The Evolution of Doccubus

[This was the first commentary Valksy & I wrote about Lost Girl  but it seemed appropriate to bring it out of mothballs for the series finale]

Mahlers5th

Back in January [2013], I was blowing by the SyFy channel hoping not to be hijacked by some gross-out scene from The Hills Have Eyes, when something caught my eye. Two women, clearly in love, were talking together in an intimate, urgent sort of way. On SyFy? Hm, this was worth a look. “It’s time,” one said, taking the lead, “Us.” The other woman, a blond in a lab coat, her eyes brimming with tears, responded in a tone that conveyed she hadn’t dared to hope for this: “Really?!” “I want to give this a real shot,” the first woman said. “To be together. Life is too short.” Then they embraced.

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That’s all it took – I was hooked. But just as quickly as Doccubus had entered my vocabulary (and heart), there was trouble in paradise. In episode 306, Kenzi goes missing, nobody believes Bo (including Lauren) and the two have a serious falling out: “I’ll never forgive you for this!” Bo hisses. As if that weren’t bad enough, later in the episode, Bo feeds off a Valkyrie and is seemingly blown away by the experience.

Seriously, Lost Girl writers (excluding the infallible Emily Andras, of course)?! Are you telling us Bo’s going to throw over Lauren because some sassy blond with zippy one-liners wanders into your script? Geez, it had been all of two weeks/episodes since their “epic” love-making scene, and the ship was already foundering on the rocks? OK, I guess I over-reacted, because by the following episode, they’re curled up and cozy on Bo’s bed again and all has apparently been forgiven – but why does Trick tell Dyson that Bo’s relationship with Lauren is only going to be a “short term” thing? “Short-term,” like in Fae years or human years? And why did Anna Silk say in an interview just this week that in the season finale, “Some things really get ripped apart.” Doccubi Angst, welcome back.

Why do I care so much about this relationship? Maybe because I’ve been waiting, oh, 15 years since Ellen’s famous coming out scene at the airport to see television showcase (thank you, Showcase) a genuine, mature, monogamous, mutually loving, if complicated, relationship that just happened to be between two women. And here it was, finally, Lost Girl. It was devastating to think that this ground-breaking series might already be devolving into the kind of hot-girls-bed-hopping storyline for which The L-Word had been justifiably criticized – with Bo succubussing her way around Faedom in various hot couplings, one episode with Lauren, on to Tamsin, back to Dyson, heck maybe a drunken night with Kenzi, and other characters yet to be introduced.

The showrunners needed to do some serious thinking about authenticity in character development, I thought, or at least to have a long talk amongst themselves about how bi/lesbian couples had been portrayed on television up until now (i.e. DO NOT f*** this up!). Maybe I just needed to reassure myself that I hadn’t been imagining the depth of this love story.

Valksy

I think it’s interesting to have a perspective from someone who has recently joined the show because a lot of us have been here for awhile and it is easy to overlook that journey new viewers are taking. And how, as you describe, for some of us it is jaw-dropping to see them do what they are doing.

Mahlers5th

I decided to take a retrospective look at the arc of Bo and Lauren’s relationship, how their motivations and perceptions of each other evolved over time, and when and why their feelings for each other deepened to something more than mutual attraction. Sexual energy had always been an important part of their relationship, but it seemed to me that love was the real foundation and it made the bond to each other sturdier than all the subtexts seemed to suggest.

Full disclosure: I peeked at episode recaps to get the general lay of Fae-land before embarking on a marathon episode-by-episode viewing of seasons 1 and 2. That meant that as I watched the scene where Bo and Lauren meet for the very first time, I already knew what Bo didn’t — that Lauren had a girlfriend lying in a pod on life support somewhere in the Ash’s complex. I’ve read that when this scene was actually shot, Zoie Palmer (and the writers themselves?) had no idea that a girlfriend was going to be written into the script.

Valksy

It is a valid question to consider when what might have been serendipity – the chemistry of Bo/Lauren – went beyond perhaps what was originally intended. Is there an argument that it was never supposed to go as far as it did, and at what point did the writers find they had to change course? If the story is right and no-one really understood Lauren – who/what she was at the very start – how do they explain the chemistry?

We’ve often heard how KHR and AS had this big audition scene full of “passion” (they broke some dry wall) but only recently did we hear that ZP had to create chemistry “in ten minutes.” Now, I could probably shove someone into a wall. Could I create chemistry? Nope. So which is it? There is a contradiction here between a character they didn’t seem to know much about and the need for a huge chemistry from the very very start. It could be that the show writers created a “trap door” – by avoiding clarifying Lauren’s motives etc., they had a get out clause if the relationship was not positively received. But I don’t know if they’ll ever tell us the truth – certainly not when the show is current.

