BBC One’s latest drama series Rellik features a unique way of telling its story in reverse order. This creative narrative certainly takes more than a few ideas from the brilliant film Memento but the execution in series format is both Rellik’s strongest and weakest point. There are enough clever twists and an intriguing narrative woven through the 6 episodes to keep the suspense and mystery high, but the complicated way the story plays out leaves little room to empathise with any of the flawed characters.
With redeeming character traits lost for almost all the cast, Rellik relies on its reverse-story to hide its Achilles heel. We begin at the end, with Detective Inspector Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer) finally catching the killer. “It’s over”, he growls, his acid-burnt face drooping over his eyes. The prime suspect, who kills his suspects with acid, proclaims Gabriel has got it wrong, that something is amiss. Following a conclusive showdown time slows and abruptly stops. Its here that Rellik’s prime mechanic is shown for the first time. Time is reversed; rain raises back to the sky and blood oozes back into a wound among other close up scenes. After several seconds, time has been reversed by a figure written in the corner of the screen and we slowly begin to understand the events leading up to that moment.
Rellik’s strength relies on the preconceptions and stereotypes we all hold about people and turns this on its head. There are numerous instances where the killer seems to be revealed or another tease of a clue points toward a shady individual only for it to be completely wrong or unreliable without the full picture or history of the scene transpiring. Its nicely worked into the plot too and actually helps to elevate the story. At face value, Rellik’s reverse story seems like a cheap gimmick. It can be complicated to follow at times, but it all comes together nicely at the end, even if it is dragged out for a little too long when the dust settles.
The downside to the story being played in reverse ultimately lies with the characters. Its incredibly difficult to empathise with anyone here, especially lead protagonist Gabriel who’s bitter, cold persona is hard to warm to throughout the show. The rest of the characters follow suit, with dark secrets and numerous flaws inherent in even the most innocent people in the show. This necessity to portray everyone as damaged or flawed makes Rellik more of a passive watch than an engrossing, character driven drama and because of that, Rellik’s final episode which plays out forwards rather than backwards in time, is consequently the weakest. Although most of the characters are well written throughout, what should be the emotional punch needed to elevate Rellik as the characters reach their climactic showdown, fails to ignite any sort of empathy due to the passive, ineffective way the characters have been portrayed.
Technically, the show is pretty good with the reverse camera effects working really well to break up each scene without the excessive use of establishing shots to do so. During the middle portion of the show, there is an incessant need to shoot everything with the character’s back to the camera. There are times where a character is speaking with his or her back to the camera and these long, drawn out scenes are both awkward and irritating, making it difficult to gauge the proper character reaction with such a stand offish approach to the entire affair. Its a shame too because the editing and masterful execution of the story is generally superb but some technical hiccups and poor characterisation hold Rellik back from being great.
Rellik is really a story of two halves. On the one hand, the brilliantly edited and well written script is executed to perfection; the big climactic reveal is shocking and sure to leave goosebumps down many a spine. Despite this, Rellik’s horribly flawed characters and passive approach to characterisation make it difficult to empathise with anyone leaving the anti-climactic ending souring what’s otherwise a pretty good crime thriller.