Lost Girl Episode 511 – “Sweet Valkyrie High”

Her wounds came from the same source as her power.
[Adrienne Rich, “Power,” 1978]

Valksy

As the closing titles began to roll, reflecting on the story that continued to be revealed, I could not help but recognize one distinct fact about this episode: it was a tale told about women, by women, with very little male presence. While Trick had an exposition scene and Jack is still heavily featured of course (he is at the core of Bo’s story), there was no side bar secondary plot, no concessions made to artificially shoehorn Dyson or Mark into a narrative where they simply did not belong. When a male mercenary shows up to claim Freyja, Tamsin and Acacia dispense with him with a delightful one-two punch. I admit I was overjoyed at the confident and unapologetic emphasis of “girl power.”

Once my admitted enjoyment of all things female featured in the episode had passed (I really think that Emmanuelle Vaugier stole the show with a great performance), I began to think about the strong character beats and efficient development that had just taken place, in contrast to the occasional wallowing that the show has been guilty of. Is this a consequence of unnecessary fat being trimmed from the story as the final act approaches?

Although not the central focus of the “A” plot, Bo’s good-hearted nature and her leadership are clearly on display as she rallies in support and protection of those she cares about and also those who arguably deserve her enmity but instead receive her kindness. Where Lauren becomes exasperated by Evony’s “stubborn resistance” to having lab tests, Bo understands and avoids calling attention to her very “human” fear of needles; in a lovely gesture, she quietly comforts Evony with a benign exercise of her seduction powers. This impulse to nurture appears again in the face of Evony’s vehement “Don’t touch me! I don’t need your help!” after learning she is seriously ill. The scene encapsulates the overall theme of many of the scenes between all of the women in the episode — vulnerability and trust.

Evony’s willingness to accept her own mortality and vulnerability, and her humility in accepting that the care offered is both necessary and sincere, is probably her most human moment. Without facing her mortality, letting go of the past, and expressing gratitude for Lauren’s friendship, Evony’s character evolution might not have been believable. Showing fear without hopelessness, defiance without hatred, Evony moves beyond the shallow fluff of Fae-hood to something far more profound. Lauren’s ministrations are the catalyst for this pivotal moment of growth, but it is Bo’s fundamental good spirit which allows it to flourish.

[Sidebar: I also must note that while the term “Succuslut” made me wince — I don’t like that word usage when connected to Bo — it is not out of character for Evony, and her invoking of it did not have any malignant intent, any more than her calling Lauren a “moron” was a genuine slur. These sharp and salty character tics perhaps stopped Evony from becoming too disempowered or submissive, although I can’t help but protest “slut” making another unwelcome appearance.]

Mahlers5th

I second your sentiments about Emmanuelle Vaugier. She turned in a masterful performance, perhaps her finest of the whole show. It’s not easy to convey Evony’s conflicting emotions as the reality of her sickness begins to sink in – thinly-disguised fear, shame about her “weakness,” and poignant vulnerability, papered over with her usual sarcastic bravado, stubborn pride, and need to reassert control (“Wake up you two! What are you waiting for?! I want the hand job!”). Emmanuelle manages the subtlety, range and depth of emotion beautifully and with great economy of word, gesture, look, and tone – something for which the writer deserves equal credit.

Learning to be vulnerable and remain vulnerable, without a sense of shame or weakness, trusting that others can and want to help – even those who have hurt you in the past — these are all central themes of the episode, along with the powerful message that learning to be vulnerable paradoxically makes you stronger. Both Evony and Tamsin learn that lesson; by the end of the episode Tamsin schools both of her former mentors, besting Acacia in a “doubt-off” and dictating who will be in charge of which realm in the Afterlife.

However, learning to be vulnerable also enables you to exploit vulnerability in others. Being able to read the other’s “inner truth,” personal fears, and insecurities can be used to soothe and heal (as Bo did with Evony) or it can be used as a weapon to control and manipulate others (Hades is a master at this). As a student under the dual tutelage of Acacia and Freyja, Tamsin wrestles with this choice: is her true role as a Valkyrie to give comfort and care to the downed soldier or to intercept soldiers in battle and win wars using her power of doubt?

