Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodi Balfour, Paterson Joseph, Laerke Winther, Shannon Tarbet, Raul Rhys, Ray Stevenson
Created and written by Harry and Jack Williams.
Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, you can blame or applaud The Killing (Danish: Forbrydelsen) for the current trend of dark-lit, bleak-as-fuck crime dramas hitting the screen. No longer satisfied with Poirot, Midsomer Murders, or any number of cozy procedurals from both sides of the Atlantic, viewers are now looking for more meat on their bloody bones. The BBC was among the first to recognize this, and devoted a regular time slot on one of its channels, BBC4, for foreign language dramas. More often than not these dramas featured storylines that were dense, intricate, compelling, along with characters that had these same traits. Not content with their own version of Wallander (originally a Swedish detective show based on the novels of Henning Mankell) starring Kenneth Branagh (an Ulsterman) playing a Swede (it was very good, truth be told), both British networks were on the lookout for more home-grown stories. This is how we got Marcella, Doctor Foster, and The Missing. The creators of the latter, Harry and Jack Williams, are no slouches when it comes to television productions that demand more from their audiences than they were used to. Rellik is a show that will either grab you from the first frame – or it won’t.
So what is it about?
Remember Christopher Nolan’s mindbender movie Memento? Remember how it wasn’t just a straightforward narrative? The movie’s plot began at the end and slowly but meticulously took you back to how it all started. Each scene ended where the previous one began, and so on and so forth. It took me at least three viewings before I finally understood what was going on. It was brilliant, breath-taking, and quite bonkers. Rellik attempts something similar. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that “rellik” is “killer” spelled in reverse. That’s enough of a clue to get you going. The plot is pretty straightforward. The police are on the hunt for a serial killer who uses acid to attack his victims. Detective Chief Inspector Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer – Game of Thrones, Fortitude) is the main investigating officer who has survived an attack that leaves him badly disfigured and in a lot of pain. His partner in the investigation is DI Elaine Shepard (Jodi Balfour – Quarry, The Crown), with whom Markham is having an extra-marital affair. She doesn’t mind that he’s not looking his best right now and is desperate for him to be upfront about their relationship.
The opening episode unfolds over a series of time jumps. After the first scene in which it appears the killer has already been apprehended and subsequently shot by police, the story rewinds to five hours earlier where we meet the rest of the cast of cops and suspects. Paterson Joseph (The Leftovers, Timeless) plays Dr Isaac Taylor, a psychiatrist with a connection to the dead suspect. Ray Stevenson (Black Sails, Thor: Ragnarok) is Detective Superintendent Edward Benton, Markham and Shepard’s superior officer, looking as dodgy as a used-car salesman. The series premiere covers Markham’s home life, the now deceased suspect’s apparent innocence, a conspiracy involving another would-be suspect seen to leave the country, and an acid-scarred woman in tears over something related to the case. Another survivor perhaps?
What’s good about Rellik?
You will never see a bad Richard Dormer performance. A fan favourite of this website for his role as Beric Dondarrion in Game of Thrones, Dormer is electric and unnerving as Markham. He may also be a little unhinged. Whether or not you’re going to take to this series depends on whether you like your main characters scarred emotionally and physically, as well as being generally unlikable as a human being. That said, there is an inherent need for justice behind Markham’s ruined face. The character is as compelling as they get. I liked how the show made me concentrate not so much as the who and why, but on when the action was happening. There are at least four reverse time jumps in this episode alone. You need to have your wits about you.
What’s not to like about Rellik?
As I said earlier, most if not all of the characters wouldn’t be what I’d class as immediately likeable. Sure, a couple of the supporting roles make up for this, with interpersonal and sexual relationships adding to the show’s already heady mix. But the way the story is structured won’t be to everyone’s liking. If you want a show that you can watch while doing something else, like cooking or internet browsing, you’ll end up bewildered and lost.
I will confess to watching the show in its entirety when the BBC broadcast it last year, so I could be slightly biased in my review. All I’ll say is this: Rellik is suitably twisty and by the end of the series, all your questions will be answered. It won’t end like you think it might, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be satisfied by the climax. I give Rellik a thumbs-up for the audacity of its storytelling and the quality of Dormer’s performance.
Watch this if you like: Nordic Noir (The Killing, The Bridge), Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander, and Sky’s The Tunnel.