Lost Girl: Season 4, Episode 13, “Dark Horse”
If Lorne’s bar were operating in LA right now, there would be literally millions of hits on shitty YouTube phone videos of demons singing, hundreds of people would have their profile pictures of themselves with their arms around Lorne and a goofy smile on their faces, it would be one of the ‘Top Ten Places to Visit Before You Die’ on all the online travel sites.
Lost Girl is a genre show operating in a major city in 2014. It can’t get away with acting like its entire population of supernatural beings operates under the radar anymore. What it does, then, is place its operatives smack-dab in the middle of the radar technology itself – when we first meet Hale and Dyson, they’re covering up Bo’s feed as part of their fae-delegated duties. We’re then walked through how fae can feed without killing, how fae laws establish kills must be private, how there are systems set in place to make sure human/fae interactions are covered up, how fae powers don’t emerge until puberty so there’s no nurse to freak out over a baby who’s sucking blue light from a baby one incubator over, etc. It’s a show which has quite obviously learned from Angel, Charmed, Buffy, Xena, etc. who have come before. Real-world elements those shows were just scraping the surface of – cellphone cameras, cult of celebrity, keeping powerful kids hidden from both hostile powers and humans, the internet – are ubiquitous today, so Lost Girl works solutions into its worldbuilding.
That’s how we got here, and here is where Lost Girl shows exactly how aware it is of how the tropes and stories built up in those other shows over the years have embedded themselves into the consciousness of not just the audience, but the characters themselves. Thus we have Kenzi verbalizing Bo can find her in Valhalla: we all know that’s what happens in these stories. To ignore that giant trope elephant in the room (trope-lephant! I coined a thing!) would just make the audience roll its collective eyeballs. Xena went to the afterlife and back to get Gabrielle several times. Buffy was retrieved from there. Angel ventured to try, with mixed results. Etc. Anyone watching this show knows the history, and Kenzi is the most pop-culture saturated of everyone. She of all people knows how this works.
To cap it all off, the episode references both broader mythological characters and its own mythology. It calls back to the first time Dyson kissed Bo, to the way Bo learned to stop her feed, to Bo and Tamsin out searching for Kenzi in the middle of the woods, etc. It acknowledges Bo will save the girl over the world. It dishes out more details about Bo’s blood, and how she truly is unique because of how her mythical genetics operate. (Though she flips that in the end, and we’ll get to that.)
If I had to pick one thing about the finale which really works, it’d be that it acknowledges all its heritage. It does so openly and fairly comprehensively. It does it in the obligatory ‘two against the hordes’ sequence and the levels of camp/cheese involved, it does it in acknowledging the way life sacrifices work in supernatural narratives, it does it by showcasing the way villains cause their own downfall, and it really does it by understanding in the way we as individuals process our current situations through similar situations we’ve been through before.
Let’s back up and start from the beginning, where Rainer and Bo are having their argument and Rainer confirms he and Rosette ‘loved each other.’ Bo’s mark starts pulling on her, and they retreat to the Dal, where Rainer and Trick snipe at each other. Though both make valid points – Rainer is bad for Bo, Trick was a despot who abused his power – what they’re really doing is showing off for Bo, each crying ‘Choose me! I’m not so bad as him!’ They want her as a piece in their own chess game.
One reason they want her is her blood is unique in its composition and abilities. This is interesting worldbuilding, and could go somewhere in the future, but for right now the implication is Rainer wants to involve Bo’s special abilities in war, to essentially weaponize her.
Their argument also brings up one of the show’s central points about choice and free will: Trick again makes a big deal about ‘not having a choice’ about sending his own daughter to the dark, but his granddaughter insists she has a choice in everything (though Rainer has been the exception, as she kept saying he’s her ‘destiny,’ giant flashing warning sign). In the very next scene, Lauren tells Massimo it’s both nature and nurture which make a monster, and this effectively sums up the whole show. Bo’s succubus nature, how she was nurtured, and now how she chooses and who she surrounds herself with, ALL shape who she is.
After seeing how Trick and Rainer treat her as a battle strategy, Bo doesn’t seem broken up when Rainer dies shortly. In fact, killing Rainer seems to have brought our old Bo back.
Bo sees Rainer as a business partner, someone ‘on her side’ as a political ally. She loved the idea of him, yes, but he was never family. Now she has Kenzi’s resurrection to concentrate on in the next season, we can hopefully forget Rainer as a soulmate, and just remember him as the plot device which made Trick face his past, set a prophecy in motion, and brought Bo’s dad into play.
Speaking of plot devices! Massimo. Massimo has Lauren in the back forty as he digs her grave, and we’re just never going to figure out what transpired between those two and Evony in the bedroom, or why they went to the Una Men’s lair before heading out into the night. OK. I’m over it.
