Lost Girl: Season 4, Episode 08, Groundhog Fae
When the ice cream promo was released, I thought it was a clever way to draw new fandom without trying to sum up three years – or even three minutes – of the show’s mythology. Instead of trying to convey
‘she’s a succubus who needs sex to live but was raised without knowledge of the fact that she’s a member of a powerful type of beings called fae and oh this dude’s a wolf shifter and this chick is a human doctor and she has the hots for both of them because she’s bisexual and there’s this other best friend named Kenzi who’s human and is essentially her sister and the sinister-ish old guy is her grandpa but she didn’t know that for like two years . . . ‘
they went for
‘our star is a hot chick and she has some fun romps and also other good-looking people she likes to play with.’
Which of these is more likely to attract new viewers, as well as please old viewers without actually giving anything away from the upcoming season? I mean, it’s not subtle, but it’s effective. It plays to fans of the show and it catches the attention of strangers to the show, who may have been turned off by a promo about a ‘supernatural’ show. Win-win.
I didn’t realize it was actually part of an episode. And not just part of, but an en medias res drop-you-right-down-into-the-middle-of-it opening scene. It does tell us Bo and Hale and Dyson and Lauren have been going around looking for the helskor, so that’s continuing, and that they’re mostly getting along, and that they’ve hit a few ogres – real and probably metaphorical – along the way. But mostly, it tells us Bo is full-out throwing herself at Lauren and Dyson, and lets the audience enjoy the show.
Let’s get this out there: as a filmmaker, I have been and will almost certainly [ie shall my career continue] continue to be in the middle of situations where there is potential for exploitation. This can range from working reality TV (exploitation city!) to asking an actor or actress to engage in a scene which objectifies him or her and/or their characters in some way. This is not new to a show like Lost Girl. While some television sex scenes are meant to convey emotional turmoil or power dynamics or trauma or intense emotional connection or various other things (the Sopranos in a swimming pool springs to mind), most actual sex scenes are a little about the character dynamic and a little about plot and a lot about looking at pretty people doing sexy things. You don’t have to show the foreplay or the naked or the various rollings and rompings to convey a sense that the two characters have converged, right? You show it because it’s aesthetically pleasing, because it’s a certain kind of enjoyment. This can be potentially exploitative.
That’s just for scenes with sex! Scenes like this don’t even have ‘sex’ as a cover. This is for pure eye candy. So, is a scene like this exploitative or not? I think there are four elements:
1. There’s the old obscenity/porn definition, ‘I know it when I see it.’
That’s the most subjective definition possible. I watch this scene and it feels cheeky, not obscene; pleasurable, not exploitative. Your mileage may differ.
2. Then there’s intent, which is somewhat more parseable.
Michelle Lovretta’s rules for the show stated “both genders are to be (adoringly!) objectified,” and this does adoringly objectify Bo, but it’s important she’s hardly the only one to whom something like this has happened. Heck, in Season 2 she sprayed Dyson down with a hose and he wriggled out of his wet shirt.
There’s a suggestion the show is flipping the idea of the male gaze by having Lauren be the one who is agape and watching Bo’s performance.
I don’t want to call it ‘admirable’ when a show takes a woman who has recently given birth and looks at her like she’s a desirable, sexual being, because that seems to suggest the show is overlooking some ‘fault’ which would make her undesirable, that this presentation is noble or some such bullocks. But it’s true that Anna Silk isn’t the uber-stick-thin action heroine we’re often used to seeing, and it’s true she had given birth shortly before shooting, and it’s true she’s beautiful and sexy, and it’s rad the show is going to openly admire all that without reservation, and that is definitely an intent of this scene, to just admire a beautiful woman.
3. There’s functionality.
What is this scene doing within the framework of the show? Showing us how hard Bo is throwing herself at Lauren, and then Lauren and Dyson. / Showing us how Bo’s succubus nature manages to powerfully attract others even when she’s scrubbing ogre guts.
How is it shot? In an exaggerated fashion which is both emulative and parody of what I like to call ‘video pin-up shots.’
What does it tell us about the story? They hit an ogre because they’ve been literally running down leads to Angel and the helskor.
4. Last and not least is communication with and feelings of the actors.
Of course I can’t sit here and tell you what Anna Silk thought about the whole thing. I can’t condemn or condone something based on an actress’s feelings without hearing something straight from her about it, and even that really only after a show has ended and she’s no longer under contract, and even then only after she’s really truly retired because she doesn’t want to make anyone skittish about casting someone ‘hard to work with.’ You see how in this business it’s hard to know what really happened unless you were standing on the lot.
