Lost Girl: Season 3 Episode 1, Caged Fae
You know the drill. Possible spoilers through 03.13. All reviews here.
First things first: I wrote a whole post on the problem in this episode, and I’m leaving it all there and out of this review. If you want to talk about that aspect, please do so on that post.
Totally aside from that, I’m guessing as matters of taste go, this is going to be one of the most hit-or-miss Lost Girl episodes. Heavily genre’d or trope-heavy episodes, classic film homages, self-aware exploitation flicks, camp out the wazoo, these are like crack to me. Many may not share this sentiment. To each their own. But even while blatantly appropriating the male gaze, there’s no conception the show is excusing exploitation/objectification. It’s claiming it, and unabashedly at that.
Jump open to a pretty, saturated night scene. The way we left Bo last season, flashing blue eyes over the strains of Sharon Van Etten’s “Serpents” (one of the better musical choices in a series which makes pretty good ones and doesn’t abuse the lyrical musics), makes this en medias res entrance seem to make one kind of sense, though it’s really a ploy to get Bo tossed in the slammer. Bo goes wild, gives the common people some monies, gets taken to jail and stripped of her pocket contents and bullet vibrator, then, oh, hai naked shower time.
Why is Bo cringing in the shower? Is it supposed to imply she’s not confident in her body, or doesn’t enjoy attention? Of course not; it’s the loss of her control over how she wants to display herself, on her own terms. This is more than a chance to ogle for the guards and the audience (and of course there’s the sensation ‘if I’m enjoying this and the guards are enjoying this does that make me like them,’ yada yada voyeurism!), it’s a literal representation of the way prison works, stripping a person of agency and power. This is all basic, though the Fae prison takes it to an additional literal level by neutralizing fae powers via underground power-stripping cables.
Next Bo is taken to her cell where she meets cellmate Sylvie, who of course is unaware of who or what Jean Valjean is, because she’s never read Les Miserables, or seen the Broadway musical. Sylvie is unaware of this cultural touchstone because she’s poor and uneducated, and exactly the sort of person laws and the system target, convict, and turn into repeat offenders; or in this case, conducts medical experiments on.
It’s not just the prisoners who are hurt or warped, either. The prison guard who challenges the Warden’s policies succinctly displays the arc of abuse to abuser. When the guard tries to intercede and shows a moment of the most basic humanism, the warden slaps and belittles her. In her very next scene, this guard – angry and embarrassed at having been maltreated by the warden, feeling the need to prove herself, wanting to reclaim the power she felt was lost in her last interactions – initiates slapping Sylvie and then Bo. The guard is continuing the cycle of violence, as often abused or bullied children will quickly turn to use abusive tactics themselves. Once started and positively reenforced, these harmful thoughts and actions become easier and easier to fall back on, until one enjoys it.
All camp and tropes and character arcs aside, the depictions of women stripped of agency and other women being taught to abuse their power is the real strength in this episode. Its undercurrent may get buried by some of the controversy and over-the-top elements, but shit, it’s strong, and important, and this is what art should be doing – no matter whether the veneer is a sci-fi island or a real American city’s political system – always exploring the current human condition and how we get there and how we fight for a better one.
Obligatory hosedown scene, expository scene where Bo and Lauren catch us up to speed, hilarious Kenzi-as-almost-conjugal-visitor scene, nefarious technology usage scene, tense birthing scene with a pragmatic Jobina in the Thelma Ritter role, denouement, and then we get a semi-resolution to the ongoing will-they-won’t-they, as Lauren and Bo finally decide they can go for the relationship.
Lauren has voluntarily gone undercover not just for the rush and to get out of the lab, but her concept of honor and loyalty to her friend and mentor. Something went wrong, she wants to be part of making it right. She may also be distracting herself from the grieving process, and hey jumping into sex/relationship with Bo certainly won’t hurt towards that end.
I do wonder if at some point Lost Girl is going to try and take the domestication route: Lauren wants the picket fence; Lauren has baby names picked out; much as she loves Fae medicine, she wants a semblance of normalcy. That doesn’t jive with Bo’s lifestyle, completely besides the sex thing. Bo’s used to the clubhouse, everything independent and laissez-faire, flying by the seat of her tight leather pants, ordering pizza every night. We’ve since seen that Lauren is willing to open up their relationship and give Bo sexual freedom, but if Lauren tries to ‘settle down’ with Bo, that’s going to create some tension, especially as we’ve seen how unsettled Dyson is. Though he’s more traditional in relationships, Dyson’s lifestyle, his apartment, his job, everything, is much less domesticated than Lauren, and that’s also appealing to Bo. Ultimately Bo may have to decide which lifestyle she wants more, or even, if she can have a ‘settled’ life of any kind. She may want a normal life, or the chance to choose it – as she said when fighting for LuAnn – but is she capable of having it?