Valksy

Bo’s first overture to Tamsin in the opening scenes is a request to discuss their problem – a statement which might have caused many viewers to throw up hands in frustration because now Bo wants to talk?! Except as the interaction between the two women develops through the episode, Bo’s instinct to “fix” a problem becomes more pronounced and she eventually issues a firm directive to Tamsin: “Something is going on with you, and I’m not budging until you tell me.” While I appreciate that it is Bo’s nature to want to be a problem-solver, is it acceptable in a loving relationship  to force the will of one partner over the reluctance of the other? I would not have been happy with this degree of dominant posturing if it had been directed at Lauren. Bo is much more circumspect and respectful in approaching Lauren about the “something going on” with her.

In another conversation with Acacia, and later with Bo, Tamsin comes to understand that love can be unrequited and that the options are to recognize that friendship is just as valid as, if different from, romantic love, or to let the person that you care about go. This is a lesson I think many viewers have wanted Dyson to figure out for years! I very much hope that Tamsin’s reconciliation with Bo is genuine, as it is a refreshing change of pace from the most typical (and well worn) trope of thwarted romantic interests ending in fire and brimstone! Although the opening preamble of “I will live the life I choose” is no longer present (presumably to save time), Tamsin’s experience is a valuable lesson that sometimes life will simply not choose you back, but that doesn’t have to destroy you.

While not a fan of the character in general (I have long felt that Tamsin bloated the cast and consumed too many precious minutes), I was happy to see a Fae character dig themselves out of the rut of stagnation and emotional immaturity that seem linked with longevity. Perhaps Valkyries are different from other Fae whom we have encountered in that they have lived multiple lives and seem to revert to a default tabula rasa; they have to be re-educated each time, giving them multiple chances for a “do over” – a real gift which has not been fully explored. Other Fae who have supposedly lived lifetimes lasting thousands of years somehow manage to remain cluelessly inept in interpersonal relationships and woefully lacking in emotional intelligence, often to the point of petulance.

I am pleased for fans of Tamsin that she has broken free of this mold and developed a greater depth of personality beyond whiney brat. I know that it is tempting to view friendship as inferior to romantic love, and it may not be what some fans hoped for. But loyalty, commitment, acceptance and faith in friendship are still powerful traits in a character and should not be simply dismissed as meaningless. Bo and Kenzi were pushed together as friends through circumstance; they were fortunate to be complimentary enough that Kenzi became Bo’s heart and established a quasi-familial bond. In contrast, Bo and Tamsin are choosing friendship for themselves.

It should be noted that Tamsin’s journey through this episode — from obedient (if unimaginative) student to apprentice to Acacia and her “old ways” to eventual rebel against the status quo — is another example of deft and efficient character development. In general, I am not keen on school settings and often feel that actors are stifled trying to pass as adolescents but in this case the choice of setting made sense. It provides a consistent training ground/indoctrination center for Valkyries (given that they live multiple lives and need to be reminded who they are) as well as a context in which to establish a credible mentor relationship between Acacia and Tamsin in a short timeframe.

With the emphasis on warfare — from Lauren’s invoking of Sun Tzu’s Art of War (“To know your enemy, you have to become them”) to lectures on the role of Valkyries on the battlefield as defined first by Freyja and then Acacia — the storyline seems to be establishing Tamsin as a warrior. Bo is clearly established as the leader, but she has no real experience as a soldier; it seems possible that Tamsin will fill this role as Bo’s General in the foreshadowed upcoming conflict. Tamsin may finally have found a purpose beyond her earlier roles as wise-cracking sidekick or frustrated fuck buddy and finishes the episode as a more fully realized character in her own right.

[Sidebar: We both wondered if it was merely coincidence that at a time when Hades is assembling his army, Acacia – who teaches a doctrine of intervening in battle — has been newly installed by Tamsin as Mistress of Valhalla. Just how long a game plan has Jack been playing and how do we know who is on which side of the chess board now?]

Mahlers5th

So…is there a woman-to-woman relationship in this episode that we haven’t covered yet? Lemme think. Oh yeah. What the hell?! Bo finally wants to talk and Lauren changes the subject because, really, what’s the big deal about transforming yourself into an effin’ conduit?! Ho-Hum, nothing to see here, move on.

