Monday, November 16, 2009

Lie to Me, "Black Friday": Buyers remorse

As mentioned previously, "Lie to Me" is a show that, due to its nature, I'm not going to blog about every week, but tonight's episode was a pretty strong one, and I want to talk briefly about why. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I run away to that place where all the cool teenagers hide out...

"Lie to Me" showrunner Shawn Ryan told me at the start of the season that he wanted to focus on character first and the science second, and that he felt the stories would have more impact if there weren't always so many of them per episode. "Black Friday," though, managed to spend roughly equal time on two stories without one diminishing the other, and it managed to work in a fair bit of the science without it feeling like it came at the expense of the characters.

Tim Roth is still reasons #1-17 for watching this show, but it's important to develop the other characters, both as foils for Lightman and so the B-stories are interesting even when they're Lightman-lite. The Black Friday story did a good job of setting up Loker and Torres on opposite sides of the issue, and having Loker do the right thing not because he's necessarily a good guy, but because of the (mostly) inflexible moral code he's set up for himself.

The highlight, though, was Lightman taking the kidnapped boy through the looking glass, and the problem getting increasingly messy as it went along. In that way, it felt like one of the better episodes of "House," only instead of one misdiagnosis after another, we got one incorrect set of parents after another, and the final one was so damaged that the kid started to regret looking at all.

"Lie to Me" isn't a straight crime procedural, but it can be close enough that I appreciate episodes like this one that deny you the pat ending. The electronics store will still make a payout, but people are still dead and they probably should be paying more. And the kid finds his biological father, but all four living parties are all so damaged by the experience that they may never put themselves back together again - or maybe they will. (All of this, of course, depends on what kind of time, if any, the adoptive parents have to serve.)

Strong outing. Again, I don't have a lot of room in my life for standalone dramas, but episodes like this remind me why I make an exception for "Lie to Me."

What did everybody else think?

11 comments:

baemecon said...

As an adopted child myself this one hit home -- although I knew from a very early age about my being adopted which not the case with Max/Owen. Overall I'm starting to really enjoy the show.

Donald said...

It was a strong episode and I feel that this show has gotten better and better this season. I do hope that Shawn Ryan pens an episode by himself, though. That'd be a knockout.

Mary said...

I agree that this one was one of the better Lie To Me episodes and Shawn Ryan has kept his word about character development first and the science second. As a fan of the show I appreciate you taking the time to share you experise with others who maybe haven't tuned in to watch the show. Lie To Me is a great show and I hope it is on for many seasons to come!

Lisa said...

Great episode! Tim Roth is amazing. Loving the character development this season. I hope Lie to Me is on for many more seasons too! I've been watching the show since the pilot and agree that it keeps getting better and better.

SweetMewsic said...

I love the show, and I loved this episode. Like Lisa, I have been watching this show since the beginning because I was attracted by the premise of the show (as presented in ads prior to its airing). I have never been disappointed.

NoMoreVegas said...

Really enjoyed the episode - while it isn't as deep as the other shows Alan covers, it definitely is a fun hour of television, in particular thanks to the performance of Tim Roth. One question about this episode though - the boy seemed hung up on finding his birth parents (as evidenced by his discovering the nurse before Lightman pulled the tablecloth out from under him). Yet at the end, when he discovered his dad in the wheelchair, his initial reaction was that he didn't want anything to do with him (the boy said something about how his father didn't know anything about him, which the nurse didn't either). I was unclear why he'd be so enthused about meeting one and not the other? At first I thought it had something to do with the wheelchair, or perhaps it was because he had been on an emotional rollercoaster that day and wasn't acting rationally, but I am still not sure. Anyone?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'd say it was one part emotional rollercoaster, and one part wheelchair. He'd built up this fantasy image in his head of his birth parents as the people whose son was allegedly kidnapped, then had to downsize those expectations to a single mom who was a nurse, then had to downsize even more to a bitter-looking guy in a wheelchair. It was clear that was not in any way like the mental picture he'd created, and after having the rug pulled out from him twice already (three times if you count the adoptive parents), he just decided he didn't want to play anymore.

shara says said...

Thanks for the write-up about this show, I was just thinking to myself this morning: "I wish somebody would write something about Lie to Me, nobody ever really mentions it in the blogs".

I really enjoyed the episode too. Actually, I've enjoyed all the episodes this season, particularly the last 4 (the hostage situation, the old friend returns, the undercover handler betrayal, and this one). I watched the show last year and thought it was pretty good, but its exponentially better this season. It is now falling on the Bones end of procedurals for me (although I'd love for them to introduce some more serialized elements soon). Tim Roth is fantastic, but now that the other characters are being developed more he doesn't have to carry the whole thing by himself. The show is also doing a good job of depicting the moral quandries involved in being able to see truth - I really like that this season has put more emphasis on how each member of the team approaches these dilemmas, because that's a great way to give insight into the characters.

castlesburning said...

As far as Max/Owen's letdown at meeting his bio dad, I agree - the wheelchair was probably part of it, but a larger part was probably the fact that the initial conversation didn't indicate father and son were clones of one another. Most likely, Max had this idea that he'd mention being into music, and his dad would instantly say, hey! me too! Instead, his dad said he liked hockey, which Max wasn't really into, etc. They were, in fact, two different people, who had lived two different lives, and really had nothing holding them together other than the fact of being blood relatives. Obviously, over time, they would undoubtedly find shared interests, as well as develop shared memories and experiences, but as both Lightman and Foster said, it would take some time.

As with many things in life -- especially when you're a teenager -- the reality isn't anything like the dream, and it takes a while to adjust.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a really strong episode too, and I particularly liked the way Emily shot Owen down by pointing out how dysfunctional her family is. Hayley McFarland just nailed that scene. The only downside was the fact that this was a Jennifer Beals free episode, which is probably more a function of the crush I've had on her since she's appeared on the series, than anything else...:)

Linda said...

Monday night is my double dose of Brits - Hugh Laurie followed by Tim Roth. Such great actors who pull everyone around them up to their level that even if the episodes aren't strong, I will still watch.

A little OT - Shame that Vincent D'onofrio is leaving/being dumped by "L&O:CI." Would love to get Goren and Lightman in an interrogation scene and have a head-tilt competition.