“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
[Tennyson, In Memorium A.H.H]
“Alas, I too have known love, that ruler of hearts,
that soul of our soul; it’s never brought me anything
except one kiss and twenty kicks in the rump. How could such a beautiful cause produce such an abominable effect on you?”
[Voltaire, Candide: or Optimism]
As the titles rolled on episode 512 I was sure that I would not be alone in a sense of frustration, bewilderment and sadness at what I had just witnessed. How could Lauren break Bo’s heart (and ours) with an argument which seemed so completely out of character for her? The Lauren we have known was always brave and principled, if flawed by recklessness (usually in the search for knowledge). Did the Lauren who loved and stood by a comatose Nadia — a woman who might never recover, look at her, touch her, smile at her again — seem the same person who would turn away from someone she loved just because she was afraid that the final act of a loving lifetime would not be an idyll? It truly made no sense to me at all. Either the character was being re-written, or had been badly realized in this episode, or it was more of a plot device than a legitimate commentary on the nature and validity of the relationship itself.
[Sidebar: If it is a plot device, it is understandable to me why fans are angry. We’ve been there, done that already in Season 3, and once was most definitely enough. It feels like a devilish manipulation of our feelings. But if time is now short and the closing act is approaching, I’d have to wonder if this was an expedient choice to briskly advance the story].
But what if it is a true – if painful – relationship development? Showrunner Michael Grassi
describes the break-up as “real” in the post-episode interview
[http://www.cinefilles.ca/2015/09/28/lost-girl-talk-judgement-fae/ ] but real in the world of
Lost Girl is a subjective term! I think it fair to say we can rule out shapeshifting/body possession here, dream sequence or any other such trick. Did it happen? Yes. But the question has to be — what does it actually mean and I do think that there is still plenty of ambiguity (I know, I know, rivers in Egypt….).
I loved Bo’s vehement and fierce declaration — almost to the point of outrage — that she would never turn her back on the woman she loved, even as she grows old. In this statement alone, I saw the Bo that had always moved me, the same woman whose morality and character were tested in the courtroom scene. Bo has always accepted the fact of Lauren’s mortality and if she perceives that the quality of love – not the assumed quantity — is the most valid parameter, then I must applaud her for it.
The simple truth is that the length of Bo’s lifetime is no more certain than Lauren’s. Bo may have the theoretical capacity to live for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean she actually will. Bo’s heroic nature puts her constantly in harm’s way. Heroes can burn bright, but burning short is always a possibility. Should she say to Lauren, “I may fall in battle one day and don’t want you to witness that”? Bo’s choice is clear enough — even if time is short, their love is still worthy of the risks and the possibility of future pain. Seize life, Lauren! And don’t try to choose for others.
Freedom of choice or choosing for others is a central theme of this episode and of the series. The “inner justice” Bo learns in the court room test is one she really has known all along: I will live the life I choose and I will respect others’ right to do the same, whatever the consequences. Protecting people sometimes means supporting them in their decisions – even if the “right” choice for them feels utterly “wrong” to you. As shattering as the break up is for Bo, she respects Lauren’s decision, lets her go and accepts “it’s over”– just as Philip is ultimately prepared to let his partner walk away, just as Dyson lets Alicia go; he loves her, he fears for her safety now that she has “gone Fae,” but in the end he can’t claim her.
Bo’s acceptance of Lauren’s right to choose stands in sharp contrast to the machinations of Jack who exerts power by making others act against their own best interests or do what they would rather not do (Bo killing Iris/Cece). He gives others the illusion of choosing freely (“I can only lead you to the water, but cannot force you to drink”) when in fact their “choices” are the end result of a dizzyingly elaborate series of chess moves seemingly orchestrated centuries in advance.
Let’s take Lauren’s decision to end the relationship with Bo. If we rewind the tape, you could argue that the break-up was set in motion the moment Lauren decided to inject herself with Hades’ “benign” virus. “Sometimes a catalyst that appears the most innocuous can cause the most damage,” he tells Lauren, “Think of it as a Trojan horse.” Like the Trojan horse — a “gift” from the Greeks which concealed legions of soldiers who promptly sacked Troy – Hades’ “gift” of scientific knowledge doesn’t give Lauren the longevity she hoped for but a bad case of rapidly progressing and fatal Parkinson’s disease.
