Lost Girl – Season 3, Episode 03, ConFaegion
Opening scene: simple, right? Three actors, simple setup outdoors, some snark and smackdown, tada.
Two camera teams [op and AC for each], audio [probably two, a lav’r / field mixer and boom mic op], a couple prop cement blocks, some drums of water to ensure mud, several standby clean wardrobe changes for Ksenia Solo, a stunt coordinator, a skeleton light crew [natural light still needs bounces], video village with the director and producer and scripty and at least one AD, crafty, hair and makeup [H&M] for all the touchups and flyaways, maybe a generator op as per the credits, production manager and PAs to set up and tear down and drive to and fro. I’m not sure how Canada works the permit details, or how guerrilla the Ultra Low Budgets [ULB] get . . . either way, no way they close anything down entirely, so at least one PA whose entire job is to steer passerbys around the shoot, his/her embarrassment and chagrin.
OK. Not exactly ‘simple.’ But about as simple as it gets. No massive dolly teams, no extensive lighting setups, minimal blocking and fighting, no super complicated audio other than windscreens and the very real threat of ADR [rerecording lines in post because ambient noise like a boat horn ruined the audio during the best take], no street shutdown, probably not a hard out [a strict deadline for when the whole set must be cleared, usually dictated by when the shoot will run into overtime for cast and crew or when the location needs to be used by its owners], no flock of extras, no timing with cars or other props.
What’s my point?
It’s freaking effective on a low scale. The best dynamic in the show gets to interact; Ksenia Solo showcases some physical comedy (that mudsplat will never not be funny) as well as her usual splendid timing and facial expressions; we get reintroduced to Bruce who will take on a minor role in the season; Bo adds to the foreshadowing of her exhaustion; conversations are funny but cover some much-needed ground – the Morrigan’s vendetta and tension between Lauren and Kenzi being foremost. Love, action, comedy, plot setup, interpersonal tension setup, bam. BAM. Roll opening credits.
One thing I wish they’d redo for S4 is their theme song. I know it’s expensive, but not only do I love anticipating a new theme song each season, the old visuals give us the idea of a road and traveling and forward motion etc etc., the idea of Bo having lived on the run and ‘Dyson is some sort of wolf’ come across for new viewers, but Kenzi and Lauren, let alone Trick and Hale, aren’t well represented.
Back in, we have some more humor undercut with seriousness. Though I suppose Vex doesn’t treat his newfound impotence so lightly. His impotence and resulting travel to eat pray loathe his pain away also serves to sideline Vex as a major player for most of this season. Before he goes, though, he can’t resist a little havoc, turning this episode into one of the genre standbys, and Bo, Dyson, and Tamsin into teenage versions of themselves.
Teenaged Dyson is much more exuberant than grown-up Dyson, and Teenaged Tamsin shows the insecurity which may have led to her forging her hard adult shell, and an openness which has long been shut down. But it’s Teenaged Bo who’s most interesting. We’ve gotten flashbacks and some of the story in Bo’s words, but it’s interesting to consider what a Teenaged Bo was like. The onset of puberty is confusing enough. Imagine you were never given instruction as to what puberty was, and your body starts all these changes. Add to that the religious mantra that sexuality is bad, and the secondary and extremely harmful fundamentalist idea that all sex is sin and all sexual sin is the fault of the woman,* and you’re in for a truly awful time.
Yet there’s also something to be said for the innocence of youth, and the wonder of discovery and exploration – even, nay, especially, illicit or forbidden exploration, both in the way fundamentalism forbids any exploration, and in non-heteronormative exploration – which is magical no matter how much guilt and fear may try and sully it. The conflation of all this leads to a really interesting, if confusing and mostly awful at the time, coming-of-age tale. Here we get a tiny glimpse of what that tale’s alternate timeline would be: what if Bo had been removed from her surroundings, surrounded with people with Fae powers, people willing to explore sexuality, or basically just people more accepting of who and what she was. She’d be a different person. There’s the rub, how sometimes more conducive circumstances wouldn’t have led us to the person we’re learning to love, the person with scars and triumphs, but most importantly the person who is loved. Would Bo trade the trials which got her to where she is now for the love of Kenzi, Dyson, and Lauren? I submit she wouldn’t dream of it.
Not accidentally is it these three who constantly get her out of scrapes, whether from external forces or of her own making, but this episode we get a new dynamic, which is Kenzi and Lauren working together as Dyson, Tamsin, and Bo are incapacitated, literally powerless pubescents. For a long time Kenzi has hated on Lauren with seeming little provocation, and Lauren has tolerated Kenzi as the best friend of her paramour, but has never really respected her. Now they’re not only forced to work together, they’re forced to truly interact.
Though they’re two women, and obviously insecure about their places in Bo’s life, this scene never comes across as catfighting or a ‘woman-specific’ problem. Lauren has issues with Kenzi’s seeming lack of maturity, acting especially on Kenzi’s actual youth and lack of traditional job. Kenzi has a complex about people treating her this way her whole life, but the way she acts like the having of a stable job and life are themselves a bad thing has served to prejudice her against Lauren from the getgo. Kenzi was Team Dyson not just because she met him first and they had an instant rapport, but because she understands his wild ways. Kenzi’s not as equipped to deal with someone like Lauren, who can function in the worlds she’s not allowed access to. Kenzi’s a little bitter about Lauren’s functionality, and especially her own exclusion, despite neither being Lauren’s fault (nor ‘functionality’ being something which needs apologizing for).
