The brothers responsible for the recent BBC1 and ITV drama series Rellik and Liar are Harry and Jack Williams. They have received critical acclaim for writing The Missing and they produced the wonderful Fleabag. They also created the frankly awful One of Us which was the first sign that not everything these siblings presided over would be brilliant.
After their critically acclaimed second series of The Missing, the Williams brothers revealed that they had created two new prime time dramas; Rellik, about the hunt for a serial killer that plays in reverse and Liar a psychological thriller about sexual consent. The problem was, they were going to be aired at the same time, on the same day. However, as viewers soon began to realise, the competition wasn’t to see which one was better, but which one was worse.
When both series started, Liar appeared to be the one to watch. It had an intriguing premise which was backed up by the strong central performance of Joanne Froggatt and seemed to want to objectively examine the various issues surrounding rape and consent and society’s attitudes towards it. It was compelling but it wasn’t flawless. There were moments which rang false: Why would the police pull someone out of surgery to arrest them? Why would someone knowingly post accusations on social media despite the risk that it might damage their case? However, these were small issues compared to what was to come.
Rellik on the other hand crashed and burned almost immediately. The Memento meets Se7en setup was far too complicated and seemed to alienate many viewers straight out of the gate. Richard Dormer was an unlikeable and uninvolving protagonist and none of the rest of the cast appealed. The twists and turns were hackneyed and silly and the whole thing seemed too bonkers to be at all believable.
This pattern continued for the next three weeks. Liar was building well, despite some rather unlikely plot conveniences. To their credit, the Williams brothers seemed to be sticking to their guns – the series was about he-said, she-said not some gung-ho thriller about vengeance. Everything was supposed to be uncertain, unclear. Just like life. That is, until the end of episode 4.
It was revealed that Andrew (played blandly at first by Ioan Gruffudd) had indeed raped Laura (Froggatt). This was a big gamble on the part of the writers. The central gambit of the show had been thrown aside for a different story. Could they pull it off? I don’t think they ever had a chance. The show descended into melodrama. It had elements of Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Hard Candy and even Scooby Doo. Gruffudd turned from a believable, slightly dull bloke into a full-on supervillain. He even had an evil laugh. Froggatt on the other hand became the type of vengeful victim that the show had seemed desperate to avoid.
Liar had misled its viewers and was now selling us a completely different programme (which we probably wouldn’t have watched in the first place). Liar couldn’t even seem to sell a sliver of reality any more. As Andrew became more and more evil, he started to appear and disappear inside other characters homes like a poltergeist. Trained police officers would act like amateurs and conduct secretive actions in full view of their targets. Any sense of groundedness went out of the window.
Rellik was awful for very different reasons. To its credit, Rellik started as it meant to go on. It was always silly and boy did it stick to its guns. However, there was one episode which managed to convince certain viewers that it was worth carrying on with. Episode 3 was a brilliant use of the time-in-reverse gimmick and told a simple yet effective subplot very well. It was helped by the acting talents of Paul Rhys who gave a chilling performance as Patrick Barker. There were shocking twists and also a sense of continuity which the other episodes lacked.
Everything else was ridiculous though. Richard Dormer’s portrayal of Gabriel Markham became even more hateful (on purpose this time) and the reasons for being so (“I accidentally murdered an attempted child rapist”) were unconvincing. Jodi Balfour as Elaine Shepard, the acid murderer with whom Markham was having an affair, was dull and her reasons for her crimes were predictable and hackneyed.
Certain characters seemingly became blind to disturbing turns of events. When Shepard, shortly after being hurt in a car crash, decided to kidnap Markham’s daughter Hannah, the girl failed to notice the large bleeding gash on Shepard’s head and hopped into the car anyway.
Overall, neither of these programmes were worth watching. Rellik was always terrible but had a bonkers edge to it which was laughably compelling if nothing else. Liar on the other hand copped out of it’s interesting concept for something far more boring and unengaging. While the latter may have won the ratings battle (by a mile) it cannot hold it’s head up in victory. The Williams Brothers may have been acclaimed for The Missing, but they can’t ride that train forever. A few more series like this, and they’ll be declared as the M Night Shyamalan’s of TV, starting off well, but soon sliding off a cliff into laughably bad writing.
Liar and Rellik are available on catch up services and on DVD now. Image source: mirror.co.uk