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The Lightman Group

Dr. Cal Lightman

Played by: Tim Roth
Founder of the Lightman Group and an expert in deception recognition, having spent years studying microexpressions.

  • Abusive Parents: Cal's father smacked him and his mother around.
  • Action Dad
  • Amicably Divorced
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Repeatedly. Sometimes it's fully warranted, as when he drops everything he's doing to fixate on a Very Big Problem (as with spotting a serial killer or bank robber), but still... what must that girl think when he tries to hit on her and has just given her a line and she's just gotten out a few syllables of "Well, you haven't given me the chance (to tell you my name)" when he bolts off to talk to a man standing in line?
  • Bad Boss/Benevolent Boss: Yes, at the same time. He routinely puts his employees through hell. But he'll also do anything to protect/help them.
  • Badass Bookworm
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With his ex-wife Zoe. Apparently, her Tsundere-ness turns him on.
    • Also has it with Gillian in season 3. Fun drinking game? Count the times Cal invades Gillian's personal space just to see her get irritated.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The only reason Cal isn't locked up for some of the stunts he's pulled is because he is a brilliant scientist and usually right.
    • In "Rebound" - Cal actually wears bunny slippers in a scene.
  • By-the-Book Cop: At least once he's found the truth. It really doesn't matter to him why someone did something, the law's the law. So he'll question witnesses, get the truth out of them, and when he leaves, there are the cops, waiting to take them away for something only tangentially related that he found out about.
  • Byronic Hero
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Lightman trained for years to get his skills, while Torres has a built-in talent for it.
  • The Chessmaster: Always. Gillian tends to be the only one who figures it out, though.
  • Chick Magnet
  • Consummate Liar: If he ever used his powers on himself, the universe might implode.
    • Gillian sees through him every now and then, and Torres has been getting in on the act, too.
    • Emily's beginning to pick up her dad's talent for spotting deception, mainly in him.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Cal has in his office a safe containing at least three pistols, one shotgun and several cases of ammunition.
    Reynolds: Damn, Lightman. You're not messing around, huh?
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  • Dark and Troubled Past: Hoo boy. Mother committed suicide and Cal blamed himself, father was a drunk who knocked Cal and Louise around. Cal has had a mysterious stint fighting the IRA in Belfast, is former MI6 and was an interrogation specialist in the Yugoslav Wars, and was a deception expert for the CIA during The War on Terror. All of which has come back to haunt him.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Good Is Not Nice
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lightman gets in a very bad mood whenever Gillian shows interest in someone.
  • Guile Hero: SO much.
  • The Hero
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Cal's allowed to treat his team like dirt, but the minute anyone else does it, he gets pissy.
    Right now, you're hoping [Torres] messed up so you can blame this on someone else. Amusing. Laugh-a-minute. BUT YOU LEAVE HER ALONE! (Cal, in "Double Blind")
    • And then he turns around later and tells Torres that if anyone "takes a bite out of her", to make them regret it.
  • I Am Very British: Averted - Cal's accent is the same as Tim Roth's, East London/Cockney.
  • Interdisciplinary Sleuth: Lightman is trained as a psychologist.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation
  • Jerkass: It's hard to understand how Cal's still employed with the way he tampers with investigations. Looking at the way he treats virtually everyone in his life (even the people he supposedly likes), it's a wonder Cal hasn't been shot more often.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: . . . and then you watch him being a father to Emily or teasing Gillian, and we realize that he does have his good points.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Hits this with Gillian in "Killer App", where he admits to Emily that yes, he's in love with Gillian.
  • Living Lie Detector: So much so that it ruined his marriage - he couldn't stop reading Zoe.
    • Also so much that he has to hold back from reading his daughter Emily all the time and has to let things slide on occasion or risk ruining their relationship.
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Minored in Ass-Kicking: A PhD who can kick your ass if you don't tell him the truth.
  • Mr. Fanservice
  • Nerds Are Sexy
  • No Indoor Voice: Prone to this as part of his schtick to annoy clients into confessing.
  • No Sense of Personal Space
  • Overprotective Dad: Oh god, yes, even though he consciously dials it down. When you can read your daughter's every word and expression, you either let her make mistakes or lose her like you lost her mother.
  • Papa Wolf: Do not threaten Emily. Ever.
  • Persona Non Grata: Cal's not what you'd call welcome in Vegas.
  • The Profiler
  • Rebel Relaxation: Tim Roth is so prone to this, the rest of the cast has dubbed it "The Lightman Lean".
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cal lives in the realm of audacity.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: Most of the time, though this is slowly being deconstructed. Most recently, it was pointed out in "Funhouse" that getting himself admitted to a mental institution might have done him more harm than good, and it's Loker who actually breaks the case.
  • Sherlock Scan
  • Socially Awkward Hero
  • Thrill Seeker: Cal admits to getting a rush from life-and-death situations. He often puts himself in danger, and when sent into a warzone he becomes even more hyped-up and erratic than usual.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Cal, in season three. Looks like Flanderization, unless the plot pulls something.
  • Troll: He seems to take great joy in deliberately antagonizing...well, everyone. It's not clear if he's doing it to provoke an emotional reaction, just because he can, or some combination of the two.
  • Twerp Sweating: Cal's treatment of Emily's boyfriends might be one of the funniest examples.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Gillian, who is the "good girl" in contrast to his usual bad-girl type. Definitely reached Most Important Person status, and made explicit in "The Whole Truth" when Cal says to Clara in regards to what Gillian is to him, "she's my Leo" (i.e. the person whom I trust above all others, even with my death).
  • Working with the Ex: And sleeping with her, too.

