“Lie to Me”
April 25th, 2010
You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.
[Note: I’m wary of trying to shoehorn too many different episodes together this week, especially since a lot of them feel like they deserve to be analyzed more on an individual basis (although I’ll still be taking continuity into account, of course). As a result, I’m going to do some smaller “capsule reviews” for the six-episode stretch between “Lie to Me” and “Bad Eggs” for the next five days, before getting deeper into the season after that point. If it works out, and feedback is good, I might do this every now and then when I’ve got the time – however, if you object to this sort of analysis and would like strictly big ideas, do let me know!]
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, “Lie to Me” is not exactly what one would call a paradigm shift for the series: no new “big bads” are introduced, no major plot developments are revealed, and you could make the argument that what happens in the episode doesn’t fit into any definitions of continuity as a result.
What the episode accomplishes, however, is something more subtle: while “When She Was Bad” indicated that the consequences from Buffy’s near-death experience were not going to be forgotten, “Lie to Me” makes sure we understand that there are going to be more terrifying experiences in the future, and that the show will not shy away from some dark conclusions for the sake of trying to force this series into definitions of good and evil which fail to take into account the show’s inherent liminality.
Whedon’s script doesn’t play around: from the moment that Billy Fordham is introduced, we share Angel’s concern over his sudden appearance, especially his knowledge that Buffy is the slayer. It all seems far too convenient, so Whedon is quick to clearly outline the character’s evil intentions. As a result, we’re right there with Angel as he brings Willow and Xander into the fold to try to figure out what’s going on, and ready to learn how it is that Ford was turned into a demon and came to Sunnydale to take down the Slayer.
However, in an episode that’s all about playing with expectations (Buffy seeing Angel’s meeting with Drusilla as him being unfaithful, the Lonely Ones discovering that pop culture has not exactly depicted vampire culture accurately), Whedon pulls the rug out from under us: Ford isn’t evil so much as he is misguided, driven to his reckless path by terminal brain cancer rather than some sort of evil spirit. It’s a starkly human image of corruption, and that scene with Ford and Buffy in the club discussing the ethics of it all is just really well handled. Ford mapped out his entire story as if it were a movie, from the cheesy lines he shares with Spike (in another great scene) or in his expectation that Buffy will completely understand and perhaps even accept his plan once she learns of his condition.
It is true that the truth is sometimes not enough to solve a situation: Buffy, for example, would probably have rather not known that Angel murdered Drusilla’s entire family in order to drive her insane before eventually siring her. The truth could set you free, certainly, but chances are that it’s just going to confirm how complicated life really is, especially on a Hellmouth. However, as Buffy learns she tells Giles to lie to her about whether things ever get easier in life, lies only mask the complexity of the truth, hiding the hidden vengeance of vampires beneath the shiny surface of cheesy one-liners and eliding the shifting definitions of good and evil for the sake of making one’s life seem easier than it really is.
If one thing is clear in the show’s second season, it’s that Buffy’s life is not easy, and that it is not going to get any easier in the near future – “Lie to Me” makes this point expressly clear, quite ironically doing precisely the opposite of its title by being quite honest with the show’s future trajectory.
- One thing you have to give the show credit for is that despite the humour inherent to Spike’s character, he’s still capable of being quite intimidating, and Ford’s fanboy behaviour around him manages to make him seem both more funny and more intimidating.
- Relative to my earlier post about Angel/Buffy in the context of Twilight, this episode could easily be remade to follow a bunch of Twi-hards looking to emulate their favourite romance, no?
- Didn’t realize while watching the episode that Jason Behr was “the guy from Roswell” – the men of Roswell really didn’t pick up as much work as the women, did they?
- The show is starting to pull together some more continuity – the book that Ford helps the vampires steal (by allowing one to escape in exchange for a meeting with Spike) eventually turns out to be the Du Lac manuscript, which plays an important role in “What’s My Line.”