Was the serum’s failure part of his plan? Almost certainly. Did Hades have reason to predict that Lauren would administer the antidote and revert to being human? He forced her hand. Her life was in peril. It was either give up her wish to stay with Bo by surrendering Faedom, or die.
But how could Hades have known this turn of events would lead Lauren to break things off with Bo? I can think of five possibilities:
1) Hades exerted a direct influence on Lauren’s choices and actions.
It may be that through changes in Lauren’s brain induced by the serum – or perhaps by the transfer of Hades’ blue power to Lauren in episode 510 — Hades is able to exert some degree of mind control. Zee warns Bo that Hades is a master manipulator and hints that he may have already “infiltrated” Lauren. Given that Zee was hitching a ride with Lauren at the time, perhaps she has some insider information about that. If Jack is able to appear in the form of Bo at the end of the episode, couldn’t he have taken over Lauren, too? If Lauren’s decision seems out of character, perhaps it is because her free agency has already been directly compromised by Jack.
I tend to doubt – and certainly resist — this line of thinking, As much as Lauren’s choice seems inexplicable, the authenticity of her feelings in the moment is undeniable, with no trace of an interfering entity. Anyway, the Lost Girl writers would never have Bo and Hades kissing each other as lovers in that break-up scene, would they? That’s as ridiculous as thinking they would have Hades marry his niece or Bo seduce her step-mother. Oh wait…
2) Hades exerted an indirect influence on Lauren’s choices.
The experience of a fatal illness may have brought Lauren up short and given her a glimpse into what growing old could look like — not dying peacefully in her sleep with Bo at her bedside, but becoming progressively weak, incapacitated, and demented. The latter would be especially terrifying to a woman who values her Intellect so highly – something Hades would probably have realized. Lauren clearly wants to spare Bo the dreadful ordeal of watching her deteriorate and die – she tells her as much in the break-up scene — but maybe she also wanted to spare herself the possibility of becoming utterly dependent on Bo for care and protection. In facing terminal illness, many fear the prospect of losing control most of all. Could Hades –with his uncanny ability to read and prey on a person’s vulnerabilities and insecurities – have predicted that a glimpse into that possible ending would be enough to induce Lauren to break off the relationship?
Yeah, that wasn’t an entirely satisfactory explanation to me either!
3) Lauren was scared about having lost herself, to the point of making the reckless decision to trust Hades.
She did it out of love for Bo and her desperate “obsession” to be with Bo at all costs but realizes it could have had – perhaps has already had – dire consequences for both of them. She can’t trust herself not to make the same mistake again and is – somewhat paradoxically – breaking things off to protect Bo.
4) Lauren suspects Bo may have already been infiltrated or infested by Jack.
Perhaps she learned something when she was inside Zee and is trying to take her distance without tipping Jack off.
5) Lauren is still sick.
The antidote changed her back from conduit to human, but the cellular degeneration caused by Hades’ virus continues (as it has in Evony). If this is the case, Lauren would be working feverishly to find the cure — for Evony as much as herself. But for now that vision of lapsing into a helpless demented state looms as a real and imminent threat. So why not share her predicament with Bo rather than break things off?
Lauren knows Bo would care for her to her last dying breath. She also knows the world can ill-afford to have Bo — the hero, the protector – hang up her spurs at this particular moment and retire from the good fight to become a full-time nursemaid. The Devil is in our midst and the end of the world is upon us. Lauren does what we would expect her to do under these circumstances and it seems fully in character – she chooses to sacrifice her love and fall on her sword for Bo, without burdening her with the real reason she is setting her free.
Some viewers may object that in the break-up scene, Lauren talks about Bo loving her “when I’m old and grey and losing my mind for real,” suggesting this is a future event, not an imminent risk, and that she is no longer dying. But I was struck by the pain and urgency
in her voice when she said it, as if Lauren has reason to believe they would be facing that scenario sooner rather than later. I was also curious about the fact that when Bo asked Lauren, “ Are you okay?” and pressed her further, “ And you’re healthy?” Lauren doesn’t give her a direct answer either time. Watch the scene again – if you can bear it — with the idea in mind that Lauren believes she is still dying or descending imminently into dementia. Watch her eyes, when she tears over. See what you think.
