Lost Girl: Season Two Overview, PI Tamsin, and Your Questions Wanted

The original plan was to have a Lost Girl recap post at the end of the Season 2, where I talked about writers and directors and stylistic choices and the like. I feel, however, I’ve spread out a lot of what I wanted to say over the episode reviews. Thus, I’d like to open this up and try something new: taking questions.

What’s something I haven’t covered? What’s a specific character beat or blocking question you’ve been wondering about? How much do you agree or disagree with the podcast theories I’ve thrown out there? Anything at all. Ask in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter.

Though of course I’m not claiming all the definitive answers, I’d love to make an educated hypothesis or two. Anything that deals with how the finale caps the season will be addressed in that review, then I’ll answer them all other questions in one post next Thursday. If there are no questions, I’ll just ramble some more about something like Veronica Mars’ use of color, and the remaining Season 3 recaps will launch October 14.

Meanwhile, I was invited to be a guest on another Drinks at the Dal podcast, where I spent about 45 minutes [rather, two hours, yay editing!] talking about how Tamsin operates as a modern noir detective, and how in doing so she follows many tropes of the genre while subverting a few others. Check it out, and do comment either there or here.

The Lilith Necklace - Fine Cut Screening

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21 Responses to “Lost Girl: Season Two Overview, PI Tamsin, and Your Questions Wanted”
  1. cleop527 says:

    1. I thought your take on Tamsin was fascinating. To me, it was initially clear that Tamsin was the anti-hero, the personage whose redemption may or may happen only through sacrifice and death, the one who longs for familial intimacy. But talking about how LG did this through the specific trope of the noir cop anti-hero… that was awesome. I think it was a perfect fit and you made an eloquent case for it. Placing Tamsin within “noir” narrative, representational, and visual conventions allows LG to subvert/trouble/queer gender, and move the overall narrative forward with Tamsin as a particular kind of “lost girl” herself.

    I used to think of Lauren as the perennial outsider, but now I think there is more than one such position. (Although I still think Lauren is marginalized in the way that the show lays out its narrative flow in each episode, its on-camera/off-camera dynamic.)

    2. How do you see masculinity dealt with on Lost Girl? Dyson, in particular, is a difficult character in this regard. KHR recently mentioned that Dyson would be “neutered” in season 4. This obviously impulsive statement makes clear the deep unease that surrounds and permeates Dyson as a character. This is a discomfort that doesn’t really get articulated or explored as such, but overflows into audience *and* actor reception and expectations regarding the standard “male lead” characterization. Dyson is very ambiguous, not because of his motivations, which I think are fairly straight-forward, but because of his shaky, unclear status as a “man” on the show. Buffy never messed with this – only maybe a little when she called the season 4 love interest “kitteny.” This was a biggish deal to the character, which is why I remember it after all these years. And I’m blanking out on this guy’s name. What do you think LG is doing here, with regard to masculinity? Do they even know?

  2. N. says:

    Ashame to admit I don’t remember if you wrote about this, if so sorry and just point me to the recap:

    What is your take on where is the love triangle at the end of S2? And I know this one is not really fair and I’ll undestand if you want to dance around it: is the love triangle still more usefull than a burden for the writing at this point in the show?

  3. cleop527 says:

    Sorry, Melanie. Maybe a little too intense with the questions. Professional habit/hazard. But I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

  4. vexundorma says:

    I couldn’t disagree more about Tamsin as a ‘noir’ detective.
    The 3 great masters of the genre (Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald) wrote the ‘noir’ detective in a very consistent way: he is a loner by choice, because people are bringers of pain and misery; he is never a cop because he doesn’t trust the law or the authorities; he is an independent operator because he can’t accept a boss and the possibility of the rule of corruption; he has very, very few acquaintances, usually forged in life or death situations, to whom he feels obliged to help; he has a personal code of action that he abides by; he has a personal notion of justice that often clashes with the law or the social norm; he commits to the given word as if it was an oath; he doesn’t believe in the inherent good nature of humankind or the ultimate triumph of good; he uses alcohol to numb his brain and forget the existence of others; he has only fleeting encounters with women because he knows he is toxic and will poison any possible relationship, and that’s why he’ll protect the ‘innocent’ and feel attracted to the ‘fallen’ (we may call it mommy issues or whatever the heck we want).
    No matter the genre, race or age this is the main blueprint for a ‘noir’ detective and to see Tamsin in this role is quite a stretch of the imagination. She has a partnership with Acacia, a mentor and friend she cares about; she partners with Dyson as a cop; she accumulates bosses – the police captain, the Morrigan, the big boss who ordered the job on Bo –; she longs for personal interactions; she has no discernible personal code, which translates in the perception of a ‘moral ambiguity’; there’s no indication she has any personal notion of justice; she resorts to alcohol and bad personal hygiene to procrastinate and avoid difficult decisions (which comes out as an obnoxious kind of whining); she doesn’t see herself as toxic for relationships because she’s indifferent to relationships (I read her as asexual and the reference to the ‘eight-pack’ as part of a front); she’s clearly a user (the druid is her dealer for a potion to prolong life). And contrary to some opinions there was no big moment of refusal to kill Bo in the finale because her job was never to kill Bo but use the rune glass to cast the spell, which she did.
    Tamsin is not, to me, a ‘noir’ detective type of character or even a flawed character but a failed character, for a lot of the same reasons Dawn in Buffy or Connor in Angel failed too.
    For a reinvention of the ‘noir’ detective role as a female, while managing at the same time to put a different spin on the more obvious tropes, I’d point the amazing Saga Noren, the detective in the Swedish/Danish TV series “Bron-Broen” which was recently remade in the US as “The Bridge”.