Their relationship building on assumptions and taken offenses is like a platonic Pride and Prejudice, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay. The way they address these issues, blow up, then use humor to defray the situation, and move on to work together and build some mutual respect is so well handled. Both actresses knock it out of the park, and if I had but one wish for S4, I would have to make it that these two get more shared screentime.
‘Total commitment’ is necessary to pull off an episode like this; it’d be much lesser without all the actors throwing themselves wholeheartedly, without ego, into the farce. Bo and Tamsin writing ‘real poetry . . . the kind that rhymes!’ and then literally eating their words is a great depiction of teenaged seriousness and ritualization, and Silk and Skarsten chew paper with vigor, distaste, and finally a ‘not really so bad as it could be’ looks.
Despite that, despite Palmer’s wry handling of the material, and despite Kris Holden-Ried’s total immersion in the absurdity of shirtless “Hungry Like The Wolf,” it’s Solo who gets the real center stage, as she gets physical comedy, physical prowess, and facial and verbal comedy and pathos, as Kenzi fights Bruce, swaps makeup tips with Vex, deals with Lauren, then gets her hand fused to the Staff of Righteousness. Jokes and skills abound in equal measure, and Ksenia Solo’s background leads to a lovely fight scene reminiscent of another dancer-turned-preternatural-fighter. I’m not thrilled about the potential Kenzi-gets-Fae-powers-implanted plotline in S4, but I can see how enabling more sequences like this is highly desirable.
Vex’s swaying allegiances and selfinterest lead to some speculation about where the episode will end. Of course he wouldn’t actually chop Kenzi’s head off, as she’s integral to the show and even Whedon doesn’t kill beloved characters so ignominiously, but we’re left with the slightest wonder whether he meant to, and just had bad aim.
Getting Vex out of the way is probably for the best, to keep from overcrowding the plotlines, but also because with his powers he’s the only real challenge to Bo, and without he is better in small doses. Not that I don’t love the character and what Paul Amos does with him, but a powerless Vex only goes so far; we already have comic relief and a splendid wardrobe in Kenzi, and a baddie-of-the-week is more challenging. He wouldn’t add anything to the Dawning plotline, and he’s not emotionally involved/supportive enough with Bo to make a difference to her homecoming plotline or do anything but add some commentary to her love triangle.
I mentioned how the opening scene is effective on a low scale, but really the whole episode is. It’s not strictly a bottle episode, since we have some scenes in Trick’s bar and the Morrigan’s rooftop interspersed with the clubhouse scene, but most of it happens in two rooms, with one main prop and one main wardrobe change (Solo and Silk from the opener to the rest of the ep, though it’s possible Solo had multiple red jackets in the wings). The music is more pop-y than the show usually delves into, but that’s perfect for an episode about teenagers, and the payoff at the bar is gold. It’s a solid episode which furthers character, can stand alone and be enjoyable through multiple watches, but continues the ball rolling towards future conflicts.
– *Fundamentalist sexual theory at its worst boils down to: sex is for procreative purposes / marital bonds only, any woman who enjoys it is a trollop, and look the other way when a man does it for pleasure. The system(s) proscribes sexual norms and usages because controlling those starting at a young age, coupled with controlling someone’s fear of eternal damnation for as much as watching Titanic, allows it to control literally every aspect of a child/teenager’s life, and shape them into adulthood. Look the other way for certain sexual acts – including rape and child molestation – because, well, men have uncontrollable urges. Ironically, despite the fact the tenets of these mindsets cater exclusively to male domination, isn’t actually complimentary to men. Additionally, not that it’s ever, EVER an excuse for rape or child abuse, but these systems lend themselves to those horrors because natural sexuality is warped and frustrated, then the inherently patriarchal and closed systems allow crimes to be more easily covered up.
Back to sexual mores. When a man gives into temptation, be it lust or an extramarital affair, it’s the woman’s fault. Her skirt was too short, she made eyes at him, she wasn’t at home where she should have been, she allowed herself to be wooed, etc. Which, again, is completely uncomplimentary, because it acts like men are base animals, totally incapable of controlling themselves, at the mercy of an inner thigh or inch of cleavage. This mindset is destructive to literally everything: friendships of all combinations but especially female-male friendships; romantic relationships; sexual interactions, including benign interactions because the result of this mindset is to sexualize absolutely everything, from going to a movie to riding in a car; marriages; personal sanity; etc. Its linger impact on Bo is obvious, but honestly, she gets away better than most.
– I’d love to know some of the craziest things patrons have confided in Trick over the years. Fae ED has to be among the least of them.
– Bo may have hoped having a friend as Ash would give her the benefits of being unaligned without the stresses and pressures to pick a side and errand running . . . but no. Hale really tries to walk the line of friend and authority figure, but he’s not a fan of the parental role.
– Lauren foreshadows her acceptance of Bo’s extrasexual urges, rolling her eyes at the spin-the-shampoo-bottle kiss, but not making a big deal of it.
– The only other episode this writer (James Thorpe) is credited with is “Ceremony,” which is a completely different sort of beast.