NB: SPOILERS INSIDE
Episode one of Liar was a slick, tense she-said/he-said noir thriller, but it still made me feel uncomfortable watching it. In this age of transparency and encouragement to the survivors of sexual abuse, I often wondered whether this sort of drama, which pointed suspicion at a survivor, might do more harm than good – after all, we’re being asked to judge a woman that really shouldn’t be judged.
This whole episode was once again skillfully assembled, shifting the perception of who might be lying and who might be telling the truth every 10 minutes or so. This second episode also explored the emotional fall-out from an ordeal like sexual abuse, from both sides. Laura Nielsen (Joanna Froggatt) had taken the bold step at the end of last week’s instalment of posting her accusation against surgeon Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffud) onto social media. Convinced she had been taking proactive steps after being frustrated by the lack of progress by the police investigation, her move seemed like it was against ‘type’ for a sexual abuse survivor. But, honestly? I don’t think there is a precedent for post-trauma action – how am I to know what survivors of abuse feel or need for them to heal? It’s just as plausible for a woman who has been abused to try to take back control of something she has had no control over as it is to feel debilitating shame and anxiety. In the end, Laura’s actions came back to haunt her, although from no fault of her own – her post had gone viral and now thousands had formed an opinion on her and her case. Some called her a slut, some supported her. Whatever the opinion in the toxic world of social media, Laura hadn’t been expecting for her life to be laid bare like this, and by the end of the episode, she had emotionally crashed. This element of the drama I liked, and the exploration of social media judgement especially when it comes to abuse felt interesting and plausible (not least because it’s mirroring real-life social media’s judgement of Laura).
Andrew Earlham, meanwhile, was having to deal with the fall-out from Laura’s online accusation. He was stressed at work, almost botching an operation, and felt the prying eyes of colleagues – including Laura’s sister, Katy – bore into his body.
Again, this exploration of judgement felt real and plausible; what did not feel plausible was that Katy and, conversely, Earlham’s son, were still allowed in to be in the same proximity of the accuser and the accused. Surely the police – or their respective bosses – would have stepped in.
While we’re talking about the police, Laura was still intent on taking matters into her own hands after feeling frustration at the lack of progress in the investigation. The police had told her to calm down, but Laura didn’t listen – she sneaked into Earlham’s house via to a spare key, and found a vial of clear liquid under his bed. She was convinced it was GHB and asked her ex, Tom, to engineer a search warrant. He did this without telling the two investigating officers (I didn’t believe he would have done this – it’ll mean his job). The liquid found beneath Earlham’s bed was insulin.
By the end of the episode, Earlham received an anonymous phone call, telling him that Laura had done this sort of thing before and he was determined not to let her ruin someone else’s life. Suspicion turned on Laura once again.
It is good stuff – very well made, well acted and very nicely structured (if a little uneven in places… how come the police missed Laura’s earring beneath Earlham’s bed?) – but there’s still that discomfort nagging away at me: Liar makes us suspicious and judgemental of a survivor of sexual abuse, and I’m not ok with that, despite relative evenhandedness throughout. It has, however, drawn me in and I’m interested to see where this goes.
For our episode one review, go here