Lost Girl: Season 04, Episode 3, Lovers. Apart.
I’ve mentioned everyone has been thrown at least somewhat out of character for this season. I’ve mentioned the sexism. I’ve mentioned the disjointedness and shooting around the lead’s schedule. And now it all comes to a head in . . . a rather mixed bag. Some of that mixed bag is great, and some is awful, and some is I don’t know yet because a lot of this is setup for the rest of the season. Three eps of setup means I’m really looking forward to next week, cuz shit better hit the fan.
Incidentally, this writer’s work is a bit of a mixed bag – some good episodes which turned great but were given a boost of fantastic direction, and some run-of-the-mill episodes.
There are technically five stories/plots going on here: Dyson and Clio; Bo and the family; Lauren/Amber and Crystal; the Morrigan and Mossimo; Bo and the family and Dyson and Clio. All of them are shot in different styles – the Bo/Family storyline has a horrorish feel to the set and camera movement, the Lauren/Crystal scenes could have come out of a country western song, the Morrigan/Mossimo scenes have a modern-supernatural vibe. The lighting and framing and even acting are really disparate – note, whoever keeps telling Kris Holden-Ried to act more over-the-top, please stop. The audio for this episode is really fantastic, even with an unusual amount of ADR and/or pulling stray lines from other takes and laying them over a character whose back is turned. Don’t discount the editing and sound mixing in this episode, as it really drives home the feel for each of the five storylines. The music in the restaurant when Crystal is talking about dreams which will swallow you whole? Perfect. Then, the way the stories are intercut make the whole seem much more interesting and connected than the sum of its parts.
In above-listed order of the stories, then.
Dyson and Clio
Fairly straightforward, this plot serves to give us tidbits of information about the others. Oh, jumping on and off the train can give one transcendental sickness, leading to disorientation and cramps and death. Oh, elementals can do such-and-such. Oh, going to ground is a ritualistic/important device.
It also somewhat makes up for Dyson wriggling out of a kiss last episode, in that he gets his toes sucked this one. (But really, thanks for not showing that.)
Overall, though, this plot does something else really interesting. I doubt the show will explicitly point this out, because they love to hedge their bets against future plots (a lot of writers feel closing in a world’s rules limit their writing, while generally it’s a strength). But it confirms alternate realities totally mess with Dyson. Not only can he not understand or handle them, they legitimately screw with his mind, and bring out the absolute worst in him. He doesn’t like change, he needs to be grounded, and when he’s not firmly in a reality he can understand or combat with brute force, he loses all the marbles. ALL the marbles. More on the marble-loss under Bo and the family and Dyson and Clio.
Also, apparently alternate realities bring out Dyson’s Batman voice. And the yelling. Yeah, Dyson. Yelling at your partner and/or a subject of questioning doesn’t disorient them at alllllll. They must have taught you that in police academy.
Bo and the Family
This plot highlights two of the three biggest problems in the episode (the other is lack-of-Kenzi, and we’ll talk about that). Rampant sexism and an unclear metaphor meet in a perfect marriage of whaaaaa?
4.01 had some fairly clear hints at sexism, and 4.02 was awash in sexist buffoonery, and this caps it all off. If there were charts, this mini-trilogy would be off of them. The Man of the Family is domineering and controlling, Dyson gets possessive and controlling and saves all the days, the diner boss orders Amber and Crystal around with obvious disdain, in our flashback it’s men using brute force to expose a woman and tear her away from her beloved, everything’s awash in the sexist tropes we heard versed last episode. The clear acceleration and blatant displays confirm it’s intentional . . . but why? Are we to believe the world without Bo is the height of possible misogynists worlds?
Of additional interest is Clio’s use of the innocuous phrase “find your girl.” It’s not just that Dyson doesn’t correct Clio, even though just last episode he was still making token ‘she’s not with me, I’m just in love with her’ motions, it’s that phrasing which denotes possession. Ok, but if Clio were talking to Bo, would she call Dyson ‘your man’? Probably. And if she did, what would that say? Everyone says ‘your girl’ to men and ‘your man’ to women. It’s just the way the phrases are, and it highlights the infantilization of women and its entrenchment in our language. Language is important. Word choice matters. I have to think a writer used that turn of phrase intentionally.
Then the metaphor.
When the family first appeared, there are the usual speculations. Are they going to be werewolves? Is it going to be a story of teenage rebellion and parental issues? Right off I got excited because it seemed it was taking a turn towards explicit fundamentalist themes: secluding/locking away the family, specifically daughter, under guise of protection; using vague threats to keep one’s family group locked away from the outside world; a reprobate/unbelieving member who would find out some of the threats were true, but there are actually better ways to deal with them; a matriarchal figure who has been suppressed until she comes to believe and take on a role of oppressor, etc. Great stuff, and following a theme the show has touched on.
