As hopefully Lie To Me's fans were aware, the show came back last night a month early, due to Lone Star's early demise. With last season's finale having failed to impress and new show runners Cary and Graziano now completely in charge of the writers' room, the premiere had a lot riding on it, signaling the tone and direction of the show as it heads into its third season. Series star Tim Roth feels the show has finally found itself and "In The Red" is indeed a solid episode, both for the bank heist plot and for the new character arcs now that The Lightman Group is on its own again.
The show has struggled with how to structure The Lightman Group's involvement with cases. In the first season, Cal was called in by various agencies, with little continuity from episode to episode. Eventually, the writers introduced FBI agent Ben Reynolds (Mekhi Pfifer) into the mix, giving Cal a consistent conduit to cases and a consistent sparring partner. Over time, however, the easy access to cases and the need to respect the FBI's rules hampered the writers' interest in exploring Lightman's grey areas. The solution this year is to cut Lightman's ties to the FBI (goodbye Agent Ben Reynolds) and let Cal fly as a wild card with ties to a crooked cop. Judging from this episode, the new structure will serve the series well.
The bank heist plot holds the interest, in no small part because Lightman has to weasel his way into the caper so he can try to persuade the man (Shawn Doyle) he spotted casing out a bank not to follow through and rob it. The kind of personal interaction Cal has with his target was sometimes missing last season and it's a crucial element for this series, as it relies so heavily on Roth's charisma. If the result of Cal's cutting of the FBI ties is that he must build a relationship with whomever is the guest star of the week, it will be well worth the loss of Reynolds, even though I enjoyed Pfifer very much.
That said, I did find the lack of closure on Reynold's shooting a bit disturbing. I would have liked a chance as an audience member to say goodbye to the character, rather than have to guess what happened to him after we left him in the hospital with a bullet in his chest. It would have improved last year's finale to have explored Lightman's reaction to Ben's shooting and now that this season's premiere has simply moved on, I feel a little let down about the manner of writing Reynold's out of the story. However, since the new set up gives Cal greater scope to reveal his unique sense of ethics and to ramp up the supporting characters' complicated relationships with Lightman and each other, I can roll with it.