoughts of her partner Nate’s previous partner, Brenda, she decides to pick a fake name and book a shiatsu massage from Brenda herself.
It’s a brilliant scene, loaded with subtext, which is a treat for the audience as we know so much more than Brenda does, and we long for the thing to fall apart.
Unfortunately (or, for the sake of the story, fortunately), their paths don’t cross until much later.
The Rich Family (Eddie Izzard and Mini Driver) – Rich people | The Riches
A two season gem from back in 2008 was never going to last due to the engine that powers the plot running out of gas.
A gypsy family ends up taking over the lives of The Riches, a family with the worst pun for a surname, a massive mansion in a gated community, and jobs for the gypsy’s to annex.
Surprisingly, as the leads, Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver help the thing last as long as it did, and thanks to Izzard’s natural ability to improvise, the best aspect of the show is watching him think on his feet while undercover.
Rust (Matthew McConaghy) | True Detective
Alright, alright, alright!
Pimento (Jason Mantzoukis) – returned from the job | Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Season 3 of Brooklyn Nine Nine sees the writers reap humour from what happens AFTER the operation, through the unhinged character of Adrian Pimento, an agent returned after 12 years undercover in the mafia.
Naturally, this is a setup for a comedic character that comes with endless possibilities, and so Pimento is deliciously unpredictable, part returned cop, part former mob member that goes by the name Paul Steed.
Turn on SBS On Demand right now and join the Resistance without having to leave the couch.