So here’s their big moment, and the details in this scene just don’t jive. For my money, the chainlink scene is many times better.
The platform shoes are a bad move on two levels. First, they don’t seem to fit with the jumpsuits (which I think are a rad touch, so sue me) and open toes in a prison!? I know, I know, I’m complaining about shoe believability when not 20 minutes earlier Bo was scrubbing the floor in a babydoll dress, but ugh.
Second, the shoes put Bo towering over Lauren, whereas generally they’re on the same eye level. This may have been meant to reinforce the idea hinted at in the conversation by the chain fence: that Bo is the one who was given (in the break between the seasons when Bo and Lauren apparently did a lot of processing) the permission to decide when and how they would really jump in to a Relationship, capital R. Elevating Bo here places her in a power position, missing the point that by Lauren willingly ceding that decision, they’re still equals.
Then Lauren is either confused or dubious Bo is serious. Either way, it’s out of character for someone who is usually completely in tune with what others’ words, eyes, and body language are saying – more than anyone besides perhaps Kenzi – to be so hesitant about what Bo is saying, and question, ‘really?’ when she’s the one who has always, always gone for it. The actresses play it fine, but for the writers/director/editors to draw out those monosyllabic sentences and pauses and OOC responses to lengthen the moment and tease the audience is gratuitous. They’ve been teasing for two years. Get to it.
Last, Bo’s “life is too short,” is so clichéd, especially when what she means to say is, “you’re human, and you chose today to do the noble thing, just like Dr Everet did, and it cost her her life. One day, it’s going to cost you yours, yet I will survive, likely thousands more years. It’s wrong of me to waste your life, our lives, playing this dumb emotional game. I can’t carry that regret with me, in addition to the certain future pain of losing you. I’m sorry, so sorry, that I’ve taken so long to figure this out, and [commence kissing]”
Still, the shortcuts get them where they’re going, just as Kenzi and Dyson arrive to save the day, looking on from behind bars.
Despite Kenzi valiantly trying to soften the blow, Dyson recognizes Bo is happy, and is sad for himself but happy for Bo. This is perhaps the most sympathetic Dyson has been, and it’s here, finally, I buy he truly loves Bo, because what he cares about isn’t ownership, or ‘winning’ Bo, but Bo’s happiness. Just like Bo finally desired for Nadia’s return because it what Lauren wanted, Dyson accepts Lauren as Bo’s partner. Both of them struggle with it, but hey, they’re only hum . . .well, close enough. Dyson’s puppy-sad eyes and resignation-but-acceptance are adorable and heartbreaking here.
Not so much as they’re dragged through the entire season. Sometimes, less is more. But I’ve talked elsewhere about Dyson’s regressions to suit the ‘needs’ of the show, rather than retaining what he learns.
There’s another angle here too, and it’s one Lost Girl has used for two other main ‘bad guys’: people are driven to their crimes by oppression. Aife went mad, then bad, because the Light turned her over to be tortured and abused. Isaac because a sociopath after he was unjustly imprisoned for the death of his brother. And the warden was unjustly left to die, but survived and came back to visit his revenge on those who cast him out. In the wrap-up chat afterwards, back at the Dal, there was some sadness expressed that it was how the warden had begun his life, though nobody said that excused what he had chosen to do afterwards. It fits the show’s ethos, but it’s also sobering as a possible forshadowing of where Bo’s journey may be headed.
– In the featured image for this post, the warden and several guards are looking down (at Bo, in the shower). Often when a camera is looking up at someone, there’s an idea of reverence, or at least respect. Here, it’s meant to insinuate the power held by the warden/guards, the way they believe themselves to be elevated above the prisoners, and the way they’re looking down on everyone (audience included). You’re meant to feel small. See, among other things, Cool Hand Luke, how the warden stands on the edge of the ditch and looks down.
– Bo’s comment “I’ve loved, I’ve lost, my dog done run away” isn’t just a slam on country music (that makes two, counting Kenzi’s outfit), it’s a reference to Dyson.
– I’m sure some would rather see a more clear grieving process. Lauren had years to process Nadia’s loss; Lauren as a pragmatic person and physician surely knew it was improbably Nadia would return, and during that time there was a certain acclimation – if not acceptance – of the idea of her loss. of course, the time jump between seasons also helps sell the idea of things being processed offscreen.
– Man, I love Vex flirting with Dyson. Not sure which part I love more; Vex’s enjoyment, or Dyson’s total loss at how to respond.
– I rather wish Jobina got paroled and Hale assigned her as Lauren’s permanent assistant, because that could be fun.
– Is NOBODY going to address the carnival pipe organ going on in the background!?