Lauren is literally a hostage after being one metaphorically for so long, but her reactions in this episode are better and more in-character than her emotional wreckage at the end of last episode. She verbally manipulates Massimo, she snaps back, she mentions nature versus nurture, she acts the expert on how Evony feels about things, she makes some blunt sexy-times references, and she gets out of handcuffs for the second time this season. I don’t think we actually needed the reference to Kenzi’s shadow-thief training here – because it was established earlier Kenzi’s street life gave her those skills which she passed on to Lauren, and it’s also a reasonable thing for an eco-terrorist/protestor to know – but once it sets Bo up for a foreplay joke, all is forgiven. Last, she manages ‘Oh hey also I should coyly mention via joke that Evony and I had sex. But we’re close to death by madman, so let’s not process that now.’
Massimo’s “tiny twig” – which Lauren so disdainfully references and which is so deliciously full of Freud – gives Massimo what is always the villain’s downfall: overconfidence. He toys with Lauren and Bo instead of going in for the kill; he reveals how he amalgamated powers from Rainer and the Raijū; he flaunts his immortality; he tries to show off for mommy; and in the end he’s defeated not by brawn but by brain and his own incompetence. That’s a definite theme for villains this season, from the crows to Clio, from the Morrigan to Massimo. Still, Massimo’s frothiness is cranked down a touch, and I preferred this to his pure insanity last episode.
It helps balance his insanity when other characters also get to display properly heightened reactions: Bo yells and sobs at Kenzi’s death, Kenzi has to be restrained from jumping Evony, Dyson breaks down, Tamsin yells at Bo.
That yelling is what helps snap Bo back into it, and it’s delicious when Tamsin expresses how she’d love to kill Massimo over and over. Like last episode, Tamsin is not heavily featured, but makes the most of her screentime, even when she’s in the background. She’s the one who metaphorically slaps a wounded Bo out of her wallowing; one has to think if they did this in an episode with more time to spare, we’d get a sexual healing scene. She’s the key to Kenzi understanding the prophecy. She’s in the background as Bo and Kenzi embrace, being perfectly socially awkward as she wants to watch the intimacy but feels she’s intruding. She’s heartbroken as she has to take another fallen warrior to Valhalla, but this time a warrior who she loves as a friend and newfound family member (albeit one who was a little distracted when she tried to talk about ending her exile). She has to watch the two people she really wants in each others’ arms, but she still keeps it together and does what needs to be done. Aw, Bo and Dyson, are both of you really so blind?
Speaking of Dyson, his one-liners are pretty great; the simple ‘That little shit!’ and the way he imbues that “really?” (when Bo reveals she fed on Tamsin) with the perfect mix of pervy curiosity and surprise. His soliloquies don’t fit his character so well, and thus the whole bit about ‘looking for a queen’ is Velveeta levels of cheesy. But what I think they may be doing is using ‘fealty’ to write around the ‘singular mate for life,’ as in Dyson and Bo are bound as partners – which may include one or all of partners in crime, romantic partners, sexual partners, partners in fighting for good – but not sole-mates.
It also firmly shifts the power balance to Bo, though she immediately insists he be her equal; this is important both for their relationship and for Bo as a person if she’s not going to become a despot like Trick/her father/etc. The fact this scene clearly parallels the scene in Season 1 where Dyson gets down on his knees and says ‘I understand you’re a succubus but I never wanting anyone else’s hands on you body’ enforces this idea, and shows how Dyson has progressed over time.
Dyson takes still another step here by openly acknowledging he wants Bo to save Lauren because he cares for Lauren as a person, not just as some noble sacrifice for Bo’s love life. The character is much better when he’s not being so very chivalrous, and also when he’s delivering one-liners versus soliloquies. His banter with Bo before they split up, especially that “new material” self-referential interchange, was hat-tipping to how the show is bringing back elements of their past interactions.
Also in this episode, Dyson and Tamsin, having each others’ back. Sure the fight at the hellmouth – er, Pyrippus vortex – is campy, we get that they’re outnumbered, and ‘if we don’t get out of here’ is the most genre’d thing in a very genre’d episode which includes an example of ‘world about to end. Let’s make out!’ But fight choreography is expensive, revenants are slow, it’s always funny when Tamsin tells people to SHUT UP with their emotions, and the random Canadian extras fighting in the background do up the stakes from the Garuda showdown. We’re not here for the giant set pieces. Most importantly, (improbably, what with it being two against a horde), the scene gives Tamsin and Dyson, and then Dyson and Kenzi time to interact, which is what we’re really here for. Interactions!
Yet another case in point in this episode is The Morrigan with Trick, where they get to bounce off each other and accuse each other of various nefariousnesses, all whilst the still-sexpot Evony is experiencing being drunk as a human and discovering ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘wedgie’ actually feel freakily similar. There’s no overarching world-ending plot so solve, just two old nemeses re-negotiating their relationship.