Then the story seemed to drift towards general abuse. Then it dumped in a ghost backstory with very little explanation. Then it added the idea of cyclical abuse with the husband having been possessed. Then it conflated the family haunting with a family history of mental illness, but finally flipped that into a fairly plain suggestion of demonic possession. And in splitting all the differences, it weakened any metaphors we could have drawn out, then really went off the rails when it all came to a head.
Lauren/Amber and Crystal
Lauren’s flirting is always so awkward and science-y, and she gets OCD when she’s trying too hard. Yet it also always works. Maybe we should be taking notes.
The story which works on the surface as ‘girl on the run trusts someone, gets screwed,’ but brings in some extra layers for anyone who’s watched the show. First, Lauren isn’t being her usual cautious, analytical self. Sure, every so often Lauren let her emotions bubble over, but she had still studied a situation from every angle. Here, she trusts and confides in Crystal. Even after she knows someone’s been calling the diner asking for her and offering a reward, she goes back to Crystal before she leaves. The same Crystal who was just talking about how she wanted money to buy a little farm, and could not have waved a larger red flag if she’d tried.
That’s just not in keeping with the rest of what we know about Lauren, though the placement of baking powder is. What gives? Is Lauren so frustrated she’s almost asking to be brought back into the fae world, where at least she can confront her problems? Has the somewhat alternate universe skewed her mental capacities? I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine. Lauren stating she wants to ‘erase everything’ is interesting, though, and I feel that must come into play later.
Most fascinating to me is the spybang flip. [I don’t actually love the term, as it suggests the thing which happens in every other romantic comedy – having sex/romancytimes with someone under somewhat false pretenses but not really cuz you really like them and have a good heart and all – is somehow more nefarious when it’s girl-on-girl. After all, doesn’t Dyson also sleep with Bo while keeping information from her for her own good? That said, my problem is more with the selective and uneven application of the term than anything else; it’s fairly accurate, descriptive shorthand, and if you’re reading this blog you more than likely know what I mean by it.]
A small part of how effective the reversal is revolves around How Much Did Crystal Know and When Did She Know It, but in most scenarios I feel Crystal could make the same argument Lauren did. ‘I really did like and want to sleep with you, we were headed there anyway, it doesn’t mean the other kinda shitty thing I did was directly related.’ Also, depending on how this shakes out, Crystal could either have been convinced it was for Lauren’s good [we don’t know her well enough to know if she’s the brightest bulb in the marquee], or have been threatened with being flayed alive. But none of that is likely to make Lauren immediately feel better about the whole situation, and in that case, she’s going to know how Bo felt.
Also interesting: though Lauren took most of the leads in a relationship – with a succubus, no less – Crystal takes most of them here. Brazen flirting is brazen, but answering the door in her skivvies? POWER MOVE, YO.
In the end, though, all thoughts of ‘shouldn’t she have hit the road by now’ and ‘was Crystal being blackmailed or planning to turn Amber in for a reward before or after or regardless of the sex’ and ‘can Lauren ever trust anyone again’ aside, good on Lauren for getting some. She’s mentioned sex as catharsis before, and if Lauren doesn’t need some catharsis right now, nobody does.
The actual sex scene is essentially one bit of blocking, and the rest all camera movement and angle. It also has very specific body placement / motions, and hips are up, which . . . ok look I decided I was mistaken about suggestion of additional paraphernalia in 3.04, but come on. With this framing/blocking, they know people will be thinking it.
[Note: I got asked a few times what I meant by this. It’s not that I’m saying Amber/Crystal or anyone must have any adds in the bedroom. It’s that I think with this blocking, directors are aware they’re creating that suggestion; they’re aware their choices can be indicative of a certain thing, without even having to be that thing. In scenes like this on TV – especially scenes where there are already so many layers of you can show this inch but not that, and this motion but not that, etc etc – suggestion is important. Suggestion has always been the key to both censorship and subversion; it wasn’t that having a king-sized bed or toilet were considered ‘bad’ or even sexy, but they used to be censored merely because of what they suggested. Subverting those rules came in the form of strategic couch placement or cutting away at the right moment or elevator floor indicators. Suggestion is why the wet hand in 3.04 was interesting, and on one level suggestion is what I think is going on here. Positioning overall matters, too. TV sex positions and motions often have loaded power dynamics which are shorthanded by tops and bottoms – I’ve mentioned before how I like this show not establishing anyone as a constant top or bottom, and here Lauren’s on the bottom and it’s been established she can be both thus this doesn’t have to mean anything other than we’re seeing her face, not Crystal’s – and it’s significant that this show plays with that. These decisions are conscious on set. All that said . . . Yeah, I’m parsing motive of blocking and motion and hand location of a person who is literally hidden beneath a sheet. No, there’s likely no actual paraphernalia here (no strap, though that’s not a sure thing). And yes, there could be other reasons for the hip position/movement, even such as ‘if the camera is here there’s not enough going on in the lower third, so how about you move your butt up into frame.’ But the thought the director knows this alternate suggestion is plenty viable was enough for me to make an offhand comment. More than probably anything else in this review, I’m willing to say ‘hey all speculative, don’t actually care.’ It somehow ended up being a thing, so I thought I’d put the answer out there for anyone else wondering why I said that, since all the asks I got were private.]