Why does Jack take this elaborate round-about route to engineer the break up? Plausible deniability — the break-up can’t have his handprints on it. Bo needs to believe Lauren was making the choice freely. She goes straight to Hades after Lauren leaves and confronts him: “Bravo! Your master plan worked. Lauren and I are done. This is what you wanted!” But just a little sweet-talking from Jack (“Babe, I didn’t come here to ruin your life”) and a disingenuous offer to “step back” and let Bo “sort things out” has her throwing herself into his arms for comfort.
It is important to remember that Evony, who has been turned human, is also suffering from an accelerated health condition and is in peril. I admit that I find it a shame that Lauren does not make a final choice for herself of her own volition, that the risk of a health complication removes any philosophical debate on longevity or immortality, and removes any relationship negotiation. From a story or character perspective, “change or die” is simply not as compelling as choosing for oneself and selecting “human.” It should be noted that Kenzi also opted for a facsimile of Fae powers when given the chance — a choice that also had a cost and served a story purpose. Is there a commentary here that humanity is inferior to Fae?
I would have said the opposite – being Fae isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and changing the natural order of things has bad consequences.
Presumably, the condition that Evony is in will also preclude Bo from making the choice to renounce her own Faedom in order to live a natural human lifespan with Lauren. Renouncing power and near longevity for the sake of love would have been a powerful choice, even more meaningful than Lauren’s desperate grasp for quasi-immortality (arguably she gains more than she loses). But if we have learned anything from Trick about trying to rewrite history in the world of Lost Girl, it is that it comes with consequences — uniformly bad consequences.
Despite all of Lauren’s intellect, biology is conspiring to make them star-crossed lovers. A cruel irony for Lauren, as the only person whom her prodigious scientific skills have not been able to “save” is herself.
From a plot point of view, the most obvious conclusion to be made is that love is strength, shield and inspiration to Bo — not just in hoping for it and believing in it, as we saw her express a longing for a mate and a “normal” life in episode 108 (“Vexed”) but as literal armor against evil. Feeling abandoned and hopeless, Bo gives up on and all but renounces love – with a gentle nudge in that direction from Hades who tells her, “People like us can’t love.” Dyson may remind her that it is better to “love and lose,” and they share a moment of solidarity, but does Bo believe him? It is refreshing to see a more circumspect Dyson than a predatory would-be love interest. However the story finally plays out, I will always think that the “triangle” did none of the characters any favors.
While Michael Grassi explains in the post-episode interview [http://www.cinefilles.ca/2015/09/28/lost-girl-talk-judgement-fae/ ] that we are witnessing a shapeshifted Jack, and not Bo, I know that I missed the cue for this. The closing scenes of the episode are some of the more disturbing sequences that Lost Girl has offered. My initial belief was that the digital overlay of Jack’s face onto Bo’s — suggesting that Bo is, at least in part, infested or possessed — made Tamsin an unwitting victim to something truly monstrous.
Whether Bo has been possessed or replaced, what changed to give Jack this power, and where on Earth is Bo? Or has he been doing this all along (good grief, I hope not, the story would no longer be an enticing mystery and would entangle itself into the most appalling Gordian Knot!). While in Hephaestus’ smithy, Lauren/Zee says: “ Hades may seem benign, but he is a master manipulator. He’ll infiltrate every inch of your life… He’s evil, Bo, pure and ugly evil. Looks like he’s already started. Who is it? The Valkyrie? The Wolf? Oh right, the Doctor.” With Zee inhabiting Lauren when she says this, the statement is surely a clue-by-four aimed right at Bo, who responds with, “I will never let my father get between me and Lauren.” A few scenes later, the relationship is over and Jack is infesting Bo. How convenient! That convenience is exactly why I don’t really believe that this can truly be the moment where love has died.
I don’t believe the break-up is permanent, either, although the wedding seems a tad less likely given time constraints.
The last word goes to Voltaire:
“It is love; love, the comfort of the human species, the preserver of the universe, the soul of all sentient beings, love, tender love.”
[Voltaire, Candide: or, Optimism]