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TV Review: Liar (Series 1, Episode 1)

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Mystery, suspense and waterside landscapes are what Broadchurch director James Strong does perfectly, so we’re definitely in for a treat with his latest ITV thriller Liar.

The stunning opening shot of the Essex Salt marshes really sets the tone of this tense thriller, setting us up for twists and turns and the expectation that nothing is what it appears on the surface.

The episode begins with an initially slow and rather clichéd start, with Laura’s conversations with the man at the marshes trying too overtly to assert that Laura (played by the superb Joanne Froggatt) is a headstrong and independent woman. However, after the rather awkward/cringey first conversation between Laura and Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd), you soon start to root for them as a couple. Their first date at a beautiful pier restaurant definitely aids this, and even though you know something is brewing in the background, you can’t help but wish this was a simple romcom in which they fall in love.

Then, they go back to her flat and this is when the atmosphere tenses. There are several moments such as the opening of the wine, that you know are going to be brought back and agonized over, which makes it so thrilling to watch - you’re trying to see if he spikes the wine, but everything appears normal, for now. They then progress into the bedroom in search of a phone charger and that’s when the scene ends, leaving the audience’s mind to wander what happened between these two seemingly happy characters.

The timing and switching between the two character’s reactions that morning, both seeming so genuine, makes it hard to know who is in the right. You want to believe Andrew’s happiness, but the harrowing nature of Laura’s reaction seems hauntingly real.The standout scene of this episode has to be when Laura and her sister visit the rape councillor. Regardless of whether Laura has been lying or not, there is no faking in Froggatt’s authentic portrayal of the trauma rape victims go through. Nothing is shied away from and the use of a real rape councillor helps to portray the vulnerability and ordeal rape victims go through - something I’m sure the show will be praised for.

With its accuracy in the police and medical procedures that people go through and in showing the ordeal happen between two people that know each other and have gone on an otherwise lovely date, the series highlights how often rape can occur and that it’s not necessarily at the hand of strangers but usually with someone the victim knows and trusts. The topic of victim blaming is also handled delicately and truthfully. Initially the police believe her, but when they find no evidence, the questioning of how much she’s had to drink comes into play and Laura’s desperation to be believed starts to set in.

The to-ing and froing of both their accounts, which they both seem to believe whole-heartedly, will ultimately bring up debates on the issue of consent. Whilst the writers, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, have cleverly made it so difficult to see who is lying, they have lacked originality with the relationship between Laura’s sister and her ex-boyfriend. Though this storyline will surprise Laura and throw a spanner in the works, in a subplot that seems like it will create more mystery and suspense, there are little hints of other underlying stories; such as the very keen interest into what’s wrong with Laura from her brother in law and the relationship between Andrew’s son and the girl who keeps staring at him during lessons.

Initially one believes that Laura is the victim - how could anyone not believe her after viewing that harrowing scene with the rape councillor? However, the writers soon plant little doubts in our mind, with references towards earlier problems of medication, her backtracking of the story and not telling the police that she saw Andrew in school that day. It would seem that the writers are setting us up to believe that she is lying.

With the episode ending with Laura’s rant on social media, are we to believe that she is a woman gone mad and lying to us all, or is she a woman struggling to come to terms with her trauma and desperate for the truth to be believed?

Whatever the answer may be, in the five episodes we have to find out the truth, we’re sure to be lead down a murky path of twists and turns, not knowing who or what revelation is just around the corner.

Liar airs on Mondays at 9pm on ITV 1. 

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