An independence referendum in Catalonia created a whirlwind of controversy in Spain. A Category 5 hurricane called Irma tore up parts of Florida and the Caribbean. And Pink’s ‘What About Us’ stormed the charts. September 2017 feels like a lifetime ago when you look back at it. In television terms especially, two and a half years is an eon.
In this age of streaming and binge watching, delayed gratification can be a hard sell. When entire series are available to enjoy during one lazy Sunday afternoon, the idea of waiting a week to be drip fed a series isn’t always all that appealing. We are, it’s fairly safe to say, rather spoiled for TV entertainment these days.
Thank the gods of television for recaps, then. Where would we be without them? Those little reminders of what we watched seven days ago can be lifesavers. But when the gap is some 130 weeks? Well, we’re going to need more than a sixty second package of short clips to remind us what went down.
Liar was something of a surprise success for ITV back in the autumn of 2017. And when something’s a hit on the box, expect another series. If that series takes some 30-odd months to appear, expect to need a somewhat comprehensive reminder of what happened first time around.
For an in-depth summary of the events of Liar’s maiden season, try this handy run-down on the Radio Times website. Or, if you have the time, your best bet may well be to watch or rewatch the thing on ITV Player.
In a nutshell, though? A man and a woman end up back at his house after a date. She later says she was sexually assaulted. He claims what happened was consensual. The central premise posed a question… who is the ‘liar’? Laura or Andrew? Was it date rape or a false accusation?
Wisely, with #MeToo only a month away from dominating social media and then the cultural zeitgeist, Liar’s BAFTA-winning writers Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Baptiste) decided that a series investigating sexual assault and the difficulty the legal system often has in prosecuting those responsible for it was the more interesting of the two possible stories.
The he said/she said set-up quickly turned into a regular thriller once we discovered that it was Ioan Gruffudd’s Dr Andrew Earlham that was the titular liar and not Joanne Froggatt’s school teacher Laura. Fast-forward some five episodes and we learned that Earlham was actually a serial rapist. And, soon, a dead one.
The question now is this – who killed him…?
This may seem like a rather easy question. It’s Laura, isn’t it? But, as we learn here in Liar series 2 episode 1, Earlham’s crimes made him more than a few enemies. With 19 known victims, the list of suspects that new lead investigator DI Karen Renton, played by a fierce Katherine Kelly, has to sort through is fairly considerable.
Kelly could well prove to be the series highlight, only this opener is never more watchable than when the former Corrie actress is in full-on BBQ mode, grilling Froggett’s Laura on a high heat. She does so in some style, all leather jackets and (nicotine) chewing gum.
There’s a fair amount of flair and panache being shown off with the cinematography too. The Kent coast has never looked so alluring. Even with a dead doctor dumped on it.
On the basis of this first hour of series two, Liar will keep us watching and guessing. We’re certain there will be plenty of plot twists and surprise developments to come. Whether or not it can regain its initial novelty value and identity seems unlikely, though.
What made Liar series 1 so interesting was its central concept. That’s gone now. In its place is just a rather standard whodunit. Luckily for the drama and us, we’ve got Joanne Froggett, Katherine Kelly and also Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley, A Confession) to keep it from being too run of the mill.
The storytelling is also little confusing. You really do have to pay attention when watching. Flashbacks allow Earlham’s murder to be explored more here, but they do also skew the chronology a fair bit. Pair that with the fairly lengthy gap since the first run and Liar isn’t always the easiest crime drama to follow. That said, you have to imagine it’ll settle down as of episode 2.
If we said we’re as excited by this as we were the first time, we’d be liars. However, it’s no fib to say that we’re looking forward to its next five instalments.
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of Liar series 2 episode 1 here.
The first series of ITV1’s Harry and Jack Williams-written crime drama Liar set up an interesting premise – who was the eponymous fibber, school teacher Laura (Joanne Froggatt)? Or high-flying surgeon Andrew Earlham (Hornblower himself, Ioan Gruffudd)? By the end of the first run’s successful six episodes, we found out – it was Earlham. He was a serial date rapist, a very nasty piece of work indeed. And, of course, a liar.
