Lie to Me
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: November 3, 1997

For an episode that starts so well, “Lie to Me” begins to fall rapidly into that space between “good episode” and “lackluster episode” that is reserved for things like this. Its not that the content is necessarily bad or poorly written, but more like it is handled in an uninteresting fashion. This whole episode is about this character, Ford, who is back from Buffy’s old high school. He’d figured out she was the Slayer, see, and now he wants to become a vampire to get over some kind of brain-liquifying tumors stuck up his noggin. This is all well and good, but I don’t give two flips about Ford. See, he’s uninteresting. His jokes are lame, his plight is rather cliche, and just because he new Buffy very, very well doesn’t mean we did. And this 40 minute episode spends the first 10 minutes without him even showing up. So we have half an hour to both fall in love with and then, in turn, hate this character. The former never happens and, for me, the latter comes on way too quickly.

I’ll give Joss – who wrote the episode – some due credit; he never once shies away from the fact that Ford is the bad guy. Like that awful episode “Some Assembly Required” before it, “Lie to Me” reveals the bad guy early enough and doesn’t even try to hide the fact that the character we’re just now being introduced to is the bad guy. It would be so easy to hide-hide-hide until the final moments, slow-burning for those who are not as attentive or pedantic as others, before showing the mastermind to be the obvious dude. Here, Joss attempts to create a sense of sympathy, something they also tried to do with Marci back in “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” in season one. Here, it suffers a similar flaw in that there is no justice to what he is doing, but pure selfish insanity. If he’d showcased any feelings for the people he was going to get killed in his quest, Ford might have struck me as a character worth caring about. Instead, he’s wasted.

The real star of this episode, however, is Drusilla, who has the best moment of the whole series thus far (in my opinion), traumatizing a small child in a playground after dark. Why this boy’s mother insists on picking him up when it is well past 8pm (clearly) is beyond me, but for a show feigning at least moderate levels of horror or the macabre, it has been lacking in the scary or creepy departments. Enter Dru who easily ups the eerie factor to an 11 just by opening her mouth. We’re starting to get a better sense of what she is, and Angel’s guilt-ridden backstory as to who she is – and why! – is as interesting for us as it is painful for him. We’ll get a ton of more time with her, but to see what she is to both Spike and Angel in this episode (Spike is willing to give everything up, including a sure-fire chance to kill Buffy, for her… and Angel is willing to give her a free pass out of Sunnydale) makes her twice as interesting as Spike with less than half the screen time.

When all is said and done, the episode wavers in its writing a touch. The jokes are great, particularly every word Xander utters to or about Ford, and the development Giles is going through as a mentor figure to Buffy is noteworthy and charming to watch. Knowing what I know about Spike throughout the rest of his television life, its interesting to see him as villainous and, actually, sinister in these early episodes. Its been a long time since I’ve watched these in order, and seeing Spike as a nasty dude is awesome to watch. But seeing Spike as a man devoted to his lover is equally awesome, because that kind of devotion and incessant care, well… we’ll get to that, later on.

At the end of the day, “Lie to Me” is a mixed bag of stuff. For every lame ass moment between Ford and Buffy, we have a charmingly cute scene in which Willow is skittish about Angel being in her room. For every stupid, contrived line that comes out of the goth kids mouths, we have the visual of Giles attending a monster truck show with Jenny (which, while we don’t see it, personally, we can see Giles’ reaction to such a spectacle in his eyes all the same). While I don’t care, mostly, for the 80% of the content of this episode, the 20% I do care about is a damned good 20%. Its enough for me to note hate the episode, but it sure as hell isn’t enough to make me love it.

Episode Rating: 80

Additional Notes:
-Best line is again Xanders, but its between him and Ford. And its actually the same line, twice, in reference to Angel:
Ford: “He looks older than her.”
Xander: “You’re not wrong.”
Ford: “Wow, your hands are cold.”
Xander: “You’re not wrong.”
-Spike’s quest for that Watcher diary ended well, and we didn’t even know about it at all. Just goes to show you that if you don’t over hype a plan, it’ll work
-I love that Xander is instantly jealous of any guy that Buffy might like. He quickly doesn’t care about his rivalry with Angel when Ford shows up (well, insomuch as he works with him, somewhat)
-Angel’s doppleganger in the club is hilarious
-We’ll be seeing more of that blonde girl in season 3 and on Angel’s spinoff, but under a different name