I’d be much more excited about the possible flaunting of network standards if I didn’t have a sneaking suspicion the subdued climax was due to the lady/lady dynamic. I’ve mentioned it before, and this is not helping my conspiracy theorism.
As for the kidnapping, I speculated in last week’s comments about why the Una Mens are after Lauren (and the Wanderer, too, either for the same reasons or because the Wanderer is in opposition to the Una Mens). I wish they’d make Lauren useful for something other than leveraging or having others leveraged against her. I mean, it’s not like she has years and years of medical experimentation and knowledge about a superhuman race hiding in plain sight. I mean, I could be wrong about the leverage thing, but . . . I don’t think I am.
The Morrigan and Mossimo, AKA The Pirate and the Smarmbag
New Morrigan power display, right off the bat. So far as I remember her life/soul/art sucking was contract-based, not touch-based. Anyone care to correct me?
The interesting part here is Mossimo, and his being human. It touches a little on the cycle of abuse – he’s looking for shelter from the anti-human factions, but willing to exploit Kenzi’s humanity without a conscience – but most of all it adds to the world building.
Historically, druids were basically a priest caste. Mossimo’s got knowledge of magic potions and dark medicine and things one could learn living in a secluded monastery with old books – while of course developing sketchy taste in clothing and a propensity for brewing beer and masturbating. It’s fairly common in modern paranormal fiction to make druids players in the supernatural world without them actually being supernatural; often they have just tapped into some religious/mystical power source.
Up until this point, Lost Girl hasn’t explicitly defined the possibility for any non-supernatural to play. Not just ‘has talents we can use’ like Lauren, or ‘fake it and squirm around the system’ like Kenzi, but an actual mover and shaker. Here they’re stating: “human” doesn’t completely mean “a non-supernatural player.” Mossimo actually has the magic in him, or whatever you want to call it. He has supernatural ‘abilities’ or knowledge, and gets treated approximately like another fae.
Then, even being a player with some ‘abilities’ of his own, he angles for protection from the Morrigan. He’s acknowledging that with Bo gone, she’s the most powerful player in town. The whole scene is a great use of show don’t tell.
Bo and the family and Dyson and Clio
Off the rails we go!
Some of my sample notes:
So the daughter kills parents/abusers/oppressors/sources of mental illness/passers down of possession . . . IF I KNEW WHAT THE METAPHOR WAS, THIS MIGHT MAKE SENSE.
Bo thinks it’s all her fault. Naturally.
Man Saves Day! Ugh.
Possession of a power that kills and has a Jersey accent. Of course Jersey accent.
Dyson, throwing ppl to the ground. It’s how he operates.
WHAT IS THIS, TRUE BLOOD!?
Who is this?
oh this is the demon fae thing
wait, so is this actually a ghost?
The woman is punished for something she and man are both complicit in. natch.
so she was an elemental and . . . I DON’T KNOW
it had to have been about slavery/interracial marriage
bad CGI blood
bad bad GCI blood
what is any of this scene
‘they weren’t married’ !? Oooooooh, fuck this
that’s some freaky wish fulfilment. both for Dyson and the fans
heartbeats in the audio mix tho
why can’t the elemental see the ghosts?
Now we’ve got eight kinds of problems. First, for such a progressive show to have such a backwards idea about commitment and marriage is a bit upsetting. The couple was obviously ‘bonded’ and being buried apart was symbolic. Not having officially said vows and placing a ring on each others’ fingers shouldn’t diminish the nature of their relationship, but here it does. Why would two souls have to be given some sort of contract to be sealed in death? It’s a weird Mormon / puritanical idea, and it’s forced on every level, just because – and this is key – plot says Dyson and Bo get to have a weird creepy quasi-marriage. And it doesn’t land, both because it’s forced and because Dyson is super weird about it, just like the Dawning.
Dyson versus Lauren again. Some bullshit ‘competition.’ Ugh. Kill it with fire.