Fast forward some three years and the opener to Liar’s second series asks us that same poser again. Who’s the liar of the title? This time, however, we’ve more than just one person to pick from. We’ve a whole cast of characters from which to determine who isn’t telling the truth about killing the deranged doctor.
By the end of this second part here though, we’re asking ourselves who the real liar is… is it, in fact, anyone who’s claiming that this follow-up series is as good as the one some 8 million people tuned in for and enjoyed back in 2017…?
Let’s deal with the bad news before the good, shall we? This sophomore season of Liar doesn’t quite have the quality that its predecessor exuded. Compared to what came before it’s improbable, schlocky and, let’s be frank, a wee bit silly.
The good news? Well, it’s still more than watchable.
Critical thinking and logic are wonderful things. They help us understand the world and sort out dis – and mis – information from the real thing. When it comes to enjoying TV drama, though? Sometimes it pays to employ a trick commonly known as the ‘suspension of disbelief’.
For the sake of enjoying something, it can sometimes work out best to just sit back and watch somewhat passively. Let the thing wash over you. Enjoy the thrills ‘n’ spills and try not to let realism spoil the party. If you can do that, there’s plenty to like about Liar. If you can’t… well, maybe it’s time to switch over.
As the murder investigation and flashbacks to Andrew Earlham’s final days both build up, the more rationally-minded viewer could get bogged down in far-fetched plotting and let it spoil their fun.
There’s the addition of a baseball cap making Andrew all but invisible – akin to Clark Kent’s specs – as well as Laura leaving her window wide open when she’s being stalked by a sociopath with a motive to kill her.
There’s the exaggerated characterisation that could bug some people too; Katherine Kelly’s rather unlikeable detective is almost cartoonish in her verve and willingness to smash police protocol to get to the truth.
We’re not here for uber realism, though. This is a twisting, turning crime yarn. Alright, it has its flaws, but we’re still on board.
This second episode pushed the narrative further and got us to thinking about other suspects in Andrew’s murder. The bearded figure of Ian has been attacked by Kelly’s fearsome detective but doesn’t appear to be guilty. And the more we think about Carl having been responsible, the less it adds up. Although he does, of course, have a reason to kill the deceased. Currently it makes sense to look in the direction of Andrew’s old ‘friend’ (or accomplice?) Olly, played with an oily creepiness by Taken 3 and Legend’s Sam Spruell.
Liar won’t be the best crime drama of 2020, but suspend that disbelief for an hour a week and there’s plenty of reason to keep watching. We’ll be tuning in for next Monday night’s third instalment. Will you?
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
‘You stole my life and now I’m going to steal yours…’
In this week’s instalment of ITV1’s Monday night crime drama Liar we learned that these were Dr Andrew Earlham’s final words to lead character Laura. Was it just a vague and empty threat? Or was there real meaning behind it? It’s impossible to say at this stage, but one theory that seems to make sense is that the evil swine at the centre of this whole thing may well have committed suicide and framed Laura for his murder – such was his hatred for his vengeful victim.
It’s tempting to believe. But with so many suspects still in the frame here at the halfway stage, any viewer who claims to know what really happened has to be something of a liar themselves.
‘A lot of people are looking for you, Andrew Earlham. I know you, and I know what you did to my wife. I want you to think about my wife. I want you to think about her and all the other women you’ve hurt as your lungs fill up with water and your world turns black.’
Ouch. That’s a pretty intense thing to say to someone. Of course, you can forgive Carl here for his hatred of Earlham. He was righteous in his fury as he threw the vile doctor overboard, tied up and destined to drown. Carl’s wife Winnie was one of many women Earlham had brutalised, after all.
So Carl killed him, then? Not quite. This is only episode 3, after all. Ioan Gruffud’s character broke free underwater and managed to escape Carl’s angry clutches using a secreted tool of his trade, a razor sharp scalpel. So that’s one suspect ticked off the list. Carl didn’t kill him, even if he thought he had for some time.
To be fair to Carl, we can understand why he thought he had offed the man. ‘None of this makes any sense. I just don’t understand how he could have survived that’, Carl says here. And he has a point – it was an expert escapology act that made Harry Houdini look like Tommy Cooper locked in his downstairs toilet.
A mysterious shipping container and its seemingly quite shocking contents (a dead body, you imagine) could play a part in unravelling the mystery. DI Karen Renton’s smarmy grin suggests that she believes it’s something that ties Laura to the murder.
