Lost Girl: Season 05, Episode 11, “Sweet Valkyrie High”
Somewhere in the fourth season, Lost Girl lost its way. It wandered a little in the third, but the fourth is where the focus on relationships, the offbeat blend of classical lore with modern family and struggles, get fully lost in the push to make long arcing plots convoluted and mysterious.
It’s also where we lost the sexy; for a show which had two steamy scenes in its pilot, for a show which had a threesome by the fourth episode, for a show which did this, for a show with a supposedly insatiable succubus . . . the last meaningful sex scenes came in the first half of Season 3. Whether that’s because of compromises for syndication, or because of the shift in their focus/writer’s room overall, it’s hard to pinpoint. But I, for one, want the sexy back.
Opening with a makeout session reminiscent of Bo and Lauren’s first kiss is a nice start, but it quickly turns into a talk about how Bo feels about Jack – whom she tellingly refuses to refer to as ‘dad’. I know I have said we need to have more onscreen discussion about relationships and dynamics and fallout, and I hold to it, but in 688 minutes this season we can have that and sex. Tamsin’s letter/excuseforwalkingintotheclubhouse being found under Lauren’s arse, and Bo’s comment about Lauren’s pillow-mutterings for smoothies, both insinuate there was some heavier tomfoolery earlier, but while I’m all for insinuation, I also want payoff. Call me greedy.
Despite having lost its focus, overall arcs being convoluted and individual plots being coincidental at best (Stacy’s line about high school being the hinge upon which turned not only the solution, but the flashbacks, may have been thin, but last week’s plot was an entire series of random happenings and luck and jumps to conclusions), the show itself still works when characters are allowed room within interestingly plotted episodes to grow, to interact, and to make us care about their fates. Tamsin’s fate is the one which seems most in the balance, and we get more of her backstory here. This episode works; it’s fun, it’s got character development (and explanation via flashbacks), it has some philosophical shit (the technical term), it doesn’t have too much crammed in but it does move the plots forward. Last, it does something Lost Girl does really well: put an unusual or awkward grouping together and lets them bounce off each other. The Lauren/Bo/Evony scenes are rightly the subplot, as nothing gets ‘accomplished,’ but they’re rich in character interaction and emotion, and the actresses sell the right amount of animosity, angst, and awkwardness slowly shifting towards a partnership.
I know the title is a reference to Sweet Valley High, but I’m not familiar with any of that very extensive material, so I’m sure I missed some references. (Feel free to inform me in the comments, or note how it may have shaped the plot.) Just from the little I know, Stacy as a whole, the entirety of her character, certainly feels like a Sweet Valley High reference. Everyone rolls their eyes, and at first it seems Tamsin just tolerates Stacy as a means to an end. But under the tolerance there is an undercurrent of putting up with her for old time’s sake, for a time Tamsin was that girl, for a time they were friends because of shared interests and more similar personalities and long talks late at night under the covers. It’s the same reason Tamsin gives Acacia rule of Valhalla, and they give Freya oversight of Tartarus. History, and that sense of loyalty to someone who used to be your chosen family [series theme alert!], even if you’ve drifted since in distance, personality, and ideology.
Tamsin used to be more awkward, more subservient, more overtly seeking of approval. Her naiveté and pep in the flashbacks is a stark contrast to the brash Tamsin who poured coffee all over Dyson’s desk and made jokes about suicidal jumpers when we meet her. Much has happened to her, and not just on the battlefield, but in being betrayed by friends and used as a pawn, similarly to how Hades/Jack is trying to use her now. While many of the characters have seemed static over the past season or two unless the plot called for a sudden growth or understanding, Tamsin has most noticeably developed, and this episode shows some insight into both how she became so brash and how she’s had a more vulnerable side to her all along, and hints at how many things she went through in the process of finding herself.
