#LostGirl: Season 5, Episode 01, “Like Hell”
After spending the better part of several episodes at the start of last season searching for Bo, it’s really fantastic to see her face first thing (backgrounded by green screen though it is). She’s baaaaaaaaaack.
In medias res with a vengeance.
Still, we’re not left hanging for long. Right up front we get some cues on what’s transpired since the S4 finale: Bo’s wearing Lauren’s necklace, and she’s flashing back to Kenzi. She’s obviously here on some sort of quest regarding Kenzi . . . oh look a Helshoe! And, cue the eagle screams (but no actual eagles because that’s expensive).
Speaking of green screen and budget, c’mon, we couldn’t get ONE full-body shot of Bo climbing those rocks? The multiple closeups simply draws too much attention to the fact this scene was shot on a soundstage. Director Paolo Barzman has some really great moments (the axe/door scene is spot-on) and some weird but benign ones (what’s with foregrounding Tamsin’s socked feet, over a third of the screen at that?) but this was pretty shoddy.
Then, a slip, a fall, some exaggerated manbros. The crude and obvious suggestions of gangrape immediately paint these guys as stereotypically gross as possible so the audience has no or few qualms about Bo chi-sucking them dry / crotchstomping them. Roll short credits tag.
This episode isn’t wasting much time.
The post-credit scene is a deliberate echo of 1.01, only this time Bo doesn’t find what she’s looking for. “Roommate!” she yells, leaving us the audience with just that extra moment of wondering who . . . ah, Tamsin, who’s mowing down cereal just like Kenzi used to. The following conversation reminds us of the bond Tamsin shares with Kenzi since regeneration, and also how freaked Tamsin is over the prospect of Bo venturing into Valhalla. But unlike S4, Bo is not to be dissuaded from her friend’s peril. She’s going on a “solo” (get it? As in, Ksenia?) mission to get Kenzi, and neither Hades nor high water will stop her.
Not only is Bo back, it would seem the Bo we knew and loved is back.
Just like that, we’re off to the Dal for another short conversation designed to remind us of Things Which Happened Before Which Actually Still Count This Season. Bo reminds Dyson (and us) that he pledged fealty to her. Trick mentions Isabeau and clarifies “your grandmother,” which I’m guessing means we do run into her again at some point this season. Some general muleheadedness from Bo and cool wryness from Dyson, and we’re off again.
Next we see Lauren, complete with red piping on her jacket and science-y flirting and medical warnings Bo either impulsively ignores or has just learned to tune out completely. Oy. Remember when I said getting Old Bo back would probably mean a lot of bafflingly bad decisions? Yup, this, right here. Impulsive, impatient, all heart, Bo slides on the shoes and ends up in Valhalla; which, according to Lost Girl, is nearly entirely run by queer women. Bo’s completely out of her element, making things up as she goes, but making them up on her own terms. In other words, the Bo we know and love.
And then, with the above shorthand rundowns and almost all old friends accounted for . . . Kenzi. Sixteen minutes in. Eating a tub of faux nutella (nice job, props department). They quickly answer the immediate audience mental alarm bells of whether this is all faux Kenzi! with a safety test*. Then, after doing that smart thing, but continuing Bo’s somewhat blithe history of doing dumb things, Bo eats a Belgian waffle. YOU’RE IN A GIANT MYTHOLOGICAL MASHUP. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU DON’T EAT THINGS! Also, you’re in a giant horror story homage, which means you don’t answer the phone. Yet both those things happen, and they add to the feeling of unease permeating the whole thing. We know it’s about to go horribly wrong, we’re just not exactly sure how.
We know kind of how, though, because the episode is an explicit The Shining homage. From the fact many interpret the Overlook Hotel as hell, to the terrible carpet, to the direct recreation of Tamsin swinging an ax through a door, to the acknowledgement Tamsin is possessed by the place, even to the twin-esque enforcers, this episode is definitely all about The Shining, and also just to horror films as a genre (more on that later).
Twins are a big theme in The Shining because of the duality, which is also a big deal in Lost Girl (and, to be fair, a lot of genre TV) of the light and dark of the world and oneself. It’s a thread Lost Girl has strung throughout its run, and it sure looks like this season is bringing it back with a vengeance.
Really, this whole episode is that idea of strange/familiar, or what in regards to The Shining and horror films is often referenced to in relation to Freud’s idea of the Uncanny (incidentally, related to the Uncanny Valley, something popping up more and more on screen). I mentioned above how when Bo goes to the fireplace it deliberately echos a shot from the pilot, and there are multiple really specific homage shots in this episode, the most iconic being when Tamsin axes the door and peers through (which was also Skarsten’s best work in the episode; really lovely). Not just the ideas the episode posits, but the shots themselves, are Uncanny.