Renton, a fun but not entirely realistic character, is rather keen on pinning the murder on Laura. Why, though? A hunch? Perhaps – ‘My instinct tells me you did this’, Renton says at one point. It’s possible, however, that she’s looking for a fall girl. Could Renton be Earlham’s killer…? It’s a fanciful idea, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Also drawing suspicion are Vanessa (Shelley Conn) and her wife Jennifer (Jill Halfpenny), as well as investigating officer Rory Maxwell (Danny Webb) and his argumentative police officer son Greg. None of whom have ruled themselves firmly in or out as firm suspects at this stage.
Liar continues to entertain here in series 2 episode 3. It does so, however, in a fairly cheap way. It’s fun and undoubtedly watchable, but long gone is any idea of realism or underlying theme. We’re firmly in potboiler territory. But in these rather worrying times, with everything that’s going on in the world, it’s all but impossible not to welcome the distraction.
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up on Liar series 2 episode 4? Read our review of episode 3 here.
Before the current Golden Age of Television, most TV dramas – especially those from the US – would clock in an average of 22 episodes per series (or ‘season’). Teams of writers would put their thinking caps on, put their heads together and come up with the best part of a full day’s worth of programming for every run.
These days we’re much more used to shorter efforts. Premium American imports generally clock up between 10 and 12 episodes per series, while we usually stick to around six. This leaner approach seems to have driven, or at least coincided with, a noticeable increase in quality. When it comes to television drama, bigger isn’t always better. Consumers tend to prefer quality to quantity.
The six episodes and 270-ish minutes of Liar series 1 told a very intriguing story very well. It was dramatic, effective, fresh and kept on track. Liar series 2, unfortunately, seems to have lost its way a little. The first series was a six-episode story told over six episodes. Its follow-up, unfortunately, feels slightly more like a two-parter stretched over a month and a half.
We’re past the halfway stage now and it could be said that the ITV whodunit is treading water somewhat. This fourth part did little to advance the plot and may well have left a chunk of its audience frustrated because of it. Episode 4 was less interested in finding out who killed Dr Andrew Earlham and much more concerned with the back stories of its two lead characters. If this were a Marvel movie, it’d be an Origins story.
The pasts of Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) and Laura (Joanne Froggatt) were almost entirely the focus here. While it’s nice to round out characters’ backgrounds and flesh them out as people, it’s only really useful if it ties into the plot and pushes things forward.
With Earlham’s origin story we find out what made him a monster – or at least partly. We discover how he learned his sick ‘trade’. He had inspiration… Ollie, played by Sam Spruell. Before his days as a rapist, Earlham discovered that his pal Ollie had sexually assaulted his colleague Dillain and got away with it. His psychotic side soon emerged and he began blackmailing his ‘friend’. Soon, he would begin targeting women himself.
We also discovered much more about Laura. Those of you with good memories will recall how ill her father was in the debut series. And those more observant of you will have spotted that he doesn’t appear in this second series. What happened in between? Well, the answer – in short – was euthanasia. The question we were asked to pose ourselves was seemingly this… if Laura can face giving a lethal injection to the man she loved most in the world, could she also kill the man she hated most in it?
Your thoughts on this fourth instalment of Liar will be based almost entirely on your love for it. Superfans will no doubt have enjoyed the sharp focus on the central characters’ backgrounds. More casual viewers are likely to have found the thing a little stagnant.
Either way, next week is sure to see a ramping back up of the plot and the investigation. Could Joanna really be guilty here? Or was she, as seems increasingly likely, framed for the thing? If it’s the latter, she’s going to have to explain to Katherine Kelly’s DI Renton – missing here in this fourth part – how her necklace made it into that shipping container…
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Liar series 2 episode 5? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
It’s a ruddy good job that Laura has had so many different hairstyles over the past few years, isn’t it…?
One of the trickiest things with watching a TV drama that regularly shifts its timeline about the place is trying to keep up where everything is. Quickly nip to the kitchen to put the kettle on or grab a Biscoff and there’s every chance you could miss a shift in the chronology of things and get confused.
Lucky for us, television producers know it can be easy to lose track of who’s doing what, where and when. The solution? Wigs!
