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'Rellik' is a Trippy Police Procedural
April 13, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment
 

Better be wide-awake if you want to follow Cinemax’s new six-part serial killer series Rellik.

Rellik, which launches Friday at 10 p.m. ET, tells its story the way it spells its title: backward.

It’s not a spoiler, therefore, to reveal that in the opening scenes, one Steven Mills (Michael Schaeffer) dies. Mills is widely believed to have killed seven people after disfiguring them with acid.

The only people who seem sorry about his death are his wife Beth (Georgina Rich) and their daughter. The police team that had been tracking the killer goes out for drinks to celebrate.

Except for the leader of the task force, Detective Inspector Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer, top), seems curiously subdued. And this puzzles one of his fellow cops, Detective Inspector Elaine Shepard (Jodi Balfour, top), because Markham was among the killer’s victims. He had acid thrown in his face and, while he survived, he’s terribly scarred and in ongoing pain.

So Markham wants nothing more than to hoist a glass to the demise of the guy who did this. He’s not robustly hailing the death of Steven Mills, however, because he’s not entirely sure Mills was him. And once we know this about Markham, the course of Rellik’s remaining five and three-quarter episodes is set: They walk back through the story on the premise that we may learn, or judge for ourselves, whether Markham’s doubts are founded.

We definitely learn a lot of backstory details, starting with the fluid relationship between Markham and Shepard.

Purely as a storytelling exercise, however, walking backward through a story sounds simpler than it turns out to be. The creators/writers of this joint Cinemax and BBC One production, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, work hard at keeping the action comprehensible, but the structure still requires constant reminders of what we have already seen, and that obligates the viewer to keep extensive mental notes.

Dormer and Balfour help considerably by making their characters strong and clear. Their part of the story flows nicely. It’s the other plot details, which are necessarily somewhat complex, that require greater concentration.

Once those details become clear, they feel well-crafted. It’s still a commitment to follow them.

Perhaps the greatest credit to Rellik is that the whole six-episode narrative never feels like a gimmick. The premise of the drama – that Markham is genuinely conflicted over Mills and has an acute personal investment in being certain the right person is nailed for what he continues to suffer – lends itself to this unusual setup.

It’s eminently logical that the person in Markham’s position would replay the story just to get the assurance he needs.

Some of Cinemax’s late-night shows have been raw and graphic. Rellik, despite its grim premise, is a little less so, lingering more on the characters than the crimes themselves.

Backward or forward, there’s less violent action and more psychological suffering. At the end, there will not be a quiz.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Zeke
perhaps it was the "agony" rather than the "procedural" that caused my leaving this halfway. (I watched in UK)
I know that the completely backward storytelling that was torturous.
Power to anyone who can finish the series!
Apr 13, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
 
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