Over the last six weeks, ‘Rellik’ has been the BBC’s prime-time thriller for a Monday evening and with it’s conclusion this week; it’s time to tackle the mission of analysis.
The concept derives from screenwriting duo The Williams Brothers – Harry and Jack; who are well known as the creators of beloved drama ‘The Missing’. The series follows a lengthy murder investigation, where the killer douses his victims in acid and hacks of their fingers; thereby making them unidentifiable. Sounds like another gruesome detective programme right? Wrong. The difference with ‘Rellik’ is that the plot unfolds in reverse chronology. (Read the title backwards for some amusement)
Leading the pack was the powerful Richard Dormer as Detective Gabriel Markham; who you will note didn’t escape unscathed from the acid killer; with his facial disfigurement as a constant reminder. Alongside Gabriel is his partner and sultry mistress Elaine, played by Jodi Balfour. Amongst the complication of supporting characters we have – Laerke Winther as Gabriel’s forgotten wife; Paterson Joseph as a cleanliness mad therapist; Rosalind Eleazar as his proudest patient-turn suspect and Ray Stevenson as Gabriel’s corrupt boss.
From the first episode, we find the definitive point from which we work back on up until the last episode; they appear to have found the acid killer but Gabriel smells a set up. The time shifts are depicted through literal rewinding of footage; slow motion shots of blood going back into a wound or a person running back into the scene they just came from. To show the end of a reversal, there is a time stamp to show exactly how many hours or minutes earlier this next part of the story was. This format of story is very audacious and something I massively applaud it for. It seemed slick; with shots that could have come from a film. Occasionally, it got boring but personally, I love working these things out.
With a daring format, does come critique. Just because it’s good to watch, doesn’t make it any less confusing! At some points, you cant’ comprehend what day or time your at with the story because the timings change so much. Therefore, the story has to piece together more fluidly for viewers to make more sense of it. To begin with, it achieves this with an absolute belter of an opening episode. As the series progresses however, the storyline just grows in subplots to add more suspects and in doing this, creates such confusion that people just switch off.
It’s all between episodes 2-4; we focus on Eleazar’s character Christine for one which is actually quite brilliant; mainly down to Eleazar’s performance. She almost competes with Gabriel’s character as he finds out more about her background, but we don’t even seen her for the last 2 episodes. Is she critically related? Nope. Another subplot focuses on the unearthing of how one of the victim’s died; seemingly by a copycat killer. Our suspicions are confirmed when nearly a whole episode is dedicated to it. Don’t get me wrong, I bloody loved the sadisitic character of Patrick Barker and the gory method of how he disposed of her. But is he critically related? Nope. The complexity is intricate but too overwhelming. I almost gave up because I wasn’t intrigued, it just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere.
I stuck to it and the good news is that it does save itself. From halfway through episode 5 to the end, the plot twist comes into action and the killer is revealed. *SPOILER* Gabriel’s intuition was correct; its Elaine. I don’t want to spoil it much more because the backstory behind her behaviour is in-depth; and I think it’s beneficial to have a fresh perspective. I will say that I wish they touched on it more and spent a bit more time deciphering that background; rather than that of characters that aren’t significant. Unfortunately there is more critique! The loopholes left behind are ridiculous.
So in total, 7 people were murdered but I only understood 5 bodies that that were really accounted for? Elaine’s behaviour had a purpose but they don’t explain all of her actions. As the plot ties up loose ends, there’s no closure for the subplot characters such as Christine and Patrick; they just vanish. They remain a loose end but why do they need to be one in the first place?! Before this, a laptop is set on fire in the evidence room in an attempt to destroy it. We then discover that on the laptop is a recording of Christine admitting to the killings; including noting on how she disfigures them with the acid. When she disappears from the episodes, so does this revelation. I have no idea what relevance it has or why it’s in there?! A messy plot calls for messy praise.
The real shine glows brightly for the performances within the series. Richard Dormer is bloody fantastic; ever since Fortitude I have appreciated his acting and his standards have raised with Rellik. Jodi Balfour also gave wealthy life to a complicated character, although she was also dull at times. Credit also due to Paul Rhys for a psychotic yet charming Mr Barker; and Rosalind Eleazar for a sweet but manipulative Christine.
It’s a show of substance and style; the reverse chronology sets it apart from the standard detective thriller. The ambition is admirable, however the complexity is too much to grasp. A lot of the story could be refined and strengthened which would have made it more appealing . You’ve got to remember -this was shown on a Monday at 9pm. People have just sat down after a long day of work and are they going to follow an inflated plot that get’s boring from episode 2? The answer is obvious, isn’t’ it.
Nonetheless, I ended up really liking it. It’s a dark, twisted, sex-ridden feast into the human character and how choices can impact one’s life more than they think. If you’re willing to look past the flawed middle, I would recommend it. You may not fall in love with it, but the format promises something different and that’s worth giving it a chance.
Did you watch Rellik? Or perhaps gave up half-way through? Let me know your thoughts!
If you fancy having a watch, you can catch up on the series on BBC iPlayer.