After episode 510, I was frankly disturbed by the direction taken with Lauren’s character. Her eyes gleamed a little too brightly when Hades purred that she seemed to like the idea that she’d found the key to ultimate power (“I can do anything!”). She seemed almost callous in the way she tested out her Mesmer power, first flinging a patient around, later making Bo dance. That’s how you tell your girlfriend that — on the advice of her satanic “bf” and in the middle of the end of the world — you’ve acted as your own guinea pig and recklessly injected yourself with an experimental serum with unknown consequences?

Valksy

This is standard practice for storytelling – “show, don’t tell.” We are shown Lauren making the accidental discovery of her power and we are shown her demonstrating that power to Bo. Sure, she could have just explained it. But that is telling, not showing. Lauren’s actions seemed to me a story-telling device rather than a character commentary.

Mahlers5th

OK, I’ll give Lauren a pass on the flinging and dancing. But changing the subject when Bo wants to talk about it in this episode? I had trouble understanding why Lauren would conceal from Bo the Faustian bargain she seems to have struck with her future Devil-in-law for the sake of scientific knowledge. What will he claim in return? I think it’s safe to say that won’t end well.

Valksy

I have to admit the image that keeps coming to my mind is of Mickey in Fantasia – co-opting a power he shouldn’t really have and while it’s wonderful at first, sooner or later he loses control.

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Lauren might have at least held off injecting herself until it was clear that everyone – especially Bo — would survive the end of the world.

Valksy

That’s true. Heck, if you cause your own immortality (rather than longevity) and everyone else dies…well…Haven’t there been episodes of shows like The Twilight Zone that illustrate how awful it is to be the only one left standing? With no prospect of death, it would be a living hell.

Mahlers 5th

No chance Lost Girl would end on that gloomy note.

We need to talk. About Doccubus. When are Bo and Lauren going to talk, really talk? Doccubus fans have been waiting, like, forever for another kitchen scene. I still maintain that has been the single best scene in the show so far – it demonstrated so much about how these two women “get” each other. It’s hard to imagine how they would top it, although “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?” might work.

Valksy

I think the opening scene reminds us of something important about Lauren that may help explain why she seems to keep important things to herself. We see her offering Tamsin her “Rocky Toads” – a self-invention, because she just can’t resist tinkering with a classic. She is charmingly oddball and an awkward geek at the same time. There is a character beat in this sequence which screams “prodigy” to me.

We’ve always known Lauren is some sort of remarkable science savant and that may lead her to do reckless things like self-testing meds without stopping to think it through. She had a geeky science idea, pressed on with it, was perhaps a little too over committed to her experiment, and made a mistake. Is this so unusual among prodigies with brilliant, sciency, techy minds? At no point would Bo’s input have been inherently relevant.

Mahlers 5th

This seems like the appropriate moment to expand on the quote at the head of this commentary. It’s the last line of a poem by Adrienne Rich about Marie Curie — famous for having discovered radium, of course, but did you know she was also the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only person ever to win Nobel prizes in two different fields – Chemistry and Physics? [That has nothing to do with Doccubus – I just thought it was a cool factoid my male science teacher neglected to mention].

Here’s the relevant excerpt from Rich’s poem:

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element she had purified

It seems she denied to the end
the source of cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman
denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Here is a brilliant woman, fearless or in denial (or both), chasing the truth and sacrificing her health and ultimately her life for it. Isn’t that Lauren? She is utterly fascinated by science for science’s sake (something Bo respects without having the slightest idea what Lauren’s work is about). This has been a sustaining, if solitary, passion for years. That was why Taft was able to tempt Lauren so easily – finally, here was someone who understood her geeky interests (and jokes). Similarly, Hades is able to decipher her blackboard full of hieroglyphics at a glance and knows immediately where Lauren’s mind is going.   There is something very seductive about that for Lauren.

Adrienne Rich is saying that in the end, Marie Curie didn’t know – literally – how to handle and control her power. It remains to be seen whether Lauren fares better.

