This week’s Lie To Me is the kind of tightly plotted, tension and humour-filled, character-driven episode the show should have been from the start. Tim Roth is finally given material that showcases the intensity, humour and insight that makes him such an interesting actor. His storyline keeps the viewer on the edge of his seat, trying to guess what Lightman knows and when he knew it. His relationship with his boyhood friend is complex, helping the audience get a glimpse of what makes the man tick. "Grievous Bodily Harm" is an excellent example of new show-runner Shawn Ryan’s vision for the series, and I hope FOX gives the audience time to find the show again. It deserves it.
Lightman’s story opens with lighthearted banter with Foster as she tries to get him to discuss business plans and he tries to deflect by asking about her personal life. It’s his own personal life that takes centre stage, though, when Torres tells him Sally Robinson is waiting for him in his office. One look at Cal’s face and both Foster and Torres know someone from the past is waiting for him, and so there is—but in the first of many reversals, it’s not the woman Cal’s expecting. It’s his old friend Terry Marsh (Lennie James), and from the way Cal hustles him out of the building while shooing away Foster, it’s clear he’s expecting Terry to be a handful.
Roth and James play off each other beautifully, with many nuances showing their deep relationship even as the actors also show the cracks in it. Roth’s London accent gets noticeably stronger in Terry’s presence, and the two men are physically comfortable and playful with each other. We see a Lightman who allows his emotions to show as he both chastises Terry for showing up only to involve him in a dangerous scheme and admits his own shame at not contacting his friend for years. Given that we find out Terry saved Cal from a jail term by taking the fall for a joint caper they pulled when young, Cal’s willingness to follow Terry into obvious trouble makes sense, or as much sense as we can make of what Cal’s up to as the plot goes from one reversal of expectation to another.
The two men take turns revealing what they actually know, which is always different than it seemed the scene before. Terry actually sets Cal up to take part in a counterfeit money scheme with a very scary crime boss. Cal one ups him by involving FBI agent Reynolds in his own counter scheme to nail the bad guy. The final confrontation with the crime boss is excellently plotted, as Cal takes two bullets and falls to the ground. I knew he couldn’t possibly be dead, but I had no idea why he wouldn’t be, so the plot had me by the short hairs. The reveal that the shooter was an FBI mole who used blanks and in turn had blanks used on him is a satisfying twist, with Reynolds’ role in the group really taking shape.
Cal and Terry’s friendship kept my interest throughout the show. Their relationship is believably layered with the affection of boyhood pals and the antagonism of betrayed friends. Their bond shows even when they both vent their frustrations at each other, declaring over and over they are now square and can quit each other. But just as Cal keeps taking each step Terry needs from him, Terry shows he’ll still sacrifice himself for his friend, as he tells Lightman he’ll stay behind to almost certain death so Cal can look after himself with the crime boss. Though Cal pushes Terry away with his final talk, saying they are now even and they are through, it’s clear these two men will always care about each other, even before the nice little end scene between Foster and Lightman, where Cal tells her he was orphaned young and Terry’s very poor family took him in.
I enjoyed this ending scene very much, as the theme of loyalty is extended to the Lightman Group through an intervention organised by Foster. Loker, unsurprisingly given the questioning of his own loyalty, is very into asking Cal why he didn’t open up to his team on what was happening with Terry. Torres, on the other hand, takes part unwillingly and ruffles up like a wet hen when Cal tells the team members they’re fired for questioning him. Her feathers ruffle even more when Cal then tells her she’s the only one fired for lack of backbone and Monica Raymund is a hoot as she tries to pick who to direct her killer glare at—Foster or Lightman. Lightman, of course, is pulling everyone’s strings and strides out of the office, hoping to avoid Foster’s questions.
But as usual, he can’t quite escape from his partner, because of their own bond. Opening up just a little, he tells her of his and Terry’s history—and that anyone trying to compete with his loyalty to Terry has been dealt a losing hand. More and more this season, we’re seeing the personal drama behind the driven professional, and it looks good on Cal, because this is what Tim Roth does so well.
The B storyline isn’t as engrossing as the A, which is a continuing issue for the series—the episodes where the entire team works together tend to integrate everyone best into the plot. However, the story is reasonably well done, as Foster, Loker and Torres try to determine who made a video threatening a rather posh preparatory school. The underlying issue is bullying, which isn’t a surprise, but the performances are good and Foster in particular gets to show how deeply she cares about her subjects. Kelli Williams does an excellent job of showing her genuine distress when she misinterprets a young girl’s suicidal intent and the girl almost dies while at the Lightman Group office. However, her best scenes remain the ones with Cal, and that is an issue with which Shawn Ryan is still going to have to grapple.
Overall, the episode gets a solid passing grade, because Cal’s story was so engrossing. Season two of the show started out well and has been getting better with each passing episode. Hear that, FOX?