With a “gimmick” as unique and consequently fragile as Lie to Me’s, you have to make a decision very quickly as to what direction your series will take next. There is only so much you can do with the great concept of the show. The first season was 13, well constructed, focused episodes which managed to explain and demonstrate the science behind Lightman and his team’s ability to read your face and tell your emotions (or more specifically, whether you were lying). That will only go so far before people have seen it all before and the “trick” or ability to read someone’s face becomes tired and boring. This is the issue Lie to Me faces almost immediately into its second season.
I loved the first season but by the third or fourth episode of this season, I’d felt like I’d seen it all before. The producers of the show seemed to feel the same way too because the series began to lose some of the great tricks and aspects that it used to used to keep focus and interest. The comparisons with real-life are falling away, Lightman and his team have stopped explaining their reasons and instead seemed to just say what they think they’ve seen. The show is beginning to resemble an everyday police show more and more.
The producers of the show have to make a conscious decision about the direction of the show. When the show is beginning to feel repetitive and lose its unique and novel aspect, you have two directions you can go in: either focus on strange and unusual cases or focus on the main characters, using the cases as background.
House is one of the closest shows in tone to Lie to Me: a team of investigators and a renegade lead character, and that show also had to make that conscious decision. Luckily, it seemed to go with the character driven stories, fleshing out the backstories and events of the team and House, rather than the case they were working on. Lie to Me decides to go down the other route.
The decision to put the emphasis on the cases being investigated works to start off with. The season opens with a great multiple personality story and has a handful of fantastic ideas throughout the season. The issue is when you extend a season to 22 episodes when it used to be 13. This means that you have to create consistently decent cases and this doesn’t happen. Too many seem too similar and aren’t interesting enough or different enough to keep the show engaging.
It’s unfortunate that the show doesn’t decide to develop the main characters further. We get glimpses at their past and their private lives but this is never developed further than the episode they are featured in. The episodes that are more personal to the main characters, particularly Cal Lightman, are the most interesting, from a dangerous trip to Afghanistan to a sociopath who openly challenges and frustrates Tim Roth’s main character.
As before, Tim Roth has the most to do and is subsequently the best part of the whole show. His wired, cocky, brash but genius Lightman is one of the most appealing aspects of the show. The interactions with his daughter, staff and the people he is interrogating and the different Lightman’s we see in these scenes are a fantastic example of how good Tim Roth is.
It’s just unfortunate that the show seems to buckling under the weight of its gimmick. The cast are great but haven’t got the stories to help them shine. There are some great episodes in here but they are never as clever or as interesting as some of the episodes we saw in season 1.
Overall, Lie to Me needs to focus more on the cast and less on the cases. There is so much to see in the history of the shows character’s rather than in their ability to tell if people are lying. The show is becoming very “routine” and losing its unique appeal as the fresh idea that was so innovative in season 1 is becoming tired and over-done in season 2.
Best Episode – Beat the Devil: This is another episode where Lightman meets his match. It’s another serial killer type character and it has some fantastic scenes and interactions between Lightman and his suspect.
Best performance – Tim Roth as Cal Lightman
Should there have been another season? – Yes, but only if they move the focus more towards the characters and less on the cases they are investigating.
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)