Valksy

I think Lauren never assumed there was a genuine risk in injecting herself. It probably didn’t occur to her to discuss it with Bo first. She has faith in herself. During the darkest time after Nadia became comatose and before she met Bo, that faith was likely deeply sustaining to her. I can imagine as an enslaved prisoner, with her lover depending on her to find the key, that self-faith was the only thing that kept her going. That faith in her own knowledge and prowess remains, and leads to an act which, in retrospect, seems reckless but still seems in character to me.

True, Lauren did not run her ideas by Bo – and has not done so in a while. I honestly think this is a good thing. For one thing, having plot points revealed through long earnest negotiation in advance breaks the concept of “show – don’t tell.” Beyond that, if Lauren has to seek Bo’s consent for every decision (“Can I do this? Should I do that? Is it a good idea?”), there is a risk that she might look subservient to Bo — not unlike Dyson dipping a knee and pledging fealty. There’s no way a love relationship between them could ever be viable again. He rolled over and showed belly fur — he’s done. Making Bo have a consistent “leadership” role would make me uneasy. Lauren having her own story line, which parallels Bo but is not dependent on Bo’s orbit, is something that keeps her autonomous.

Mahlers 5th

As an unabashed fan of Lost Girl and Doccutopia, I sometimes forget or don’t want to believe that television is a commercial medium and that writing for television is first and foremost a business. Writers have to balance practicing their creative craft, keeping things emotionally meaningful, with producing a commercially savvy product. As fans, we might be happy with long “processing” conversations between Bo and Lauren in the kitchen followed by sexy scenes in the bedroom (at least a few more – we’re not greedy) but writers “show, don’t tell” for a reason – a steady diet of earnest processing is boring to many viewers and doesn’t sell.

I can think of two other reasons why we don’t see more heart-to-heart talks between Bo and Lauren. Doccubus was a complete fluke, caused by the actors more than the writers. There has always been a powerful and wordless chemistry between these two actors. Emily Andras once remarked on the fact that words were often removed from their scenes because it was all about the emotional reaction. Sometimes a glance was enough. Think about Bo’s aghast look in this episode when Lauren casually tells Evony that she had to test the serum first to make sure it was safe. It was a visceral response – almost a fear reflex – an unguarded moment of her imagining life without Lauren. It hurt her, no doubt about it – not because Lauren used herself as a guinea pig without talking to her about it first, but because Lauren was reckless with her life and everything that might mean for Bo. There is a world of difference for the viewer between Bo saying, “But you could have died! I could have lost you!” and that wordless look of surprise, hurt, and anguish.

The last reason requires a hard look in the mirror. How many of us have ever had truly open, honest, fully transparent and sharing relationships? There is no prescript that in “healthy” relationships, partners have to understand everything, or tell everything, or share each and every passing thought and idea and activity in their heads, as if there can be no autonomy or privacy or space of one’s own. Some people don’t feel a pressing need to explain themselves, their feelings, where they stand, things they may have said. There is nothing inherently “bad” about a more private temperament. The people who love them accept it and adjust.

I’m reminded of a quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles, and an accomplished aviator and author in her own right (something overlooked in the history books):

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in a life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

[Anne Morrow Linbergh, Gift from the Sea, 1955]

3 thoughts on “Lost Girl Episode 511 – “Sweet Valkyrie High”

  1. Latest theory about about the battle Hades is preparing for? It’ll be a battle between Hades and Aife for their daughter’s soul & her help in claiming rule over the Earth. The ultimate custody battle! Both seem to want to wipe the world clean and rule. Only one can. Bo has to choose – or defeat both (especially since both want Trick dead). It would bring things together and come full circle to S1, right? It seems to make sense since the show has finally identified Hades as the boss who hired Tamsin, and if he was able to do that, then presumably he was also able to appear in season 3 and exert actions as the Wanderer from his imprisoned state. This eliminates the need to bring in a Bigger Bad (like Kronos) in the last 5 episodes. That’s my final answer, and if subsequent episodes disprove it then Force must use to problem answer find.

  2. Cassie to Bo back in ep 105:

    “A girl your mother …
    Betrayed by the one she loved the most.
    But she escaped after all those years. Searching, yearning for her child.
    For you.
    She will be coming.
    There will be a battle.
    Death.
    You will have to choose.
    She’s coming.”

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