The head girl coming to meet her teacher Mistress Acacia, in that outfit, at midnight, in the dark courtyard of an all-girls school, being told that the “unorthodox lessons . . . must remain a secret between us” – did we suddenly stumble into a lesbian-sexual-awakening b film? It doesn’t get fleshed out, (maybe for content’s sake, maybe because we spend time with the B plot of Evony’s attempt to regain her Faeness, maybe because the actresses haven’t and don’t give that vibe to it), but we assume they had months of such meetings, illicit studying, and more. They hedge Tamsin’s age and reference how she’s been to the Academy multiple lifetimes, but it’s still got more than an edge of the forbidden going on. All that, again, helps explain why Tamsin doesn’t trust easily.
Jack knows Tamsin’s history, and play(ed)(s) on her doubts and fears as much as she plays on the doubts of others. He picked Tamsin for her powers, for her weaknesses, for his hopeful ability to manipulate Tamsin like he did Freya. He’s always playing a game, and the pieces are humans and Fae. He tries to leverage his dad-ness with everyone, not just Bo. He wants to be the dispenser of wisdom, the sugar daddy, the authoritative patriarch, all in one.
Speaking of Jack’s powers, we get a little more info about the handprint placed on Bo to save her from the Nix, (and presumably also in S4, though I’m still unclear how or when Jack would have placed it on her? I’m obviosly still unclear on that whole ‘resolution’). Which leads me to question; could Lauren administer the Fae-serum, then immediately touch Jack and handprint-heal Evony as she becomes Fae? Seems as if it may work, although they’d have to catch Jack again first.
Lauren is going to do all she can because she feels responsible in two ways for Evony’s predicament: turning her human in the first place, and having used the Fae-serum on herself while Evony was getting sick. You can see Lauren’s struggle to come to terms with what she did as well as the role reversal of Fae/human, as Evony woman-who-used-to-wield-all-power-over-her is now completely at Lauren’s mercy, just as you can see Evony coming to terms with being mortal. At first she is touch-averse as a human, since she can’t control or kill people and dislikes all forms of vulnerability, but eventually she realizes how much she needs the very-human sort of connection she gets fulfilled with Bo’s touch. Bo’s touch, so generally used sexually, has been used to comfort and ease a friend’s pain before, and it works well here. The final scene at the Dal shows us the strange new stage of relationship Bo/Lauren/Evony have going, with an odd sort of mutual respect and openness going on. There’s more eventful history between these three than with Tamsin, but the thing is, Evony wasn’t in love with Bo or Lauren. It was all fair in sex and war. Tamsin, on the other hand, made the ‘mistake’ of falling hard.
“Subservient Valkyrie, leader of armies, bounty hunter screw-up.” Tamsin finds the key to exploiting vulnerability is knowing how it feels yourself, having opened up (and gotten burnt) in the past. Everyone has something they want, and having known deep want and yearning helps you manipulate others. That, along with the insinuations about Tamsin’s history, is some deep, dark shit to chew on.
After all that, though, Tamsin concludes she doesn’t regret having loved Bo, and she’d rather be friends than lose Bo from her life entirely. Acacia admonishes her that she can choose who she becomes, and says “don’t let the past determine the person you’re going to be next.” I don’t know what Lost Girl‘s target demographic is now, whether it’s skewed younger or older in the later seasons than it did when it premiered. But that advice, despite sounding a little pat, holds good for teenagers to adults, and it’s fitting it comes from characters who play both schoolgirls and wizened leaders of armies in this episode. You can always reinvent yourself. Make sure each version of yourself is an improvement on the last.
– I don’t much follow the promos, so I don’t know if they were trying to keep it hidden or if they were pushing her appearance, but seeing Linda Hamilton’s name pop up was a nice surprise.
– “This is your emergency?” “I said ‘urgent predicament.'”
– The double meaning in “you’ve never been able to Doubt me” is a nice little bit of verbiage.
– When Stacy gets in the car, Tamsin says they’re going after Bo’s dad, and Stacy responds “Hades?” Either this is a writing shortcut (likely), or it’s been an open secret amongst the Valkyrie all along, and Tamsin was seriously holding out on Bo.
– The big deal with Hades/Jack is possibly just a comment on the power of names, but I’m waiting for it to have some sort of plot significance.
– I wonder how much foreshadowing is intended in Tamsin’s line about Hades going through her (literally?) to get to her friends.