Mahlers5th

For Lauren, the attraction to Bo seemed instantaneous and unmistakable (“My God, you’re beautiful!”).

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Being a stickler for internal consistency in my fictional characters, I needed to understand how Lauren – a fiercely loyal, usually demure, utterly professional doctor — could make such a naked declaration to a patient she was meeting for the first time. This wasn’t just Bo doing her Succubus thing – she hadn’t touched Lauren, yet. I reasoned that while Lauren surely hadn’t forgotten about Nadia (it becomes clear later just how bound she is to her girlfriend by some combination of love, loyalty, and guilt), after five long years of probably celibate servitude to the Ash, maybe she had begun to lose hope that Nadia would ever recover. Maybe she was beginning to wonder if she would ever experience romance again in her lifetime. Maybe “naked” is the operative word here – Bo was “all commando” at that moment. Maybe Lauren was just horny. Anyway, enter Bo, irresistible to just about everybody, with or without her clothes on. But for Lauren, it truly seemed to be a case of love at first sight (which does exist, scientists tell us).

Valksy

If the writers did know that there was a chance – then having started, they took it upon themselves to be as credible and authentic as possible, something AS and ZP have referenced more than once. Someone has decided that there is a degree of burden upon them in terms of how they portray F/F sexuality. We do know Lauren is prone to emotional outbursts in season 1 and season 2. ZP chose distinct character traits for her (eyes rolling up for example, rapid eye blinking to indicate shock is another). A Lauren that is blown away by Bo and blurting out something she was thinking is – as we will see later – in character. Love at first sight, as we are told later, does make more sense. What Lauren does in this season seems so much more clear and of more sense if we view it through the filter of Lauren being in love with Bo.

Mahler’s 5th

As for Bo, she seemed to be enjoying the effect she had on Lauren, but it wasn’t clear whether she felt much of anything else – except thinly disguised anxiety about her identity and what is going to happen to her next in Fae hands, papered over with her signature confident swagger. She exploited her succubus charm to get Lauren involved in “fixing” her and helping her escape from the lab (“I can offer you things…” she purrs at one point, touching Lauren for the first time) but was seemingly indifferent to the serious risks Lauren would be taking. As Dyson cuffs her, Bo has the decency to apologize to Lauren casually (“Sorry, I had to try”) but she doesn’t look back as she is escorted away. Conversely, Lauren is deeply concerned (“Without training?! This is madness!”), already protective of Bo to a degree that seems just a wee bit stronger than a doctor’s usual professional concern for a new patient. Something’s brewing here but is it mutual?

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Valksy

Lauren takes a lot of risks for Bo – the very act of rendering aid when Bo is unaligned is not within the rules and required something of a leap of faith that Bo would be worthwhile. I honestly don’t think Bo had any means of understanding Lauren’s motives at this point. We know that Bo can see attraction and her familiarity with interpersonal relationships might well have led her to dismiss it as simply a physical response when I suppose we can see Lauren’s actions in the context of love now. If Bo made her first kill at 18, first boyfriend, etc, then rolled around like a tumbleweed for a decade, establishing no roots and avoiding capture, it’s possible that she was very much emotionally stunted and lacked the sophistication to realize what Lauren was experiencing.

Mahlers5th

Over the next four episodes, there are some occasional flirtations between Bo and Lauren, but nothing that seriously violates the bounds of their fiduciary relationship as doctor and patient. “Let’s see if we can ramp you back to randy…frisky even,” Lauren says with a smile as she prepares Bo’s injections in the next episode, but by the time she asks Bo to take off her jacket, she’s all business again. Later, they bump into each other at the Dal (episode 104) and there is some “serious sparkage,” as Kenzi puts it:

Bo: Booze does not affect my ability to perform, doctor.
Lauren: Well, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a drunken succubus call, so…take it easy.

But Bo is indeed intoxicated on whatever it is they all seem to imbibe in large quantities at Trick’s pub and anyway, she’s too busy trying to get Dyson’s attention. “Lauren is human,” she comments drily to Kenzi, “I sleep with her and she dies.” Then she promptly goes off to have revenge threesome sex with a married couple as Dyson looks on unhappily. I’m not seeing the love yet, Bo, but it speaks volumes about Lauren’s developing feelings for you that she has been willing to take a major risk to help you at all. Do you fully appreciate that?

