A strong opening concept makes the first half of series one of Liar a must-see, until convention creeps in to mar the second.
“I feel like I’m in Dawson’s Creek“
From the very beginnings of Liar, it is tough to like central character Laura Nielson. She’s the type of person who goes canoeing in the morning before going to work, she’s the kind of secondary school teacher who happily flips the bird to unruly students, heck she even sings to Sam Smith in the shower. But before you can get too annoyed with her for being someone who doesn’t prebook her taxi before going on a date, the hammer blow of date rape lands heavily to reshape our preconceptions.
The cleverness of Harry and Jack Williams’ series, at least for its first few episodes, is how it toys with those expectations. As Laura reels from the aftermath of her dinner with handsome surgeon Andrew Earlham, the shattered narrative structure flits repeatedly from present to past as it also switches perspective. It’s a neatly disorientating device that constantly calls into question the ‘truth’ of what we’re hearing or seeing, really ramping up the ‘he said she said’ format as consequences unravel dramatically for the both of them.
Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd play the ambiguities of this approach well, both managing to subvert as well as live up to expectations of their roles, meaning there really is doubt in the air. But once the decision is made to reveal the truth of what happened on that fateful midway through the series, Liar shifts into something more conventional, more binary in its storytelling and ultimately less unique. Sadly, it proves much less compelling as a straight-forward drama, not least in the numpty of a policeman who is Laura’s ex.
There’s a strong supporting cast – Adjoa Andoh is suitably badass as Andrew’s boss, Kieran Bew is naturally handsome as someone with a beard called Ian, and Danny Webb and Shelley Conn pair up well as the investigating officers. Cameo-wise, there’s delicious hints of Beverley Klein as a cut-throat lawyer, Clare Higgins as a Scots ma, and Jill Halfpenny as a lesbian soldier Skyping in from Iraq. Plus Peter Davison is cast wonderfully against type. But it’s hard not to feel disappointed at how Liar winds up, giving how strong it opens.