Typical, you wait for one drama written by Harry and Jack Williams to come along and two show up at once. The brains behind The Missing obviously decided that they do like Mondays and 9pm on a Monday in particular. Penned by their fair hands, Rellik and Liar coincide on BBC1 and ITV respectively.
Liar finds us before, during and after a first date between Laura (Joanne Froggatt), a newly single teacher and handsome single father Andrew (Ioan Grffudd). We are shown the hope and the despair in parallel as clips from their night together are interspersed with the cold harsh reality of the day after. All the smiles and flirting mixed with a crying Laura removing her clothes and getting swabs in the stark environs of an examination room. It calls into the mind the brave opening to the last series of Broadchurch and if this brutal honesty is the way drama is going then that can only be a positive thing. There’s no fancy tricks at play here, it is subtle storytelling with a heart.
There is also a West Bay vibe in the coastal shots, in the tension boosting rumbling bass of the music and the webs being weaved around the two main protagonists but we can forgive it that and the sometimes overly shaky camera work. Laura accuses Andrew of rape by going to to the police and he vehemently denies the claim but it soon becomes clear this isn’t simply a case of him vs her as the secrets of loved ones complicate matters further. The very morning of the incident Laura’s ex Tom (Warren Brown) moved the last of his things from her house following their split but we later find out he’s having an affair with her older sister Katy (Zoe Tapper). That’s the definition of inconvenient right there. Katy has a family of her own and was full of loving support to her sibling following the events of a date she encouraged by pushing them together. Now Katy is unwittingly right in the eye of Laura’s raging storm and a double dose of guilt may push her to do strange things in search of recompense.
Judging by first impressions, Liar looks set to be a well handled take on personal as well as police perceptions of mental illness. We’ve been teased a small glimpse of Laura’s troubled past involving medication and hallucinations but the full truth is waiting around the corner. Hiding in plain sight. For most of the episode though, the writers want you to sympathise with Andrew. He’s a polite, well-mannered surgeon with the respect of everyone around him. He’s a doting dad who communicates well with his son. With Laura we are asked to question her medical history, her sanity and her intentions especially as her recollections of the night itself are contradictory but the volte-face comes in the closing minutes. There’s the possibility he used drugs knowing full well any traces would be gone from her system in twelve hours and we get the first proper insight into his past – his wife died from suicide in 2006. Naturally triggering the audience to ask if it really was suicide.
Due to the swapping of two wine glasses and the very public accusation on his Facebook profile, things turn an even darker corner. This looks set to be a nasty battle of wills. Liar’s modus operandi is two people manipulating and tearing each other apart rather than a standard police procedural. By taking the law into her own hands has Laura lost any chance of justice? And is the law itself wrong in its handling of sexual assault cases and how much will that be a focus over the series?
The lead actors are playing a blinder here. Froggatt aches with vulnerability and you can see the turmoil brooding underneath. Grffudd impresses with a charm that soon cowers into puppy-eyed naivety. They are doing their jobs to perfection by making us evaluate our own prejudice and preconceived opinions of what little facts we have before us. It’s a fascinating opening gambit and already it’s easy to imagination a second series where two different people fight for the truth over a different issue. For now let us hope Liar not only lives up to the promise of episode one but more importantly, continues to handle the sensitive subjects with integrity.
Liar Continues Monday at 9.00pm on ITV.