The title of BBC One’s new serial killer drama for Monday nights might, at first glance, suggest something a little outdated – but this new six-part series is very much a modern offering. Taking its cue from the recent raft of TV Scandi Noirs, Rellik might not feel like the freshest show on television, but it’s certainly no relic of the past.
From the collective pen of Harry and Jack Williams, creators of the Beeb’s runaway 2014 success The Missing, this new crime show focuses on the hunt for a twisted serial murderer known as ‘The Acid Murderer’. The interesting thing, though? The tale is told entirely in reverse. Which is where the title’s real meaning comes into play. ‘Rellik’ being ‘Killer’ backwards (of course!).
The idea is neat, and while we’ve seen dramatic devices like this used in films before – think Christopher Nolan’s Memento or Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible – a reverse narrative is a pretty novel idea on the small screen. It certainly makes for an intriguing gimmick in this maiden episode. Whether the prospect of backwards storytelling becomes hard work over the course of six episodes though, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Our opening scene sees the case’s lead detective cornering the man responsible for the spate of brutal murders and the standoff ends with the suspect being shot dead. Now, some of you may be thinking, ‘well, where’s the fun in that?!’ But, as we later learn, there’s much more than meets the eye about the case. So much more.
Rellik may take its chronology inspiration from Memento, but in tone and style there’s more than a little bit of David Fincher’s archetypal serial killer thriller Se7en about it. Plus its opening titles and theme music are so similar you can almost hear the chatterings of a thousand copyright lawyers.
But that’s enough of the homages; let’s look at the thing itself. The big draw here? The acting talent of Northern Irish thesp Richard Dormer. He’s a TV heavyweight, with a CV boasting the likes of Game of Thrones and Fortitude. He plays DCI Gabriel Markham, a Met detective whose interest in the case is – as is so often the case – personal. The killer, who uses acid to burn off his victim’s faces, distinguishing features and fingerprints, threw some of the corrosive liquid into our hero’s face early on in the case, disfiguring him quite severely.
Assisting Markham in his quest to hunt down the man responsible is his partner DI Elaine Shepard, played by Quarry actress Jodi Balfour. The two are winding down an affair in the opening episode, so we’ll get to see how the grizzled misery bagged his bright, young and pretty partner. And why he thought it was a good idea, given that he has a wife and teenage daughter at home. Albeit quite unhappy ones.
This opening episode zips back in time quite a few times, but does so via stylish little montage packages, so – as long as you’re paying attention – you shouldn’t lose the plot. Don’t get bogged down in the unusual chronological set-up, though. Rellik is still a crime drama as you’d know it. But one, we suspect, that will come to try to explore the idea of why people are like they are. A philosophical monologue from Markham early on about how a man cleaning windscreens in traffic came by his fate suggests as much.
All in all, it’s an intriguing start. Rellik episode 1 has all the ingredients to make for a fine crime drama, all framed around an interesting concept. Its story may be told in reverse, but there doesn’t seem to be anything backwards about this relentlessly grim and grisly new drama.
What did you make of Rellik episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!