I can tell you how it vibed to me, which should partly land under point the first, up there. I can tell you I think Silk has good body confidence and presentation, – as well she should, damn, woman. I can tell you in the few interviews I’ve seen she seems a great sport and all. I can tell you I think it’s empowering. Last, I must point out people who decry things like this by saying ‘it’s innately exploitative when women present on screen in a sexualized manner’ are actually removing power from women to decide what is right for themselves and their bodies.
And now I think it’s important to differentiate between why I’m down with this scene and why I was not down with the scene in Table for Fae and the gaze that camera took, which – so far as angle and body-skimming etc – is fairly on par with this. Table for Fae was objectifying a character in the show, essentially presenting her as a sexual object with no recourse, and never refuting that within the scene, either by that character or anyone else. We don’t know Marissa, we get no real other context for her as a fae other than ‘Ryan watches her do things he finds sexy.’ [I did explain in my review there I think the show wanted us to see Ryan’s objectification as a bad thing, but it didn’t do a clear job of that.]
Here, we know Bo as a fully formed character with agency – her whole point is agency, really – and if she decides to indulge in a little carwashing fun, of her own volition, who are we to tell her nay?
Melanie, you’ve written a THOUSAND words about the first minute and twenty seconds of this show, and none of them are even about the ice cream dripping or jaw dropping. Move on already.
Truth be told, all this rambling may be me putting off actually starting the review. I mean, ten minutes in, a full quarter of the way through, all I had in my notes was the following:
– carwash scene not just promo
– Lauren and Dyson friendly rivalry dynamic; problematic, out of nowhere, or best thing ever?’
– the bastardization and hyperconflation of all traditions that is Christmas in America, I mean Canada – hallucinogenic gumdrops
– Tamsin/Bo a manifestation of Bo’s subconscious sexual thoughts (as much of last week was) ? Don’t think they make Tamsin viable romantic option?
At that point I simply gave up and grabbed on for dear life. I may want a return to more serialized fae-crime-fighting of S1 and 2, with some of the fae becoming pieces of the overall puzzle that is overthrowing the two-party system with occasional stand-alone trope setpieces. What I’m getting, however, is not that. This season is more serialized setpieces, and a lot more genre’d than before. So long as it’s good, I’m going to try not to parse the hallucinatory gumdrops until the second time through.
While I’m being honest, I’ll mention I was a bit biased against the episode before it started. In fact, the Groundhog Day trope is my least favorite episode stunt ever. It’s below Body Swaps (which are usually awesome), Invisible Characters, Mystical Muteness, Big Syndrome, It’s A Wonderful Life (which LG already did this season, well), pretty much anything in the trope-archy. Of all the shows I’ve watched prior to this which have done a spin on Groundhog Day, I’ve only liked one episode. “Groundhog Fae” practically screams ‘we’re going to rehash similar scenes until Bo finds the key to what’s going on.’ That’s not just a nightmare for continuity and the script supervisor, but it generally makes an episode feel like a skipping record, and I knew I was going to have to watch at least a few times in order to write my review, so I wasn’t over the moon about that.
The show assuaged my fears slightly when Bo figured it out only the second time around, and then straight-up calls it Groundhog Day. Then Tamsin grabs a random rash-y passerby to demonstrate exactly how absurd it is when people try explaining the loop to those extras stuck inside it, and I let my hopes get up, and thankfully they were rewarded. Damned if this isn’t a good use of the trope.
It gives us two characters who know what’s going on, and who are trying to solve the thing together. It slowly introducing us to the bit players who aren’t in on the loop – bodybuilder, rash guy, amphibious fae – and then gives them tiny roles to play. It gives us a threesome who haven’t previously been left alone to interact, and lets them hash out their issues seemingly outside the loop entirely. It gives us Hale and Kenzi who seem to be unawares of the loop, but then slowly clues the audience in on the fact Hale, like Tamsin and Bo, grasps what’s going on.
Through all this, it uses the Groundhog trope to allow everyone to exorcise their demons, express fears and feelings, and indulge all of their instincts.
And I do mean all. Arm wrestling, beer swilling, making out, heck, give it another half hour and Bo would have tried some hallucinatory sweat and Tamsin may have tried more than just the one fae boy. All this is really happening smack-dab in the midst of Tamsin’s coming of age, so she’s kind of using this space to explore all the things, and also Bo.
I’ve said before that these two as long-term romantic partners isn’t a good idea because they tend to bring out the worst in each other. Not that either is innately bad, or would bring down / corrupt any partner she was with, but that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and these two have almost the same weaknesses, and when put together they only amplify those parts of themselves. All that said, making out is not a relationship, and let them gather their rosebuds and all that.
