When I first agreed to review Liar I knew very little about it. I didn’t watch a trailer; I saw that it had Ioan Gruffudd in it, read it’s IMDb synopsis and signed myself up. I have been watching mostly American fantasy/sci-fi over the past few months and the idea of a short English drama sounded like a welcome change of pace. The first few minutes of this episode lived up to this expectation. The colours were bright, Ioan Gruffudd’s character Andrew was charming and Welsh, everything seemed to be going well. Then it wasn’t.
It turns out that when IMDb calls Liar a “21st-century take on modern-day gender politics” it means to say it’s a rape drama. Now while the episode is not bad, I wish I had known what I was going to be in for beforehand. So if rape or sexual assault are triggers for you then I would not recommend Liar or this article.
Liar starts with Andrew dropping his son off at school and asking Laura, a teacher, out on a date. The episode then cuts to Laura getting ready, cuts to the date and then cuts to Laura waking up and panicking before running to the shower and getting in before she is even undressed.
The rest of the episode unfurls in a nonlinear manner. We initially follow Laura as she tells her sister about what happened and goes to the rape clinic. The story then cuts to Andrew’s morning, where he is lining up for coffee and talking to a friend about how well his night went and that he is hoping to see Laura again.
At this point I was, whilst slightly disoriented, intrigued by what was happening. Being a university student, the question of whether or not people actually know what consent is is one that comes up frequently. So to see a TV show portraying two adults, both of whom have been in long term relationships before this, in the same situation had me hoping people would see this as reason to believe that consent classes are needed.
Then the nonlinear aspect of the story comes into play. Every time Laura begins to dissociate or is triggered by something, there is a flashback to the night of the date. The first instance of this happens when Laura is being interviewed by the police; the detectives’ voices fade out and Laura gives a blank look. Then the flashback begins; Laura and Andrew are leaving the restaurant where they had their date and are joking around as Andrew walks Laura home.
These flashbacks continue to be interwoven into the story as Laura moves into her sister’s house and Andrew is arrested then let out on bail. This makes for an interesting stylistic choice as it means you have to pay a lot of attention or else you might confuse which thread you are currently being shown. The use of triggers and dissociation on Laura’s part suggest that they are her flashbacks and make for an excellent way for the multiple threads to flow into one another.
As the episode progresses, we see Laura return to work after only one day off. Andrew’s son is in one of her classes and she snaps. Cut to later in the day and Andrew comes to the school to talk to her about their situation, and her treatment of his son. He apologies to her but also says that he didn’t see an sign that she didn’t give consent, and would have stopped if he had. Laura is so distraught that she almost believes him.
In the final scene’s of the episode we see Laura in a cafe with her sister Katy. We learn that Laura has been on medication in the past, that she thinks Andrew swapped their glasses of wine and that he tricked the drug screen because he is a doctor. This conversation in the cafe is inter-cut with Laura sat alone with her laptop typing a social media post about what has happened to her which she then posts.
The rest of this series could go either way. If Andrew is lying, and the process of him being convicted and Laura taken seriously is shown, then it would be amazing. On the other hand if Laura is lying and the show just ends up being all about how Andrew’s life has been ruined, I will be very disappointed. It isn’t that people don’t lie about being raped, but the much bigger societal issue is that survivors don’t come forward for fear of being branded a slut or a liar. So if Laura turns out to be the one lying, then the show will just be playing into preexisting difficulties surrounding survivor’s situations.
Rape is a difficult topic to cover in television and it is so often done incredibly insensitively or for shock factor that it makes me incredibly wary for where Liar is heading. Hopefully it is somewhere positive that will make viewers think about the way we, as a society, talk about rape and sexual assault. But I won’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen. We shall just have to see.
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