    • Melanie says:

      [note: the theme on my blog isn’t great at demarcating hyperlinks in the comments, and I’m not about to HTML the whole thing. Be aware they’re throughout, in italics.]

      Perhaps I should have stated at the outset I used ‘noir’ broadly, to include not just the literature but also and especially film, up to and including neo-noir. This has a lot more room for variance, but also brings some problematic elements with the ongoing argument of exactly what constitutes ‘noir’ in film. So lit noir of (in order of my preference, most to least) Chandler, Hammett, and Macdonald is obviously foundational, but not exhaustive.

      [For anyone else reading who’s less versed in the terminology, a couple basic resources on the definitions and arguements with the definitions of film noir and noir detective ‘hero’]:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_noir
      http://www.filmnoirstudies.com/essays/detective_hero.asp
      http://www.filmnoirstudies.com/essays/outer_limits.asp

      Key in the last one,

      “Sam Spade fits the image of the noir protagonist to the extent that he is a tarnished hero, not bound by conventional rules of morality, with an uncompromising and fatalistic view of the world. He is unashamedly greedy, as we see early in the film by the look on his face when his client, Miss Wonderly, opens her purse to reveal a wad of hundred-dollar bills. He also has a reputation for being corrupt, and he is having an affair with his partner’s wife. When he learns that his partner, Miles Archer, has been murdered, he shows no sign of shock or sadness — his initial response is to have Archer’s name removed from the office doors and windows and to have his desk taken away.

      Spade further reveals a lack of compassion and even a streak of cruelty in two scenes later in the movie. When Archer’s widow comes to see him, Spade appears to comfort her, but when the camera reveals his face, his insincerity is unmistakable. In another scene, Spade wrestles a gun away from Joel Cairo; after gaining the upper hand, Spade prepares to knock Cairo unconscious, but first he pauses, looks down into Cairo’s face, and grins. He obviously relishes the violence that he is about to inflict.

      For all of his toughness and amorality, however, Sam Spade is not a true film noir hero, because he is able to control himself, his destiny, and his obsessions.”

      There’s obviously actor and director interpretation, and some would say this varies from the book (which dialogue was nearly replicated in the film), but the pleasure in pain and the adversarial relationship with a partner will become relevant shortly.

      Point by point:

      – he is a loner by choice, because people are bringers of pain and misery

      We’re not sure why Tamsin is a loner. She definitely doesn’t think people are great.

      – he is never a cop because he doesn’t trust the law or the authorities

      Some noir detectives are cops (“Touch of Evil,” “Laura,” “Sin City”) or ex-cops (“Jack Taylor”). Tamsin doesn’t like being a cop, but seems forced into it and will likely leave it, like more than one noir detective. Tamsin doesn’t respect her cop authorities and definitely doesn’t trust the fae authorities, from the Morrigan to whoever she was bucking who cut off Acacia’s hand. She has no care for police procedure nor fae authority procedure, as in her flaunting of arrest and interrogation rules, and breaking Bo out of jail.

      – he is an independent operator because he can’t accept a boss and the possibility of the rule of corruption

      Often a PI isn’t so much wary of the corrupted system as loathe to allow anyone, corrupt or not, power over him.

      While a PI may not have a boss, he often does have a partner (“The Maltese Falcon”). He often dislikes said partner, and may sleep with his partners’ wives, but still. Tamsin makes quite clear she dislikes Dyson, at least at first. Now she’s a little more amenable, but she certainly no love was lost for most of the season.

      A PI takes clients who tell him what to do (though they only take the orders so far as they agree with them), which is how Tamsin and the Morrigan operate; Tamsin answers to the Morrigan as a blackmailer rather than paying boss, certainly doesn’t treat her like an employer, and subverts her as soon as it suits her.

