This is the crime drama of the year for me, and the BBC deserve considerable kudos for bringing a concept this challenging to our screens. It proves that intelligent and gripping thrillers aren’t the sole preserve of ScandiLand, and Rellik is every bit as good as the best Nordic noir.
The six-part drama isn’t just remarkable for the way it plays with its timeline – it’s also a brilliant example of masterful character development. The writers expertly manipulate our perception of the key characters, playing on our sympathies in the opening episodes and then ripping aside a psychological curtain to reveal an entirely more complex and challenging person as the series progresses. Gabriel, the scarred detective, is every bit as compelling and conflicted as Saga Noren.
Of course, the central conceit is hardly new – Christopher Nolan used it as the centrepiece of his film, Memento. Similarly, if you’re familiar with the first season of The Killing, then you’ll recognise the ‘suspect of the week’ plot device. We’re presented with a series of entirely plausible possible culprits and explore their means, motive and opportunity. Some of these interludes are outright red herrings but the writers cleverly interlace the storylines, so you can’t simply dismiss a suspect who appears to be proven innocent until the final credit roll. And even then…
Rellik isn’t easy watching on any level. It’s a freak-show of warped mentality and conflicting morality. It’s a serial killer police procedural where it’s entirely possible for the audience to deduce whodunit. It’s dark, dynamic and pleasingly deceitful.
Rellik demands your attention, especially in the first couple of hour-long episodes, while you wrap your brain around the artful backwards sequence of storytelling. Then there’s the emotional impact: the damaged souls who are forced into your face so that there’s no escaping the physical and psychological trauma they’ve endured. The acid-scar make-up is horribly convincing but that’s only the half of it – the actors deliver a series of powerful yet nuanced performances which hammer home every betrayal, every dishonesty, every moment of anguish.
The script is a stunner, too, perfectly capturing black-hearted banter and the little white lies of every day interactions.
This is one of those dramas which is so complex and so multi-faceted that you really need to watch it reasonably rapidly – on consecutive days, maybe, so that the repercussions of the previous episode can fully sink in before you watch the next one. If ever something was meant to be a boxset, it’s Rellik.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Rellik is available on DVD