Lie to Me makes viewers second-guess motives, and then second-guess the second-guessing on top of it - over and over. It is so well crafted that even the best armchair sleuths can't quite pinpoint the motives, or sometimes the culprit. Season three, the final season of Lie to Me, is more of the same, kicked up a few notches.
Cal Lightman is the owner/operator of a business called The Lightman Group, which is hirable by anyone from big businesses to the FBI or local coppers to the individual who needs the truth. The Lightman Group operates on the quasi-science of reading human traits, body language and facial emotes to get to the bottom of things. Cal himself is introduced in the very first episode as being selfish and irresponsible - which he is - but as with any real person, there is more to him than just that first impression. He breaks all social rules, but he is intensely loyal to anyone he even loosely calls a friend, and even more so, to his daughter.
Having given him a daughter gave the writers many opportunities to humanize him, and they have used it broadly. He is more human, more protective than he has allowed himself to be previously. Cal gets more emotionally drawn to and involved with his clients than he used to. There has been some significant growth and healing there, for all that he is quite quirky. He pushes people, one little button at a time, just shy of too far. He takes great joy in taking out the bad guy, in fun and increasingly creative ways (and in pink bunny slippers, no less). Being portrayed by Tim Roth is perfect- if Cal was acted by anyone else he wouldn't be nearly the powerhouse of barely contained emotion and quirky genius-level obnoxiousness.
The Lightman Group is fleshed out by a handful of associates. Dr Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams) is Cal's longtime friend and partner, and much like shows of yesteryear, part of the appeal is the unspoken love they share. Gillian is stronger this time around, and more appealing for it. She keeps Cal in line as much as anyone can. Their two flunkies are Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) and Ria Torres (Monica Raymund). Loker is now without pay and both trying to prove himself while half pulling away. He's lost his soft sweetness. Torres, on the other hand, brings a certain degree of feminine toughness to the screen, mingled with an odd bit of insecure ego that Cal loves to play with.
It is with Emily that Cal really gets to shine. Daughter "Em" is acted by Hayley McFarland, with just the right amount of innocence and guile. There is a bit of an odd, amusing role reversal between Cal and Emily. No longer being privy to the perceptive discussion between them, as they "read" one another while trying to throw the other off, is one of the great sadnesses of losing this show in its babyhood.
This season's stories are much more humanizing than the previous two seasons were. They still have a fascinating way of breaking people down into the sum of their tiny, minute facial parts. This season further uses the small parts to bring the whole better into focus, tugging the heartstrings a little more by effortlessly drawing a full painting of each person. Even the side characters are more well-rounded and developed. It is more of a study in human nature. Anger at oneself for perceived transgression or flaw is a common theme explored deeply - and it shows on the face. We get to see the best and the worst in people, at their most extreme moments, the idea being that these extremes are when we can peripherally learn the truth.
However, while the stories are deeper and better this season, the micro-expression science has slid into the dark corner of the room. It's too bad they won't be given a chance to find a nice, middle ground. Once in a while, one of the employees at the Lightman Group will comment on facial twitches or shoulder pops. That's about the extent of the science this round. Micro-expressions are mentioned, briefly here and there, but they don't take center stage. It is still a solid study in human behavior, but with more broad, sweeping strokes. They do still flash on true crime faces, celebrities and politicians, though not every episode.
There are many aspects of Lie to Me to enjoy. In episode four, the lack of music is significant. Typically, music is used to emphasize a scene. Here, the lack of music was a tool as well. Episode six, "Beyond Belief," is well-written and very telling of Cal. In another one, after putting a pair of warring brothers in the hot box together, it is commented of them that "It's like two rattlesnakes in a bag." Loker replies with, "Time for the scorpion" as Cal himself enters the room.
Also, British insults are much more entertaining and imaginative than our American ones. Cal has an amusingly unique turn of phrase, and one-hundred percent not politically correct. In the eighth one, Cal spouts off with: "You're about as much use as a back pocket in a shirt, you are." He has just the goofiest, most honestly real grin ever, and he always walks away from a fight, grinning. Lightman gets very vested in his cases, puts himself on the line for each and every one, so he only tends to take the cases that tweak him one way or another. Cal is revered and feared both for his ability and his evil streak. But if Gillian ever went rogue, if something hurt her enough to push her over the edge, she would be the truly dangerous one - with her psych background, her intuition and her own understanding of Cal's science. There is also one most important detail to mention: season three of Lie to Me has a great explosion. That is needed for great TV, right?
The DVD boasts subtitles and translation into three languages. A handful of deleted scenes are offered on the last disc, with the final Lie to Me episode. Tim Roth gives a brief interview introducing and exploring the character he plays Cal Lightman, as well as what it is like to play such an enigmatic and different person. As always, the show's intro sequence is one of the best of all television.
Cal eats like a man's man - giant messy bites - but he drinks his tea ever-so-sweetly. He is a man of many inconsistencies, as all good characters are. He never does the expected. With Gillian as a sidekick and Em to draw him out, with Loker and Torres to shine a light from a different angle, season three of Lie to Me has a small core cast with amazing sides to fill each episode. The mysteries that are solved by finding each suspect's truth are deeper, more satisfying because there is a better understanding of humanity. It is hard to see the end of a show that is so solidly written, scripted and acted. Farewell, Lie to Me.
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