Rosebuds and beer bongs and smooches, oh my. It’s incredibly true to character for these two to go full hedonist. When the cuts came fast and thick of them doing exactly what the two of them would in a world with no consequences, I started to feel like this episode is all about that: examining how the characters react to consequences or lack thereof. It gives the characters a space of time where they can simply do-over what they don’t get right the first time, where they can let out what’s been bottled up for three years and gauge what happens. Kenzi and Hale are busy in Kenzi’s room, Tamsin is exploring her new life without limitations, and it becomes clear the episode is about regret and consequences, love in all forms, and forgiveness.
Even before Dyson and Lauren start a drinking game over telling Bo what’s the mysterious box/package.
I keep finding more ways this show parallels LOST, and this feels very much like Sawyer and Kate’s drinking game, which started light and got intimate and touchy quickly and also involved a monster and mysterious black smoke. Only in LOST, we didn’t have a corseted Vex over in the corner pointing out when someone got a good jab in.
And Lauren does get her jabs in, then Dyson’s gloves come off, and they start fighting for keeps, dragging out every protest any fandom has talked about, but also doing a very real thing; idealizing their own actions while smearing the good name and deeds of the other. Though fighting over a person as if she’s a trophy to be rewarded for selfless deeds can be quite tired, what makes it work is both our history with these two, and how adorable and wonderful it is to see a guy and a girl going at it without ever disparaging the other because of genitalia or gender. Speaking of, the wooden latched object is sometimes referred to as a box, and sometimes as a package, and that is certainly intentional.
The idea that they are (how intentionally is unclear) treating Bo like a trophy is underlined when Dyson argues that because he saved Bo, ‘I should get to say what she does with her box.’ Lauren counters that she was the one to help Bo learn to control her powers. This all-fair-in-love-and-war-and-sex thing reveals the worst in people, but we’ve all got dark spaces. It’s great to have a safe space to get blitzed and hash everything out, and truly I could have watched an entire bottle episode with just these three, getting drunk in Bo’s room and trying their best to sort out their lives.
While they’re blithely nattering on about kinky hand surgery (well, now we know how they’re going to get around Paul Amos always having to wear a hand covering) and how they wish they could have done more for Bo and not failed her so much (to be fair, she let both of them down at some points, too), and feeeeeeelings and such, Bo and Tamsin discover Bruce is missing.
Suddenly, consequence-free playtime is over, and they have to figure out what’s causing the loop, preferably before more people get gone. Trick is no help whatsoever, though he is hilarious and this is the first time we’ve seen the barkeeper drunk. After a couple failed attempts there, Bo and Tamsin interrupt Hale and Kenzi trying to get their groove on for the upteenth time. Hale’s behaviors and foreplay are delightfully in character, in keeping with his thinking/acting like a studmuffin, but not really being that smooth of an operator. Hale exasperatedly explains it’s that friendly holiday Krampus, who puts people into the loop so they can get into ‘trouble,’ and then feeds on their regret. Hale didn’t pay much attention because he was busy manipulating the system to make his and Kenzi’s first time be perfect, but he does feel badly and said he was going to tell her. Out of everyone, Hale’s the one with the most, what do you call it? Oh yes, a conscience.
Immediately after discovering the who of what’s happening, Tamsin gets snatched by some creeper in the yellowing wallpaper. Bo comes to the realization the audience came to when we got a close-up shot of the gas station gumdrops – also especially because they were just out in the open at a gas station, ew – and goes back to the source, where she falls through a car-trunk-portal-to-a-neon-lit gumdrop factory. I wanted nothing more for her to walk in and scream, ‘IT’S PEEEEEEEEEEOPLE,’ but she settles for the more understated approach of jamming her knife into the conveyor belt (We needed a blade of steel, hilt of bone, poetically described knife for that?) and breaking Tamsin free.
Tamsin doesn’t really want to be set free, though, she’s fine becoming complex-emotion-candy.
Because Tamsin has been so childlike this whole season, and is really still quite young in her regeneration cycle (Skarsten is bringing a much more innocent quality to Tamsin with her regeneration; surely they knew they were going here and she had to display both hardass and this at her audition), we also have Bruce in candyland, to give us a point of comparison. That Bruce is also excited to be made into candy tells us they have been roofied or stupefied or in some mystical way manipulated, and Tamsin’s reaction is not because of being a teenager.