Liar must have had a serious wig budget. It was money well spent, though. Only the length of Laura’s locks really does help us focus on where we are in what has become a relatively complex timeline. While skipping back and forth can allow a series to paint fuller characters, in this case it mostly just slows the pace of everything down.
This penultimate episode of Liar series 2 needed to ramp up the tension and drama in order to get things back on track. It did so a wee bit, going some way to make up for the listlessness and meandering nature of last Monday night’s fourth instalment.
We saw more of Laura’s desperate efforts to clear her name – but again, we spent too long in the past. Historical scenes with her dragged and added very little indeed to the overall picture. By this point we desperately need to push forward, not look back.
And then there’s Andrew Earlham. We already know that the man is a rapist and that he took his inspiration from his pal Ollie. Flashbacks here merely derail the plot further.
A quick word about the police here in this… it’s a job for Superintendent Ted Hastings and the AC-12 crew over at Line of Duty, isn’t it? The coppers in this are either lazy workshy sorts who don’t perform their duties or, worse still, they’re bent. Mother of God.
So, then. What are we left thinking as the sixth and final episode looms? Well, aside from the fact that we may well have been led to believe that Earlham’s son Luke indulged in a little patricide (‘He’s evil. You want to know how I feel? If I see him, he’s dead!’), we’re mostly just left hoping things wrap up in a way the much better first series deserves.
This follow-up season has been disappointing, unfocused, disjointed and more than a little convoluted in its plotting. But one final hurrah – a decent send-off – and we can forgive some of the sins of Liar 2.0.
It all rides on next week. Just please, ITV – no more flashbacks… We just want to find out who killed Earlham. We really don’t need to see what Laura’s hair looked like in sixth form.
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Liar series 2 episode 6? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
‘It’s clear to me that this story’s bullsh*t…’
– DI Karen Renton
Anyone who sat through all six weeks of the follow-up to 2017’s sleeper hit ITV drama Liar may well have found themselves agreeing with Katherine Kelly’s really quite unlikeable DI Renton here in this final episode.
While it may be a little harsh to write off the entire of series 2 of Liar as complete ‘BS’, it certainly isn’t difficult to dismiss it as disappointing and a pale imitation of its predecessor.
For those of you yet to sit down and watch this sixth and final ever episode – ‘the writers have said from the outset that this finale concludes the story,’ ITV recently said – we’ll not spoil the Big Reveal. Suffice to say that what’s finally disclosed is simultaneously far fetched and yet somewhat predictable. Which is no mean feat in writing terms.
Harry and Jack Williams have been behind the keyboard for some of British television’s finest crime dramas over the past five or six years, bringing us top drawer TV such as The Missing and Baptiste. They’ve proved their mettle as drama scribes beyond much doubt. This second series of Liar, however, is destined to be buried somewhat on the brothers’ CVs.
This final episode did, at least, tie up all the loose ends frayed so wildly over the past month and a half. As per previous weeks, it did so by jarringly jolting across various timelines – a habit that’s persisted throughout this series and not to any great effect. Unless the desired effect was to just to confuse people.
Murder, blackmail, leverage, kidnapping, miraculously escaping from a watery death while tied up with cable ties, Liar series 2 hasn’t been short of crime or action. What it has been short of is any level of realism or coherent plot.
While, for the most part, the performances were quite good – the motivations of characters were, at times, downright perplexing. Not that they bothered you for long, though. Convenient plot twists and daft conveniences soon distracted the viewer from any issues with characterisation.
One thing we can say about the conclusion here is that it did, at least, offer up some kind of closure on the main plot of the first run some three years ago. Was this murder mystery of a second series needed, though? Probably not.
In television, viewing figures are king. When you attract a shade under nine million pairs of eyes each week as 2017’s Liar did, the big bosses will want to commission more. Certain dramas can hold that weight. This series, however, could not. Its initial premise (who is the ‘Liar’?) was intriguing enough but limited in the long run. In other words – six episodes of Dr Andrew Earlham and Laura Nielson were enough.
Neither this, nor the five weeks of Liar before it, were car crash TV exactly. But it has been – at a very minimum – driving without insurance. Now it’s time we park the thing in the garage.
Did you tune in for Liar series 2 episode 6? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…