Liar

3 out of 5

Created by: Harry and Jack Williams

covers season 1

On the verge of being really thought-provoking; on the verge of being really trashy.  Harry and Jack Williams scored big with The Missing, and, rightfully bolstered dropped two shows upon us at the same time – Rellik and Liar – both mysteries, both with a twist to the telling.

Rellik takes the tactic of telling its tale in reverse, but didn’t seem to capture much attention.  I can say that it didn’t do so for mine.

Liar, on the hand, went for the quick with a very – unfortunately – topical sexual angle: a rape accusation.  After, as far as we can tell, a lovely evening, teacher Laura (Joanne Froggatt) wakes in her bed alone, post her date with doctor Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd).  We can tell from her response, and her bedraggled state that something is horribly amiss, which is confirmed when Andrew is arrested at work for rape charges.  The Williams’ attention to Laura’s processing of the occurrence is harrowing enough, but then there’s the quirk: we didn’t see any of what she’s claiming, and the good doctor seems to be truly caught out and devastated by the claim.  All we’ve seen him be is a gentleman, and a good doctor, and a mindful single parent.  We believe Andrew.  But we also believe Laura.

Liar builds this he said / she said with painfully taut tension.  Watching the effect of this event on both parties is horrible, but makes for compelling subject matter: the concept of consent; of relative truths.  Things start to go darker when justice, in Laura’s eyes, fails to immediately support her claims, and she feels compelled to seek out her own evidence.

We’re on shaky ground here.  The Williams assumedly knew this, and so they end up doing something maybe necessary: they remove the question mark as to what happened.  And yet they still play it cagey, withholding more lascivious details, which makes it odd, and makes the remainder of the series rather disappointing, treating it like a twisty thriller when gearing more toward drama – as in The Missing‘s first season, and its focus on the breakdown of family – might have produced more ripe emptions.  Instead, Liar becomes somewhat trashy, reveling in, I dunno, almost villainous cackling on behalf of the string-puller behind the scenes.

And I get it: They wrote themselves into a very difficult corner, and I’m not saying I have a “preferred” conclusion in my head.  But I do wish they had tried something more befitting of what they’ve previously displayed they’re capable.

Good performances keep us watching, as does, inevitably, that caginess, making it seem like there might be more…. And so six episodes pass, and it’s not a waste of viewing time, but, spoiled, several times now: there’s not as much to this as initially promised.