In a time when most series are on hiatus, FOX’s drama "Lie to Me" continues its second season with all new episodes this summer.
The crime drama stars Oscar-nominated actor Tim Roth as the gruff and unapologetic Dr. Cal Lightman, and award-nominated actress Kelli Williams ("The Practice") as his savvy partner, Dr. Gillian Foster. Together they lead a team at The Lightman Group, a company whose business is the art of finding truth through "microexpressions." In other words, being able to see when a person is lying or telling the truth based on body language. Inspired by the work of psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman, a man renowned for his studies in human emotions, "Lie to Me" digs not only into the underbelly of political scandal and federal crimes, it shows viewers how to spot lies from different points of view. It’s because of this mixture of deciphering lies mixed with a good share of action that "Lie to Me" remains exciting each week.
You never know what you’re going to see or learn from it. Yet at the same time, it’s not all about the science. The chemistry of its core characters is intriguing, and the ensemble is pitch perfect. Kelli Williams and Tim Roth have a wonderful onscreen rapport, as does the series’ supporting cast: Monica Raymund ("Law & Order: SVU"), Mekhi Phifer ("E.R"), and Brendan Hines ("The Middleman").
Raymund, in particular, shines despite having a few onscreen credits to her name. She holds her own remarkably well with the veteran cast as the character Ria Torres, a woman whose "natural," gifted abilities turn heads at The Lightman Group, making her Cal Lightman’s protege, which is hardly an easy task. It is the mentor relationship she has with Cal Lightman that adds to the show’s drama. Especially when the winter finale consisted of them fighting over information he withheld from her.
Now summer is here, and fans of the series will find themselves exploring Dr.Cal Lightman’s past once again. In this latest episode, titled "Beat the Devil," Jason Dohring ("Veronica Mars," "Moonlight") guest stars as Martin Walker, a grad student who captures Lightman’s attention for all the wrong reasons during a guest lecture, a favor he’s doing for his mentor Helen Dezekis (Rowena King). Convinced Martin is a psychopath, Lightman goes out of his way to prove he’s right, complicating matters with Helen, who as it turns out shares a romantic past with Lightman.
The entire episode is a cat and mouse game of outing Martin. Meanwhile, the secondary plot is far different, as Ria Torres and Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) work on a separate case concerning an unidentified flying object; yes, a UFO. While this episode isn’t exactly the best foot to set off the spring season, it can easily be broken down in highs and lows.
Jason Dohring vs Tim Roth — There was so much potential in this storyline. Dohring played Martin’s psychopatic tendencies with great restraint, leaving chills with a mere wisp of a smile or a cold stare. Roth’s interaction with Dohring was definitely exciting, and their scenes brought a lot of intensity to the screen, making it hard to look away. It also begs the question as to whether we’ll see Martin again. The fact that Martin was able to trick Ria Torres, create doubt in The Lightman Group, and nearly pull one over Cal Lightman, of all people, makes Martin Walker worthy of the title "Best Possible Recurring Villian".
The Many Loves of Cal Lightman — In seasons past, it has been revealed that Cal isn’t the best at handling intimate relationships, and he loves a good gamble. Learning that he had a fling with his mentor definitely sheds light on his issues. For a man who has lectured co-workers on loyalty and boundary lines, this will definitely shift the ongoing relationship he has with long time (possible love interest) Dr. Gillian Foster. It’s good to see their relationship taking a bit of the forefront, but hopefully Lightman’s indiscretions won’t sabotage a good thing.
U.F.O. & Conspiracies — The concept isn’t exactly bad, it’s the timing of it all. In one corner we have a psychopath who likes to waterboard his victims, and on the other side we have two highly intelligent members of The Lightman Group chasing a U.F.O. It’s understandable if the darker tone of the main storyline is a downer, but this U.F.O element was out of place. The episode could have been strengthened by having Ria Torres and Eli Loker help validate Lightman, rather than proving conspiracy theories. And when the stories did overlap, like when Ria gets a visit from Martin, the idea of searching for U.F.Os pales in comparison. We as viewers want to examine how all these characters work collectively in high stakes circumstances, like the Martin Walker type cases, because it allows them to be at their best and grow. Previous episodes have done this well, like "Blinded" back in the first season, in which a serial killer forces the whole group to race against time. As recent as the first episode of this season, "The Core of It," Lightman uncovers the truth behind a woman who not only is a witness to a murder, but appears to have multiple personalities. It’s easily one of the best in the series, and if Roth gets nominated for an Emmy or Golden Globe, "The Core of It" will be part of the reason. So considering these previous episodes, "Beat the Devil" for the most part is good, but the series can push its storylines further, to a darker place.
Changing Directions — One of the more surprising, noticeable things about the new episode happened to be the new wardrobe Ria Torres is donning through the halls of the office. Typically, Eli Loker is the character who sports the casual Friday look. But when Ria Torres begins walking around in a jean mini-skirt and a cotton red top, something is wrong. Some will argue it’s just clothes, but it says a lot about her character. It has been established that Ria Torres is not like most people her age; she has a knack for reading ulterior motives and she fights to be taken seriously at times. So why is she suddenly walking around the office in a short skirt and knit top? Monica Raymund is undoubtedly a beautiful actress, but she doesn’t need short skirts to compensate for her talent. It makes Ria appear more like a young co-ed than a professional working for a major company. How will her character be taken seriously if she works a case with government officials and she’s sporting a mini jean skirt? Hopefully this is just temporary, and isn’t a sign of making her "sexy and young" for viewers.
Nevertheless, the series remains strong despite some minor flaws in continuity and plot. The actors continue to bring their best onscreen, and judging by next week’s promo, it looks like the show is going to get back to its signature drama.
"Lie to Me" airs Mondays at 8 pm on FOX this summer and returns in the fall for its third season.