We talked to Sundance TV, a network owned by the ever amazing AMC network, and they asked us to take a look at the first couple episodes of Liar, a new mini-series starring Ioan Gruffudd (2005’s Fantastic Four, Forever) and Joanna Froggatt (Downton Abbey). I dove into the series without knowing the synopsis, and that made the unraveling all the better. Because of that I will label the following paragraph accordingly and let you, the reader, make your own choice.
Fresh out of a long term relationship, Laura (Froggart), decides to go on a date with a charming and successful surgeon, Andrew (Gruffudd). The two already have a casual history through the school Laura teaches at since Andrew’s son attends. The date goes well. Laura and Andrew hit it off and the two end up back at Laura’s apartment.
The next morning Laura wakes suddenly. Her pulse is rapid, she’s disoriented, she rushes to the shower to wash the night before off. The cleansing is both figurative and literal. Laura is convinced she’s been raped.
What looked like a standard network drama in the beginning quickly spirals into an intriguing mystery based on perspective and, as the title indicates, lies. As the story is told from both character’s perspectives you aren’t sure who to side with. Laura is followed more closely at first but as information unfolds to the audience, Laura’s friends, and the investigators assigned to the case it’s clear the show isn’t handing out information so early at face value.
The writing is strong. This didn’t feel like my kind of thing at first. By the time the credits rolled on episode one I was shocked it was over so soon. By the time the credits rolled on Episode 2 I made sure my cable package included the Sundance channel so I could set my DVR.
Doing the story as a mini-series was smart. It seems like the only way to do this kind of story but network TV does have a bad habit of stretching things beyond their welcome. Knowing that it’s a mini-series going in makes it easier to stick with, although the writing grabs you. Knowing it’s a mini-series also means you’ll get answers. Nothing is worse than dedicating ten-plus hours to a mystery series and being left with nothing. Rare exceptions aside, looking at you, The Killing.
The only technical downside to Liar apparent in the first couple episodes is the shaky cam. We don’t need a ‘boots on the ground’ feel while we wait to see what actually happened. We need the story to be told in a way that doesn’t induce nausea. Using the handy-cam for the scenes of disorientation and confusion makes a lot of sense but a scene of two characters, seated, talking, doesn’t need to be bobbing up and down in the frame. I get that it’s a Sundance show but feeling ‘indie’ for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone.
Liar isn’t my favorite new show of 2017 but watching a couple episodes that I thought were going to be an obligation got me hooked enough to continue. Ioan Gruffudd is a far better actor than his American movies typically indicate. If they would just invest in a tripod this would be brilliant.