There’s a truly bizarre thing on TV this Monday night. For the first time ever two dramas written by the same people, produced by the same production company will air at exactly the same time. The dramas in question are written by sibling writing duo Harry and Jack Williams. They are the masterminds behind the BBC’s megahit The Missing which captivated us last autumn. Now, the pair are back with TWO major six-part dramas airing on ITV and BBC1 at 9pm on Monday Night.
Rellik, (the title is killer spelt backwards for those confused) is a highly stylised, brooding and intense serial killer drama told in reverse. We see the capture of a serial killer and the action winds back and we see how all the pieces of the twisty turny jigsaw fit together.
If for some reason that premise doesn’t float your boat, the duo’s other Monday night offering, Liar (ITV) stars Ioan Gruffudd and Joanne Froggatt as a teacher and surgeon who go out on a date. They each have very different perceptions of the date but only one is telling the truth about the night’s events.
Liar is instantly intriguing. Froggatt and Gruffudd are superb together. The situation they find themselves in really forces the audience to probe their own prejudices and initial ways of perceiving situations. On the face of it the characters they portray are upstanding members of society and likeable in their own way but the way the story twists your idea of them as it progresses you start to wonder who they really are and which one is the ‘liar’ of the title.
Rellik feels almost the polar opposite. It asks different things of its audience. It demands their patience, their attention and their intelligence. Closer in pacing to their previous hit The Missing it flits through time and you’re never entirely sure what’s going on. I wasn’t always sure if what I was seeing was crucial but I trust the Williams Brothers enough to get onboard and stay for the duration of the journey.
Having only seen one episode of each my early thoughts are that I was more invested in Liar because it followed a more traditional narrative and I was invested with the characters. It seemed a fresh idea that I hadn’t seen tackled before.
Rellik, due to its structure is obviously the more challenging of the two. It keeps its characters at arm’s length and the brothers drip feed you information on the key players rather than laying out as they do with Liar. That’s not to say I wasn’t invested. It’s brooding and atmospheric. It keeps you on your toes and I’ve no doubt that any confusion will be cleared up by the time we reach its conclusion.
I will be watching both dramas but as they both air on the same night at the same time I’m forced to pick one to watch live. It might be obvious to pick Rellik. I don’t need to worry about pesky ads getting in the way but actually I’m going to watch Liar live on Monday and watch Rellik with the family so we can dissect it as group. It’s one that needs time to breathe and deconstruct and it would best served watched when its recorded and can be paused and digested fully.
That’s simply my opinion. Both are superb dramas and both well worth your time. The Williams Brothers are experts at what they do. Whichever you plump for first you’re bound to be engaged with. They’re two different dramas so don’t feel you have to pick a side. It’ll be interesting to see which one comes top when the initial ratings are released but at the end of the day there won’t be a loser here and ultimately, it’s us drama lovers that will win!
Below is an interview the brothers gave to the BBC about the process of putting Rellik together.
What was the inspiration behind Rellik?
We actually started writing Rellik while we were filming and editing The Missing series one. Playing with story and structure and trying to find new ways to tell stories is something we’re fascinated by, so it started there. But we didn’t want it to be a technical exercise so we had to ask ourselves why you’d tell a story that way. It became clear quite quickly that it was all about motive. That things happen for a reason and those reasons lie in the past. So, what happens when you start at the end and find your way back to the past sounded like an interesting thing to explore.
Tell us about Gabriel’s character
Because of the narrative structure we wanted to find a protagonist who the audience could connect with. The idea was that our detective was himself a victim of an acid attack, a victim of the killer our cops are chasing in the series. Telling a story through the lens of someone living with a disfigurement felt like a story worth telling. Who he is – before and after the attack – forms the spine of the series.
What were the challenges of writing Rellik?
Stories are told forwards for a reason – because the best stories are about characters undergoing some process of discovery and change. Take away consequence and you take away a key ingredient of the storytelling process. The key was to find a way to still find room for this kind of narrative – to tell stories about characters, stories that tell us about who these people are.
Rellik Starts Monday 11th September at 9.00pm on BBC One
Liar Starts Monday 11th September at 9.00pm on ITV.