      – he has very, very few acquaintances, usually forged in life or death situations, to whom he feels obliged to help

      Acacia, and . . . maybe Bo. Her helping Dyson in a life-or-death situation (“Fae-de To Black”) was more a sense of duty, and even then it was more to show her own prowess than any affinity for him.

      – he has a personal code of action that he abides by; he has a personal notion of justice that often clashes with the law or the social norm;

      Tamsin does have her own personal code of ethics, as in saving Dyson and insisting on a thorough investigation into Fae deaths; though again, it’s difficult to figure out what the ethics are past loyalty to self. Her notion of justice is likely simplistic, though she takes the squonk/child abuse case seriously (and it’s not fair to say ‘as any noir detective would’ because, pretty much anyone even a semi-hero in the history of film would), and if there’s more bound up in it we’ve yet to see it.

      – he commits to the given word as if it was an oath;

      I can’t think of an instance for or against Tamsin here.

      – he doesn’t believe in the inherent good nature of humankind or the ultimate triumph of good; he uses alcohol to numb his brain and forget the existence of others

      Indeed.

      – he has only fleeting encounters with women because he knows he is toxic and will poison any possible relationship, and that’s why he’ll protect the ‘innocent’ and feel attracted to the ‘fallen’ (we may call it mommy issues or whatever the heck we want).

      While I think some may say Tamsin is resisting a sexual relationship with Bo because she’s toxic / nearing the end of her lifespan, I would certainly not. I do think she has mommy issues, via Acacia (in surrogate if not biological motherhood) and she seems driven to protect the innocent while not believing many are such. The way she seems confused by yet drawn to Bo’s particular innocence/morality is clear for me, but I do admit I’m possibly the minority in this interpretation of her actions.

      Relatedly, as for the asexuality, I’m somewhat torn. During some scenes I’d agree with you, but others leave me wondering. I definitely read the bathtub scene as asexual, but at the least I don’t think all the writers see Tamsin overall as asexual; this is probably a result of our earlier speculation about incomplete or nonexistent show bible.

      Despite her intentions for saying things about 8-packs and other body parts, the verbiage is one of many things which does fit the dialogue patterns and specific presentation [whether innate or put on] of a traditional noir player.

      I think we disagree on how we seem Tamsin overall, but even if I were to concede she doesn’t fulfill her potential as a character, damn, to compare her to Dawn and *especially* Conner is harsh.

      Discounting all that: Just because there are more traditional / better / more classical expressions of the “noir detective in/as a female” doesn’t mean Tamsin isn’t also an expression of the trope. Some fit better than others, and some are more neo-noir than noir, and some fit better in film noir than lit noir, and all that would be an interesting discussion. But to say ‘she’s not THE platonic ideal therefore there is no conversation,’ is a really limited view of noir, the detective hero/anti-hero, and the character.

      Did I perhaps reach at times? Sure. Can you disagree on various specifics based on how you perceive Tamsin? Of course, and some are great points. But there are easily enough matching characteristics to place Tamsin within the bounds of noir.

      I’m definitely going to check out “Bron-Broen.” I’m wary of English remakes, ever.

      • vexundorma says:

        You’re right, the “no cop” rule isn’t universal; for some reason it tends to apply more to the male versions of the trope while the female ones follow the opposite tendency, being usually cops. As for the absence of great ‘noir’ female detectives in TV land (I think I heard you say that in the podcast) I’d say that is a matter of personal opinion. At the top of my head I can point to three that I find utterly fascinating (curiously enough all from European shows): Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (The Fall), in a very classic and “manly” version of the role; Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (the Forbrydelsen trilogy) whose family relationships could easily be the subject of a really interesting essay; and Homicide Detective Saga Norén (Bron-Broen) about whom I won’t say anything to avoid spoiling the mesmerizing experience of watching her.
        The Tamsin comparison may be harsh, if you want, but is a valid one. She was “invented” and brought to the show by the money man (almost certainly to replace Val who was geared to be the new recurring character), in an attempt to reach a demographic that will always be out of reach for the show. It was a marketing ploy that failed, unsurprisingly, like those two other marketing ploys failed.

        • Melanie says:

          Your observation about the ‘no cop’ rule applying more to men than women could be a thesis in and of itself.

          I believe I did say that. Though more is always better, saying ‘none’ was obviously too hasty and uninformed; though I’ve seen none of the shows you reference, I take your word and look forward to looking into them.

          I don’t disagree with your assessment of why Tamsin was made a character, but I hold Conner (and the entire fourth season of Angel) as one of the worst experiments in TV, ever. He changed every character, every closelup, every plotline, (though Wesley’s arc was salvageable in places) for the worst.

          Also, while I would have liked and would still like to see more Val, I doubt that will happen in any significant way.