[NOTE: it was pointed out to me on Twitter Tamsin is supposed to have progressed to adulthood now. She still acts young sometimes, and in her regeneration cycle she’s still getting her bearings on the world. Besides her innocent and youthful behaviors, the very collegiate sex sampling and beer bonging, the last thing I saw of her in this episode was calling Kenzi ‘moms’ and making faces at the thought of sex, which suggested to me she was still working up to her full age even if she looked older on the outside. But if she’s an adult, then looking at it from the point of she and Kenzi having a special bond, and then wrinkling her nose thinking of ‘moms’ having sex, does make sense as well. This doesn’t negate how much of this episode functions as part of her ‘coming of age,’ since she has yet to have many of these experiences in this lifetime, but she’s not a teen here. She may be in her college years, but it’s more likely she’s . . . whatever age she was supposed to be in S3.]
Tamsin was the perfect target because of her guilt complex, because she believes she brings bad things and everything terrible ‘usually has something to do with me.’ Tamsin has multiple lifetimes of regret, and doesn’t believe she deserves to live, and thus has enough gumdrop juice to tide Krampus over. The candyland realm makes people passive in their own death, believing they’re better off this way. It’s interesting when Jeffrey says he ‘chooses’ Tamsin to be made into candy, she acquiesces, and Bo is the one who gets rankled on Tamsin’s behalf; Bo is furious someone is trying to dictate Tamsin’s life and insists Krampus let her go.
Which Krampus does, because apparently Bo has enough baggage to make Krampus candy for years. Guilt over her past, denial over her present, fear and refusal to face her future, something else dark and nameless, it’s all there. Until Bo faces her past and deals with it, confronts her fears, and accepts what’s coming and what’s inside her, the guilt will only compound. Speaking it on the Conveyor Feelings Activator is the first step . . . and apparently it’s enough to make Krampus snap his fingers and put her back to rights. Yay, story mechanisms.
Bo and Tamsin decompress a little, and Bo has truly accepted Tamsin’s revelations about Tamsin finding Bo on The Wanderers behalf, although Bo still lets Tamsin go her own way and doesn’t invite her to stay, which I think would have been nice of her. It was also good to get a tiny flashback into Tamsin’s past, though it almost raises more questions. Why Tamsin? How is The Wanderer looking for Bo hundreds of years before she’s born? Is he a time-traveler, or does this play into the whole ‘it was foretold’ bit that’s been running throughout the show? What on earth does ‘ideal mate’ mean, and is it as creepy as it sounds?
The specifications The Wanderer gave Tamsin, “eyes both brown and blue, virtuous yet lustful, neither dark nor light, yet both,” ring like an old Greco-Roman poem issued by Oracles. In fact, it rings like a really specific classical prophesy, one I can’t quite put my finger on. Bo’s declaration ‘Let me go and I’ll consider letting you live’ also feels very much as a referential line from something, but the internets didn’t help me with either of these.
In the end, we’re no closer to the helskor than we were at the beginning, but we have gotten a glimpse of The Wanderer, and know more about how he approached Tamsin. Tamsin is working through her guilt, and Bo is learning to forgive. Vex apparently has his hand back. Lauren and Dyson are falling into a friendship, though even with the hug and some more touching moments I love that they haven’t simply forgone the tension; they’ve allowed the relationship to maintain its rivalry, though on a much more friendly level which I find more interesting. The episode succeeds at being moving yet funny, and develops friendships as well as forwarding some individual characters.
The episode’s conceit allows everyone to indulge: all in assorted beverages, some in sex, some in cross-dressing, some in emotional purging, but all in the telling of truth. Whether it’s the booze or the feel that in this weird loop there are no consequences, they all speak what’s in the darker recesses of their minds and hearts. That is the entire point of this episode, and that may be more important right at this moment than the location of a pair of shoes or when the world will end.
– Crystal is in a back room somewhere playing poker with the first Ash, Meyer, and Aife.
– Hale’s assorted responses to Kenzi’s ‘my Kenzi sense is tingling’ are various degrees of hilarious, but the more absurd the better.
– Of course the Choga came with Vex. (I believe this is the same type of fae as in Raging Fae.) I’d hate to be the PA in charge of misting down that extra.
– That ‘blade of steel hilt of bone’ is awfully convenient.
– Note the signs in candyland. Oh candy, candy, all is vanity.
– Note that ‘I want you to have first lick’ is apparently the impetus for Bo to save Tamsin.
– I’m still unsure what sparked the loop to begin each time. At one point it seemed to be Kenzi. Am I trying to make too much sense of this? [On a rewatch, it seems to be the glasses being broken.]