Sure, we’re all familiar with bad guys in fiction (both written and filmed) who lie. In fact, it’s one of the things that makes them bad guys. A great example of this is Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He engages in multiple levels of lying, and a lot of it is crucial to the plot. He lies about being a terrorist to the hostages and the authorities. He lies to his own men, by way of not telling them everything. And, in one of the best scenes in the movie, he lies about who he is and pretends to be a frightened escaped hostage when caught by off duty police officer John McClane. His lies are purposeful and well executed and they really add to his character.
There are plenty of terrible examples when bad guys (or gals) lie or deceive the protagonists, but they aren’t really worth mentioning.
In LFBD, both Dan and Brigit lie pretty much every time they talk to Lincoln or Gwen. So yeah, they’re the bad guys.
But what happens when good characters lie? And what’s the effect when they do it for a really good reason?
I just rewatched the Season 1 finale of The Flash (yes, I’m a fan). The episode is replete with good characters lying for all the right reasons, and it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. You want to know how to right a complete tearjerker of a scene? Let’s take a look at Joe’s conversation with Barry.
Barry (the Flash) is trying to decide whether or not to go back in time and prevent his mother’s murder. This would mean that he would never have to go live with adoptive father Joe West. Time would be changed and Joe and Barry would not only never have been a family — they wouldn’t even remember that they had been. Joe and Barry have a great relationship and some real love between them. All of that would be gone as though it had never happened.
But Barry has never wanted anything more than to find his mother’s killer, and Joe knows it. Barry says to Joe “I don’t think I can lose you.”
And Joe says “You won’t ever lose me. Ever. You hear? Ever.”
But Joe knows that’s not true. Maybe he hopes that somehow it is, but the rules have been explained. He’s lying to Barry, putting aside his on feeling of impending loss of his son so that Barry can be encouraged to do what he needs to do. Of course, Jesse Martin’s (Joe) acting really sells it, and you can see the pain he’s going through as he lies to Barry. It’s really moving.
Let’s talk Barry deciding not to save his mother. Um, spoilers, but this is three year old now, so get over it.
Once he goes back in time, he decides to not prevent his mother’s death, being warned by a future version of himself. So he stays hidden and listens to her being stabbed through the heart. Only after the action is over does he enter the room. His mother is bleeding out, and he goes to her. After a few moments, he reveals that he is her son Barry, grown up. She says that she doesn’t understand. So what does Barry do? After he has come back in time to prevent this from happening, then stands by and lets it happen?
He lies. He tells her that he was given a chance. Not to save her. But to let her know that he was okay. And that her husband was okay. That everything was okay in the future, even though it wasn’t. He lies to her, and she dies comforted by his words. It is, once again, incredibly moving.
Sometimes in fiction, the good guys and gals can lie as a sacrifice to a greater good, or even in the service of a simple one. They lie, and it’s clear that it costs them to do so. I’m really impressed by how effectively writers Gabrielle Stanton and Andrew Kreisberg pulled it off.Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on Amazon.com right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)