On the side of somewhat creepier interactions, Evony’s relationship with Massimo gets stuffed even more full of the Oedipal, if that was possible. ‘Kill the father, sleep with the mother,’ and Evony as proxy for both. Not to mention she has “What all the boys want!” . . . Creepy sexual/murderous interactions with their mommies!
I’m not sure whether Bo’s feed from the revenants was reflexive and driven by the blue-eyed side of her (anyone? ideas?), but the rest of her use of power here was very intentional. In a callback to S1, Bo talks about learning to stop as well as to suck chi, and how that’s what sets her apart. What allowed her to learn and then implement that stoppage was her support circle. It’s Bo’s friends, her new family, which allowed her to stop killing after ten years. What that means is it’s not her blood, but her love, and her loved ones, which makes her special.
She emphasizes those people as she beats Massimo up, ending, of course, with Kenzi. Kenzi, her heart, as she said to Tamsin last season, and as Kenzi tells Dyson before she dies.
How central the relationship of these two is, and how imperative Kenzi is to Bo’s life, in addition to them referencing the traditions which comes before, is why I’m convinced Kenzi comes back. In fact, I, perpetual cheapskate and generally non-betting man, will bet you $100 that she returns.*
*$100 will be split between everyone who calls me out on this bet. And then I will be demanding Emily Andras et al reimburse me for my broken heart.
If it had been anyone else; Dyson (who has already died once), Lauren, or Tamsin, I would not be quite so certain. But besides having already permanently lost two ‘friend/lover’ characters (Hale, who set up Kenzi to have nothing to lose, and Ciara) and a few other peripherals (Nadia, Lachlan) and thus the show being able to believably bring one back, Bo without Kenzi is unimaginable.
The show has made Kenzi imperative to Bo, and has showcased what an amazing powerful actress they have on their hands with Ksenia Solo. They’d be mad to kill her permanently in the script. She works with every character, every cast member. That’s a great part of how this show got to S4; the chemistry between Kenzi and anyone, Bo and anyone, and especially Kenzi and Bo together. Kenzi is Bo’s heart – “It is always a metaphor with you fae!” – and they together are the heart of the show. You can’t rip the heart out like that and expect the show to continue. Kenzi will return.
How, I’ve no idea. I’m not at all sure what Tamsin means by “you can’t let Bo find the second Hel shoe.” Did something go wrong at the gates of Valhalla, and Kenzi was taken elsewhere? If so, this also very Xena. Next season, then, could be like the beginning of Xena S4, then, but more of an ensemble.
Granted, there was a lot of camp, and obvious budgetary shortness, and it leaned heavily on the characters talking to and feeling at each other, but that’s exactly what the show works as. The episode is still jam-packed to the hilt, and would have benefited from more breathing room, but by acknowledging and referencing itself, its genre, etc., it gets its points and themes across with lot of shorthand while wrapping up some plots which need wrapping up.
By the end, it feels like the show is back to its premise of the first few seasons. He may not have been evil, but Rainer’s character threw off everything about Bo. Now Bo is back to being Bo, and also back to badass status. The focus is back on on love/chosen family and the way Bo’s relationship Kenzi relationship is most important.
We end at the cemetery we saw previously this season, with Bo visiting Kenzi accompanied by appropriately sad music, and well-deployed use of voiceover, which they get away with because it plays as talking to the headstone. And then cello to top it all off! I mean, it’s specifically constructed to trigger an emotional response. Like the way the episode understands how it operates within its genre, the end scene doesn’t play in a vacuum. The music, the lone woman in black, the voiceover, it’s pulling on the strings of a hundred similar messages we’ve internalized over the years of watching these and other TV shows. And at that, like the rest of the troped, recognizable, character stuff it pulls, this episode succeeds.
– At some point soon I’ll be writing a season overview, some thoughts about how my predictions for this season played out, thoughts about the overall arc (which often got lost since I review so episodically), and some wild speculation about S5; for instance, what are they going to do with that Lauren/Evony relationship? If you have any questions about anything from colors to metaphors, from motifs to mythology, leave them in the comments, or Twitter, or tumblr, or email.
– Lauren telling Massimo only a pop song would make him immortal is a callback to Instant Star, the show both actors worked on with Andras.
– Hale got reclassified from ‘almost husband’ to ‘boyfriend,’ which is more accurate and not trying to wring more emotion from the relationship than it earned.
– I want to make fae-menopause puns. ‘Hot fae-shes’? Leave suggestions in the comments.
– “‘Bitch’ is just a word men use when they’re threatened by the chick in charge.”
– They cashed in all their swear chips for this episode. What’s SyFy’s policy? Will they get edited out?
– “The spiritual center for crazy pony ladies.” I can’t hear “filly” without connecting it to adolescent discovery of sexuality, which just makes this whole feature of the story that much more interesting, I mean, it’s been about Bo’s delayed development / sexual discovery all along.
– Spit the Una Mens seed, don’t swallow.