There’s not a B-plot per se, but we do see Trick, Lauren and Dyson giving us mythology sparksnotes back in the Dal, and then Lauren and Dyson tracking down a lock of Tamsin’s hair and going to those gates to try and find their own way to rescue Kenzi. There are many references to various hells and heavens, including here and Kenzi saying Tamsin’s past worry was about “eating a whole box of nectar in one sitting,” a nod to cereal but also an explicit reference to nectar and ambrosia, the food of the gods.
The episode is full of such things. It opens with Bo singing of ‘She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’, which is based on the spiritual “When The Chariot Comes”, which is about the rapture. I’m nothing if not a sucker for good rapture references. In addition, Bo explicitly notes ‘six white horses,’ referencing a funeral procession. If you want to trip further down the rabbit hod, Tori Amos references the song “Six White Horses” and a similar procession in “Mother”, which also includes references to a bridal veil, leaving the next, and dreaming/dream states. How much of this is deliberate, only the writers know, but it’s fascinating, and there are plenty of other cool specificities.
What’s the opposite of a funeral? Some would argue a birth, some would say a wedding. I was actually a little peeved that we got yet another wedding episode, even though this one didn’t revolve around Bo. Any annoyance immediately deteriorated when I realized everything was to set up the shot of Kenzi in a bridal gown in her coffin.
It’s an amazing visual, which combines general horror references with some Tarantino, and also the realization we’ve been faked out. Yes we (and Bo) got to Kenzi quickly, but now we realize we’re headed towards the real journey to save Kenzi, complete with horrific overtones and claustrophobic coffin shots. That’s a fanfuckingtastic payoff.
Overall I’m heartened by this opener. While I liked a lot of individual episodes last season, most character and season arcs ended up quite a mess. This episode mentioned some of the things from the last few seasons, but a lot of it seems to be “this is what we’re keeping, this is what we’re ignoring happened, and these are the themes we’re concentrating on.”
I’m hopeful that bringing first Bo and then Kenzi so quickly into the episode is to reassure us they’re returning to the two – or at least the main characters we know and love – as the heart of the show. A lot of other things said this episode seem to be reaffirming, rejecting, or course-correcting what’s come before, too: Bo apologizes for how she ignored her friends and their peril for most of a season; we’re reminded of Tamsin’s regeneration and lastlife and newfound family ties; there’s absolutely zero mention of Rainer; the Blood King is still going to be a factor, as is Bo’s leading an army and possibly destroying the world with it; Bo can chi-suck from multiple people and at a distance; Dyson is going to face a choice between Trick and Bo; the Wanderer is still coming; etc.
The characters seem more returned to pre-S4 form, other than Tamsin. This of course makes sense, because besides regeneration and a new personality, Tamsin also had a lot of plot twists to fill this episode. Her motivations and character got jerked around to fit a lot of the script’s needs, she was the only person familiar with all the major players, she has backstory we only get briefed on, and she got possessed: that’s fine so long as they even it out in coming episodes when they’re not doing a The Shining bit. Tamsin’s also pretty explicitly being set up for redemption, which often (in both mythology and television) means death, but this episode itself plays fast and loose with what death means in the Lost Girl universe. Sometimes death sticks, sometimes not. There’s a strong idea of blurring the line between the two: Kenzi makes a choice between departed loved one and living loved ones; Hale is happy but irretrievable; Tamsin is gambling with both her life and soul; Kenzi is able to exploit a loophole to come back to life; Bo is theoretically alive yet pulled deeper into the underworld; Lauren’s soul seems to be in jeopardy as well.
Even with all that separation, the idea of Bo/Kenzi being the most central relationship is reaffirmed. Their souls being split is the most heartbreaking thing, and their temporary reunion serves only to underscore that.
– *Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a safety test in place with my bestie. Do you not?
– “Whatever it is . . . hellfires, evil dragons, sexy dragons, I don’t care.” Who but Bo would list ‘sexy dragons’ here?
– I asked for lavish sets, I got them. They got a lot of their favored yellow in, though they still used a lot of blue in Lauren scenes.
– Setting the large clocks to 12:00 is not only suggestive, but good for continuity. Do you know how much of a pain it is to reset clocks and keep them at the proper time so when things are cut together they don’t call attention to themselves!? DO YOU!?
– “They use different milk in Valhalla” is reference to the fact Silk is vegan and they get dairy-free ice cream for these scenes.
– “Bo before bro” is a perfect line.
– That crossfade where it looks like Bo and Kenzi are walking towards themselves is very nice.
– In addition to The Shining, this episode is reminiscent of the Buffy episode “Restless.”
– Solo is listed as a special guest star. I wonder if they’ll credit her that way at least the first couple eps; among other things, it’s a way to help hide how many eps she’s really in for how long.