In Lie to Me, Buffy finds out that life is tough. She is betrayed by an old friend, who she discovers is dying, and that has driven him to horrific extremes. He is a member of yet another teenage cult, this one revering vampires and wanting to be made like them. The other members are “lonely, miserable or bored”.
The saddest example of the “sheep” who follow Ford is Chanterelle, who is a very naïve girl and comes across as somebody who is desperately searching for something. If she is a sheep, then she is a lost one. She’s an example of a vulnerable person turning to some kind of organised spiritualism for help, and being betrayed and exploited. The real world might not have vampires, but there’s still a lot of truth in this representation of a cult, with its perversion of religious language.
“I need them to bless me.”
Buffy has to deal with the stark truth about two guys she has idolised. The big twist here is that Ford is dying and that has led him to abandon all morality for the sake of the illusion of survival and the release from pain. Considering their history together, the suggestion is that he used to be a good person, and the unspoken conclusion we could reasonably draw is that his brain functioning is being impaired by his cancer. If we go with that interpretation, there are not really any villains here, just different kinds of victims. Giles’ wry speech at the end supports this view.
Buffy also has to face facts about Angel. She already knew he was a vampire and had therefore killed people, but he is forced to reveal how he went further than that, taking a perverse pleasure in breaking his “obsession” Drusilla before siring her.
“First I made her insane. Killed everybody she loved.”
And of course we have already seen the twisted results of his actions, at the beginning of the episode:
“What will your mummy sing when they find your body?”
The architect of this monster is the man Buffy is in love with, but her feelings aren’t going to go away. The director understands that the foundations of Buffy’s world have been shaken, and includes an orbital shot for the moment Ford is inviting her into his trap and she plays along. She must feel like her life is spiralling out of control, and the visual representation of that works very well.
Joss Whedon has an important message to deliver with this episode, but the route he takes to get us there is shaky. When Ford says, “I know you’re the Slayer”, the next word spoken by Buffy should be, “how?” but she just accepts the fact. Later we get a repeat of exactly the same problem, when Giles finds out:
“Oh… right then.”
But it’s not difficult to overlook the lapses of logic that take us to the episode’s conclusion, which is so poignant that it almost sends a shiver down the spine:
“Does it get easy?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Lie to me.”
Anyone who approached this series thinking it would be about teenage life was only half right. It’s about the messy transition from teenage to adult. In the world of Buffy that means dealing with two things: death, and love. RP
The view from the Sunnydale Press…
Do I give this a rave review or tell you it’s terrible? Either way might have you thinking I’m lying to you. In truth, this is a very well written episode so it should come as no surprise to me that it’s written by Joss Whedon. (I am definitely seeing a similarity between Babylon 5 and Buffy in the writing. You expect greater quality when Whedon writes as one does when JMS writes in B5.) I’d go so far as to say there’s a poetic quality to this episode. But that does not mean it’s “issue free”. For instance, there’s a moment in this episode that made me question the previous one. They said sunset is at 6:27. The previous episode, Halloween, has Principle Snyder telling Buffy to have the kids home by 6 but it was pitch dark when they were still out.
Ok, maybe I’m an expert nitpicker. That certainly is not something that negatively impacts this story. This time an old friend of Buffy’s come in from out of town. He has a problem though: he is dying. As a result, he decides to become a vampire. So he hangs out at the local vampire-wannabe hangout in the hopes of becoming one (I checked my town to see where one is, but they don’t advertise!). This is also referred to as the “All you can eat moron bar.” (Also, no reference in my town to one of those either!) As it happens, he’s got a plan to give Buffy to Spike in exchange for becoming a vampire. But that’s never going to happen, is it? Spike doesn’t want to pay him any mind.
Where the episode succeeds is twofold. There’s a story around Buffy not trusting Angel and she has to come to terms with that. But more than that, it was presenting a moral choice between two evils. Ford is going to die and he evidently doesn’t want to so he opts to become a vampire and allow them to kill his friend. There’s a pathetic quality to Ford; he’s damned one way or the other and opts to live even though it would cost him his soul. Buffy recognizes the choice is not an easy one. The soft focus close up on Buffy actually works really well (barring to illustrate how attractive the actress is) because we see the pain of what’s going on inside her as she processes what is happening to her friend. It’s a hard decision. The final discussion with Giles at the end of the episode is lovely and ties it all together, right down to the title.
Buffy: “Does it ever get easy?”
Giles: “You mean life?”
Buffy: “Yeah. Does it get easy?”
Giles: “What do you want me to say?”
Buffy: “Lie to me.”
Giles: “Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats and we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies… and everybody lives happily ever after.”
Unfortunately, I had a lot of logic-based questions when watching this one. Does Buffy’s mom ever wonder where she goes at night? Does she worry? Where did Buffy have that large cross and stake that she pulls out of her clothes when she and Ford see the vampire attack going in? Does taking two steps away from a person really work when you don’t want them to hear you? How wealthy is Willow’s family that her bedroom has double doors leading to a balcony?! And do they not hear her talking to a man in her room because they are more than two steps away? And doesn’t Ford have a family? Only Buffy and Giles stand vigil over his grave; didn’t anyone know him?
But then we have the cast, which continue to impress me. Willow’s pondering on a sore thumb leads Xander to the conclusion that “you have too many thoughts”. Cordelia makes me laugh because she’s clearly an airhead, but she speaks up in class; this time to praise Marie Antoinette, “She was going to let them have cake!” Druscilla is either overacting or really creepy; I can’t make up my mind but in this one I was definitely leaning towards creepy. Spike is either a funny bad guy (“Um.. where’s the doorknob?”) or a lame one, and here too I’m not sold. Ford is the key focal character for this episode and I think he’s the biggest impediment to my loving this episode. His movie obsession is almost a dig against the lower end of fandom, mocking those people who don’t know how to separate their fantasy from their reality.
The bottom line is I think this is a slow but strong episode. The extras don’t add much but the moral dilemma is a good one and I actually feel for Buffy. I felt for her alright as I jumped out of my seat when Ford burst out of his grave at the end too. I think the show is moving in the right direction and I can see glimmers of greatness under a really cheesy exterior. Hey, progress is progress! As long as things move forward, I’ll be happy. Who wants to go back to the dark ages?! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Dark Age