        • I don’t think that a handful of Scandinavian/European shows represent a strong “presence” of female noir detectives in culture. Granted, there are US remakes for two of those shows, but it’s not like there is much widespread attention for either.

          • And while I haven’t watched the original Forbrydelsen trilogy, the US version seemed to trade a lot of the “noir” characteristics for “crazy wimmens detective” tropes. I didn’t watch it super carefully, so before I built any extensive claims about the show I would want to watch it again, but it seemed to me that, even beyond the general inability to make viewers give a shit about what was happening, there wasn’t a clear consensus on how to portray her character. It’s a shame, because there were a lot of moments done really well, but somehow they failed to add up to a compelling narrative.

          • vexundorma says:

            The point was not there were many, the point was there were some, regarding Melanie assertion in the podcast that there were none. The three characters I mentioned are from recent shows and, in my opinion, are great ‘noir’ female detectives. And they are certainly not the only ones because I’m sure that in any survey of European TV shows quite a handful of others would appear; British television, for one, has a long tradition of ‘noir’ characters, male and female. If there is a point to be made here is that Europe and the US are apparently two different realities on this subject. Can they be combined in the same ‘culture’ assertion?

  5. overainbows says:

    On Tamsin being a loner by choice and avoiding relationships/attachments because she thinks she’s toxic to other people, I thought it was headed that way when they got infected and overshared. Tamsin says she’s not supposed to like Bo because she’s a Valkyrie. I assumed it had bad consequences. Now, we’re yet to see how they will develop this.

    Considering the mythology, I thought of two ways it could go. Either the ones she likes* are doomed to die (*I don’t think it’s romantic per se, I love the sexual tension they have sometimes, but I agree on her asexual vibe), which according to what we know up to now IMO would be too tangential to Bo’s father’s return storyline. It’d be too much to handle and incorporate one more threat to her life, not to mention useless as I don’t see Tamsin living past midseason (though I love her I want her to have an honorable death in s4) and the possibility that her father could be Odin in which case she would die and go to his realm (Valhalla?!). The other possibility would be that a Valkyrie’s positive feelings towards Bo would give her some sort of luck, bless or makes Bo more powerful, or makes Tamsin unable to go against her full force due to her admiration for Bo as a warrior, which would be bad as *she believed* she was on a mission to take Bo down. And I still stand on my theory that the druid bottle wasn’t a dud, it was meant to just give Bo’s father access to this world or something else instead of weakening her for Tamsin (which fits the Super Succubus probably under her father’s influence saying they would reign together, so no she wasn’t meant to be imprisoned or killed). Now, of course they could change the mythology in some other way, but they usually take something not too far from it, so this made sense to me.

    A third possibility not related to the mythology per se is that as a Valkyrie she works for the Big Bad who just so happened to want Bo. But that would be the least interesting possibility. I’m hoping they expand on her nature as a Valkyrie playing on the original tales. I want to know about this, her hair locks and life cycle.

    • Melanie says:

      Many things which could have had consequences were/are kind of left hanging. I agree with the theorization Tamsin will play a part in at least half the arc of S4 (assuming they had a contingency for a longer season), but likely not past that. I’m not going down the rabbit hole theorizing about the druid bottle again, but your theory holds water.

      I see a fairytale tone to the locks of hair; Tamsin has so much hair, when she looses the last lock she loses her last life, using her powers makes he lose her hair, but her choices of when to give it up are what may help earn her ‘forgiveness’ or at least peace.

  6. Little Bad Wolf says:

    Rather curious as to what it was in Tamsin’s portrayal in s3 that led people to believe she was asexual because I honestly never got that vibe. In fact, from fairly early on, it felt like she was fighting an attraction to Bo, including the bathtub scene.

    Also curious why people feel like her character doesn’t work. Introducing another dark Fae as a semi-main character seems like a good idea since the show was previously predominately Light Fae and the initial dislike/distrust with Bo worked for me. Maybe it’s because I binge watched the first three seasons on Netflix so there wasn’t a huge time gap in her introduction but I also wouldn’t compare her to Dawn or Connor (egads the worst).

    Perhaps I’m being too simplistic but when Tamsin told Bo “I don’t think I was supposed to like you. Sometimes when I like people I have to make them go away.” was in reference to her duties as a Valkyrie taking the fallen to Valhalla or even being ordered to kill people. In hindsight, it seems odd that it didn’t occur to Tamsin until 308 that Bo could be the One of the outstanding bounty since she knows Bo is a succubus and unaligned, two of the requirements. Then again the whole Wanderer storyline is one big WTH that has yet to pay off. I was willing to let it ride and be worked out in s5 but with two episodes left in the series as of the writing of this comment, I suspect it will be an eternal dangling thread. Maybe someone will be kind enough to explain it after the fact.

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