Is Dyson really forgetting the train? Once he’s out of that realm, even in another still-whacked realm, has his memory of it left him like Bo’s did? If so, are the Una Mens, the Wanderer, or the ‘Conductor’ behind the forgetfulness? Is it just a nature of the nether realm that you can’t remember? Or does he remember, and he’s actively trying to get Bo to forget so she’ll stay with him; another echo of the Dawning. He is fairly prominently wearing the wedding band, ie using that hand to steer so it’s obvious in the shot. Is it another fakeout like the Dawning marriage? I’ve no answers at this point, and I don’t think we’re meant to. We’re meant to keep coming back to find answers. But you can only play that game so long . . .
Bo’s a jumby?
Bo’s taken on elements of the jumby?
she has all the jumby’s memories?
“she’s your worst nightmare” – just no
I was/am confused exactly what took place mostly because of the eyes. Julia’s eyes went dark when possessed, Clio’s didn’t (elemental?), Bo’s clouded, but then at the gravesite when she faux-married Dyson, they were clear. Suggesting Bo wasn’t under the influence? Suggesting putting the bones together was half the battle and the ghost wasn’t possessing but wandering freely? Suggesting Bad/BlueEyed Bo could fight or turn the eyes? I’m left with the same answer as for a half dozen questions this episode: who the hell knows, and who the hell knows if they’ll ever tell us. But actually, if you know, I’m all ears, and the comment section eagerly awaits you.
One more note on Clio: elementals are typically more powerful in non-European mythologies. This feature of European mythologies can be traced back to Gnosticism and further back to Plato’s dualist metaphysics, though I don’t really have the spare time to research a cross-disciplinary Master’s Thesis to adequately prove it.
Southern European mythologies typically don’t involve a ton on elemental power players (other than sea gods) because the weather was liveable. Scandinavian and Northern European myths involve more elementals because nature was scarier. [Dale: “But then we need a conversation about the mechanics of how Norse and Pagan mythologies evolved into the European regional folk mythologies that are the large basis for Lost Girl.”] For instance, Germanic myths are centered around “the forest” as the center of scary shit, because Germanic forests are scary shit, and instilling the fear of nasty icky death into your children so they would stay out of those forests made perfect sense. Functionality is always huge in the origin/propagation of myths.
But with the spread of Rome/Christianity/Latinate writing and the general progression of scholasticism and understanding of how elements/nature worked, the essence of natural baddies became less pure “nature is scary” and more “nature is a tool that powerful beings use for evil,” thus leading elementals in European mythology to be mostly sprites and sidekicks. [Dale: “There’s also a cross-disciplinary Master’s project about how societal power is constructed in a mythological climate of patriarchal gods constantly at war with “nature.”]
All of which explains Clio’s versatile yet not incredibly powerful powers, and why she was so easy to beat down. Also, can we just note that crazy Jenny Schecter got offed . . . by a bisexual woman. Yep. They did that.
The show loads most of the audience empathy into Bo, Lauren, and Kenzi. Missing any one of them automatically pushes an episode towards imbalance, and here Bo couldn’t pull much empathy, as she was “confused” or being possessed for way too much of the episode. Without Kensi’s snark and wit to balance Bo’s heavy Morality Choices About Protection Humans, the show lands too heavily. It’s camp on a budget, it shouldn’t veer too much towards taking itself seriously.
Really, the show misses Ksenia Solo’s charisma from top to bottom. They tried pushing the Julia chick as a substitute, but not only were they trying too hard – if she were really like her, we wouldn’t have to be told so eight times – but it just didn’t work. At all.
They kept switching the trope/metaphor for the Bo’s Mystery of the Week family, from vacationers to abusers to weird to fundy metaphors to mental illness to possession/demons to slavery to whatever else. It could have been great, instead it ended up as an excuse to ‘marry’ Bo and Dyson.
It’s not that this episode itself was a monstrosity. But the only way it’s good is if all the pieces it puts into place lead to sensical, fireworks-filled, sensical-plot-laden episodes soon.
Very, very soon.
We really got no closer to confirming or denying any of our guesses.
– Very special thanks to Dale for helping get all the druid and elemental mythology spelled out.
– I did enjoy that little shout out to Anna Silk giving birth.
– Eyes come into play a lot this episode, but give Emmanuelle Vaugier some major props for that talent.
– What is that demon mask in the background at the family’s bunker?
– Whether Dyson and Lauren like it or not, Bo’s angling for both of them. She wants to have her beefcake and eat Lauren too.
– Oh come on. I’m proud of that one.
– “Forget that wedding dress and combat boots that I wore all the way through Freshman year as a statement.”
– “(To Dyson) Come on, you’ve been around for 1,00 years and you’ve never read a romance novel? (to Bo): Lucky girl.”