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Valksy

As an aside, with regard to Bo and Kenzi drinking – Kenzi’s troubled childhood/youth leading to acting out, plus trying to keep up with Bo helps to explain her heavy drinking. Bo’s biology is oriented towards self-repair. If her body recognizes alcohol as a toxin, it might try to counter the toxicity and it becomes hard for her to get as drunk as she races her own biology.
Mahlers5th

A pivotal change in the relationship seems to occur in episode 106. Now, I realize we haven’t even reached the infamous “spy sex” scene (episode 108) which changes everything between them all over again, and for many episodes to follow, but I think we hear the first stirrings of something mutual and deeper than flirtation in this episode.

Valksy

I agree that 106 is pivotal. Until this point their relationship was very much grounded in curiosity around one another. But we also know that there are “missing” scenes. I think it is 106 where Lauren suggests Bo has been “practicing” in the lab. What does that mean exactly? We are missing something – the point at which Bo/Lauren go from having a largely professional relationship with some minor flirting from Bo in contrast to Lauren’s strong but largely concealed emotional response, to deciding to go socializing together. Got to wonder how each character might have viewed that event. Social for Bo, date for Lauren perhaps?

Mahlers5th

The episode opens with Bo trying on various slinky black dresses, a push-up bra and sexy boots in front of a mirror for her “doctor’s appointment” later that evening with Lauren. Kenzi, who has an exquisitely tuned radar when it comes to Bo’s love life, thinks she detects a case of “date jitters.” But Bo insists it is “definitely, definitely not a date…maybe drinks…and dinner.” Definitely, definitely? Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

We next see Bo and Lauren at the Dal, throwing back more of that unidentified brown liquor Trick is always serving. The booze has definitely loosened somebody’s reserve: “OK, what about me, right now?” Lauren asks, sizing up Bo as Bo sizes up the sexual aura of other bar flies. “Call it scientific curiosity.” “Well….you are definitely curious,” Bo purrs, drawing herself closer (definitely, definitely not a date). “I’m not so sure it’s entirely scientific.” LOTS of sparkage here…but… something else in the look they exchange after they laugh off the moment. Sizing each other up but in a different way? Seeing each other in a new light?

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Then the “test” – can Bo stop “feeding,” once she starts? Lauren hardly needs Bo’s touch to flame on and moves in for a kiss, but Bo pulls back: “This is crazy, I don’t want to hurt you.” Feeding? Pfft. This is a compelling and barely controllable emotion for both of them at this point. Lust? Not quite. Passion? Closer. I would argue that Bo’s willingness to put her own “hunger” aside to protect Lauren (and later to defend her when Kenzi calls Lauren’s motives into question) makes this an emotion approaching love.

Valksy

The show really wants to differentiate a feed from a loving act. The rough screws between Bo and Dyson were often of necessity.

Mahlers5th:

Later in the episode, Kenzi develops a bad case of hemorrhagic fever after eating toxic Aswag foot soup, and Bo brings her to Lauren for treatment: “You take care of her,” she orders the doctor. No sparks there, although a certain longing is still evident in Lauren’s gaze. “Was it just the drink?” she must be wondering. Later, Bo decides to break into Beren Chemicals and asks Lauren to come along: “I need your help…your expertise.” This is the first time the two have “gone undercover” together to solve a mystery (move over, Rizzoli & Isles). Once again, Lauren is taking a huge risk simply by leaving the Ash’s compound, not to mention breaking both Fae and human laws, but she does so with only a moment’s hesitation.

Something interesting happens during this joint caper: they disagree about how to proceed. “I don’t want to think, Lauren! I want to do something!” says Bo, all action-oriented. “I know you’re impulsive,” Lauren responds in a gently chiding tone (well, well, that’s new!), “But we need a plan…Use your head.” And Bo, who has been giving all the orders up until now, acquiesces. When the plan later requires some improvisation, it is Lauren’s turn to yield. “We’ll do it your way,” she tells Bo, who says with mock gratitude, “Well, thank you!”

The old adage that opposites attract seems inadequate here. There is a growing admiration for each other’s strengths and abilities and – perhaps more important — a willingness to share the lead (pay close attention, Dyson). These are two equals playing a duet and having fun. “Look at you, saving my ass!” Bo says delightedly when her “Succubus it is!” doesn’t subdue a guard, prompting Lauren to resort to the old two-by-four across the head to bring him down. “I know!” Lauren responds with a note of exhiliration, “It was incredible!” You get the sense she hasn’t had this much fun in years. This is followed by a gleeful high-five when they both realize Lauren’s injections have worked — Bo was able to stop herself from sucking the life out of the guard. Hm, so you mean Bo can probably have safe sex with humans now?