Gillian Foster

Played by: Kelli Williams
Cal's partner and co-owner of the Lightman Group, a trained psychologist.

  • Betty and Veronica: The Betty to Zoe, Poppy, Helen, and Clara's Veronica, regardless of the state of her marriage.
  • Berserk Button: Do not shut her out of business decisions, and do not fuck with her when she's happy.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Though she couldn't stop a group of thugs from breaking into her house and tying her up, she takes a frying pan to the head of one of the thugs from out of nowhere. Foster is a ninja.
    • Another example is the scene in "Killer App" when she loses her shit at the guy who killed one of her patients. She screams at him and shoves him around - for Foster, that's saying a lot - but it's really the implied threat regarding her made by Cal at the end of the episode that hits this trope.
      Cal: I've recommended you be sent to a mental hospital.
      Zach: Why would you do that for me?
      Cal: You framed an innocent man, you hacked my computers, you hurt a very close friend of mine, and you murdered a wonderful young girl. Now, prison will only take your freedom. But that hospital, the pills they'll give you? They'll take your mind. And make no mistake, Doctor Foster will make sure of that personally.
  • The Conscience: To Cal.
  • Cool Big Sis: Gillian serves as one to Torres and Emily, as well as Ava (in "Delinquent").
  • Deadpan Snarker: It comes out of nowhere, usually when Zoe's around.
  • Deal with the Devil: What kept Zoe and Emily Lightman safe from "Finch" and the story of the Pentagon cover-up of the botched Doyle assassination quiet.
  • Fiery Redhead: Gillian doesn't get angry easily - except if you fuck with her when she's happy, Cal.
  • Hot Scientist
  • The Lancer
  • Mama Bear: To Emily before she even met her.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Not nearly as bad as Cal, but subtle and manipulates people's emotions easily, such as relating to the victim with a story about a false brother in "Smoked". Loker thinks she is the best at lying of them all.
  • Ms. Exposition: Usually the one explaining to Loker/Torres/the clients/the audience what Cal's yammering on about.
  • Ms. Fanservice
  • Number Two: In charge when Cal's not around, and in the lab even when he is.
  • The Profiler
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • Selective Obliviousness: Gillian really doesn't want to know the truth about her husband. Unfortunately, she finds out he's cheating on her with his drug sponsor and he's relapsed. Their divorce goes through in "The Core of It".
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Twice, first in "The Core of It", when she comes into work in a hot pink dress to celebrate her divorce going through, and then in "Fold Equity", when she "embraces the Vegas". Yowza.
  • She's Got Legs: Lampshaded in "The Canary's Song":
    Gillian: (to a man in a wheelchair) They really call you "Wheels"?
    Wheels: Bet they call you "Legs".
  • Sherlock Scan
  • Sweet Tooth: Numerous times in the show, but the pilot is probably the best example:
    Cal: What is that now?
    Gillian: Orange slushie.
    Cal: How old are you?
  • Team Mom: Though not, unfortunately an actual mother.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Gillian doesn't claim to never lie, but her sense of morality and ethics won't let her. It's deconstructed in two episodes:
    • Sweet Sixteen: Gillian's Dark Secret is exposed; she lied to Cal for seven years to keep him from investigating a case. The bad guys had threatened his family, and Gillian made a Deal with the Devil to keep them safe.
      Cal: So all that talk about you being a bad liar is just an act. That's a lie.
      Gillian: Depends on the lie.
    • Dirty Loyal: Cal asks Gillian to lie to IAB for his sort-of-girlfriend, Detective Wallowski, even though she knows that Wallowski is corrupt and she's duty-bound to tell the truth. Gillian does lie, but we have yet to see if there will be consequences.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Cal, though they've reached Most Important Person status. Emily's rooting for Gillian to hook up with her dad, though.

Eli Loker

Played by: Brendan Hines
A laid-back employee of the Group, Loker practices what he calls "radical honesty".

  • Agent Mulder
  • Break the Haughty: In season three, Loker seems to have thrown in the towel in regards to the Lightman Group, having no respect for Cal because Cal constantly demeans him. The way Cal treats Loker is explicitly likened to the process used to create a sociopath.
  • Brutal Honesty: He's introduced in the pilot as never telling anything but the complete truth, even if that means offending his coworkers (which he does).
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer
  • Butt-Monkey: First he gets demoted to unpaid intern the one and only time he ever lies to Lightman, then, about a season later, almost gets blown up.
  • The Chew Toy
  • Clueless Chick Magnet: Loker to Emily Lightman. He's interested in protecting her and being polite, while she thinks he's into her, or at least pretends to. Also, humorously, to a third grade teacher in one episode.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Most notably in "The Canary's Song", with his baseball bat.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Genius Ditz: Comes off like this at first, but has been getting less ditzy.
  • Handsome Lech: Especially with Torres.
  • Meaningful Name: "Eli" is an anagram of "lie"
  • Nerds Are Sexy: And apparently, "better than average" in bed.
  • Non-Action Snarker: Loker would rather sit back and mock the proceedings.
  • Only Sane Man
  • The Smart Guy
  • The So-Called Coward
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Claims to at the beginning. By mid-season one, he's already lied in the course of an investigation.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Torres. As of "Darkness and Light", they kiss, and it's implied something else happens, but Loker is promoted to Torres's boss, so they can't see each other. She seems pretty freaked out by this development, so expect it to continue.

Ria Torres

Played by: Monica Raymund
A "natural" deception expert, hired by Cal and Gillian in the pilot to be his new protege.

  • Alcoholic Parent: Her father, who used to drink heavily and beat his daughters. According to Cal and Gillian, one of the two hallmarks of a natural is an abusive background: if a child raised by abusive parents doesn't know when they have to be avoided and/or placated, and some idea as to how to achieve the latter, they suffer even more. Pavlovian conditioning, or as Tropers would call it, Power at a Price... of a SNAFU childhood. Of course, Cal exploits her abusive past to solve certain cases.
  • Agent Scully
  • The Apprentice: To Cal.
  • The Chick
  • Freudian Excuse: Ria has daddy issues, which lead her into getting drunk and trying to seduce Cal in "Delinquent".
    • Becomes a Funny Moment when his reaction is to shove her into a cold shower, hard, and she realized what she just tried to do. Then, again when he later describes the incident as her trying to stick her tongue down his throat.
  • Jumped at the Call
  • Living Lie Detector: Unlike Cal, she's a "natural", born into her abilities to read deception.
  • Ms. Fanservice: On occasion.
  • Missing Mom: Nothing has ever been said of what happened to Ria's mother, though her step-mother is said to have overdosed and died six years ago.
  • Only Sane Woman: Seems to have reached this level in season three.
  • Promotion to Parent: For her sister, Ava, in "Delinquent".
  • Spicy Latina: Averted - a lot of male villains tend to want to see her this way, but she's actually the most rational and down-to-earth of the team.
  • Token Minority: Averted. With two of the five major characters being minorities, it's hardly token.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Loker. As of "Darkness and Light", something happens, along with a drunken kiss, but they can't continue the relationship now that Loker has been promoted to her boss. Expect it to continue.


Zoe Landau

Played by: Jennifer Beals
Cal's ex-wife, an attorney for the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Emily Lightman

Played by: Hayley McFarland

Cal and Zoe's teenaged daughter.

  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Mostly averted. Emily seems to be notably calmer than both her parents, and only gets into trouble in a few episodes. She's downright sweet and mature for a sixteen-year-old on television.
  • The Conscience: For Cal. Zoe and Gillian both admit that, when all their attempts at getting Cal to open up fail, Emily is the one he'll open up with.
  • Daddy's Girl: She's an only child and Cal's really overprotective.
  • Fiery Redhead
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The Tiny Girl to Loker and new boyfriend Liam's Huge Guy.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Takes a journalism class in "Darkness and Light" and shadows the Lightman Group on a case.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Someone's got to cut Cal down to size.
  • Morality Pet: For Cal, mostly, but also for Gillian.
  • Plucky Girl: Emily's quite perceptive and she doesn't make a bad partner-in-crime, as we see in "Truth and Consequences".
  • Shipper on Deck: Is seriously invested in getting Cal and Gillian to cut out the Will They or Won't They? and resolve their UST.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Has been working toward it for three seasons, but an argument can be made for her Zoe-inspired outfit in "Rebound", and Cal's reaction.
  • Tagalong Kid

Ben Reynolds

Played by: Mekhi Phifer
An FBI agent assigned to the Lightman Group - mainly due to Cal's tendency to put himself in life-threatening situations. He gets Put on a Bus at the end of season two.


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