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With their mission accomplished and Kenzi’s health restored, back at the lab Bo and Lauren again exchange “that look” and seem to be weighing the new possibilities in their relationship. This isn’t about “feeding.” In fact, they haven’t even had their first kiss.

Valksy

Yes, exactly, exactly so. There is no dominion here – the two of them appreciate their differences and find a way to work together. It is mutual. We tend to focus of the loving stares, the touches, the intimacy. But there is more in play and it is so easy to overlook that. In many ways, it is another version of Bo and Lauren debating Bo’s trip to Grimley in episode 307 – they find a way to each contribute.

This may be a conceptual error with Dyson – he is a physical warrior archetype. But so is Bo. So either he steps on her feet and gets in her way (episode 221 and his fuck-up that gets Clara killed) or he has nothing much to do.

Bo and Lauren balance one another – strength and intellect are contrasts that are complimentary. Strength and strength is not at all.

I had forgotten Bo dressing up and taking care to look good. Notice how she does this again early in season 2 (episode 202) to try and re-ignite Dyson’s interest. She thinks that looking good is good enough and doesn’t conceptualize that she could wear a potatoe sack and if they like/care for/love you, it doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly mature, self-aware processing, is it?

Mahlers5th

The following episode opens with Bo mediating between squabbling past and future lovers. “Look, a threesome!” she jokes lamely when Lauren joins her and Dyson on a couch at the Dal. There is a growing tension between Lauren and Dyson as each becomes more aware of Bo’s affections for the other. Lauren is cool but restrained in her interactions with him; Dyson is petulant, even openly contemptuous of Lauren, which annoys Bo: “Why do you have to be…well, you!” she snaps after Dyson succeeds in driving Lauren away. Hm, allegiances seem to be shifting. In the same episode, when Bo consults Lauren about the mysterious symptoms she and Kenzi have developed (later attributed to an UnderFae spider bite) she apologizes for her “insensitivity” the night before. Lauren asks a little testily, “So, Dyson – what’s that?” but before Bo can answer, they are interrupted by Kenzi seeking treatment for her headaches.

For the remainder of the episode, Lauren’s intellectual and doctoring skills take center stage – she is poised, strong, confident, and decisive as she identifies the parasite (a bad-ass “nomadic Native American UnderFae” – gotta love it), helps Dyson track down the source, and cuts out it’s heart — reducing Dyson to a walk-on part and earning Trick’s grudging respect. Back in the lab, Bo’s admiration for Lauren’s “nerdness” is evident in her expression as Lauren launches into a jargon-heavy scientific explanation – she suggests later brains is even a turn-on for her: “Science… it’s nifty…But what really matters is you saved us. You’re getting awfully good at doing that.”

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Dyson tries to rain on Lauren’s parade, calling her inconsistent and untrustworthy, but Lauren gives as good as she gets: “Is it really my loyalties you’re worried about, or that this time I was Bo’s hero?” Zing! She then looks at Bo with a knowing, satisfied smile that says, “You’re mine and we both know it.”

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When Dyson tries to undermine Lauren at the end of the episode (“She’s too close to the Ash and you’re just too close to her…I don’t trust her”) Bo cuts him short: “Well, I do. If there’s one thing I can say about Lauren, it’s that she cares. Are you willing to say the same thing?” Double zing!

I’ll say it again: Bo and Lauren’s love story began well before their first kiss. It nearly ends when they finally do go to bed in the next episode, but it is noteworthy how deeply betrayed and hurt Bo feels when she thinks it was only “spy sex” – Lauren is clearly not just another fuck-buddy. There’s something deeper, tender and ineffable involved; I’d call it love. It takes the whole of season 2, with many twists and turns and selfless sacrifices – this time by Bo for Lauren’s sake – before Bo is ready to make the arresting declaration that got me hooked on the series: “It’s time – us.” But if love is true, the commitment remains constant through the best and worst of circumstances. Their love seems true to me. Said Paul to the Corinthians, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Valksy (who should always have the last word):

It’s a powerful and meaningful thing to a lot of us. To be simply gifted something equitable, credible, and authentic matters.

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One thought on “The Evolution of Doccubus

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