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Lost Girl Episode 513: Family Portrait

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
[Edgar Allan Poe, ”The Raven”]

Valksy

In a more perfect world I would have wailed in anguish at the cliffhangers within this episode, and then eagerly waited for the next chapter – a sixth season – to continue the story. I feel so ready for so much more but, sadly, the curtain is being prepared to fall and what would have been a baited enticement now seems more like the rushed denouement of tying off loose ends and playing out the show’s final gambit.

I appreciate that the tone of rather relentless darkness might have been off-putting to some, but I was reminded that Lost Girl has always had a firm root in the horror genre. In the series premiere episode alone, Bo hamstrings a Fae combatant, then cuts his throat. In the first season we also see incidences of decapitation and infanticide, as well as main characters being beaten and brutalized. The tone in episode 513 seemed to be far more like the original pilot, episode 108 (Vexed). How welcome this darker vision is, of course, subjective. But in a world where nature is red in tooth and claw it makes a great deal of sense to me to return to a world that is menacing, frightful and violent.

And yet beyond the graphic violence, I find myself reflecting more on the conceptual horror of Lauren’s possession by Zee. Although Lauren’s actions in trying to become Fae can be seen in terms of rebellion against human shortcomings, her sense of despair at her own frailty are ever more palpable in this episode. How does visceral or gory body horror compare to the trauma of mental violation, the devastation of subjugation, and the theft of feeling secure in your own self and identity?

From what Elizabeth tells us about the experience of being inhabited by Zee, awareness remains present (Elizabeth comforted and distracted herself by singing songs). There is nothing to suggest the inhabited person becomes a kind of unconscious Manchurian Candidate. Imagine Lauren’s experience — similarly present and aware of Zee’s actions, not strong enough to resist or repel her (all the Ancients seemed to have selected human hosts, perhaps for the singular reason that human nature has no defense), not knowing whether Zee’s intent was merely to talk to Bo or to attack her. She would be watching helplessly from the sidelines, compelled to both witness and unwittingly participate in Zee’s actions. Lauren was simultaneously a powerless victim and a direct threat to Bo, both puppet and weapon.

Lauren’s line “What’s to recover from? The guilt, humiliation, of almost getting myself killed?” struck me as deeply illuminating of her present motive, and I wonder how much these sensations informed her choice to turn away from Bo. To be used and degraded, to endanger Bo and confound Bo’s ability to fight, all because of her humanity? Wanting to be Fae for the longer lifespan is one thing; this expression of helplessness, almost to the point of shame that she could not stand up for herself or for Bo, is a much darker and more harrowing concern. If we also reflect on Lauren’s remark to Tamsin “When have I ever been normal?” is there a hint of a woman troubled by deep doubt? It seems clear to me that she is not doubting Bo, or love, but herself. The notion of simply not being good enough has the power to rip confidence and self-assurance to ribbons.

A further supporting line that inferiority, by virtue of her humanity, is weighing on Lauren’s mind can be noted in what may seem like a throwaway line in her conversation with Tamsin in the lab. When Lauren says “Of course, you just wake up like that, naturally flawless” is it a churlish remark about another (rival?) woman’s appearance? Or is it an awareness that many Fae seem gifted by having a default look which never seems to change. Is Lauren expressing envy at Tamsin, or the apparent effortlessness of being Fae? I am inclined to believe the latter, and understand it as an expression of frustration at being “only human”.

Lauren’s actions in trying to be Fae show she clearly understood the practical reality of being with Bo, and regarded it as a battle to be fought and won. Lauren’s inability, her intellectual failure, to defy nature may be a further aspect of the crisis of self I have just described. But the concept of – comparatively speaking – premature death is not novel, despite her sudden behavior in episode 512 (Judgement Fae). The most significant change, and arguably the catalyst for Lauren’s choice to end her relationship, is the act of possession. With the associated burden of her perceived weakness, the fallout of shock and fright, and the admitted sense of being humiliated at being forced to act against her will in mind, is there an intentional parallel between Lauren being possessed by Zee, and Nadia being possessed by the Garuda? We saw a grieving Lauren after Nadia’s death towards the end of season two — is Lauren’s focus on how Bo might react to her (Lauren’s) death, and the desire to spare her from it, because this parallel also registered for Lauren? Does Lauren’s wish to spare Bo pain make more sense if she is projecting her own experience of grief (from the Nadia storyline) onto Bo?

If it seems like I am trying to construct a narrative from just a few lines, applying my own interpretation and adding additional theories, then perhaps this can be taken as my own way of exploring the most interesting concept that this episode puts forward. In a conversation with Bo, Tricks says: “When someone recounts the past it becomes a narrative, a story, I have mine, your mother has hers, and he has his. And now you, Bo Dennis, need yours. And for it to be true, you need to draw your own conclusions.” Is this scene a meta-communication to viewers, myself included, who explore the world of Lost Girl from our own perspective?

How many times have we Doccubus fans seen fans who favor other “ships” seem to describe a show that we don’t recognize! The most obvious example is the notorious “spy bang” in episode 108 (Vexed). The fact that Lauren was a slave was clearly stated, and yet this was either disregarded as irrelevant, or the notion of a slave having no physical autonomy was ignored, because it did not suit the preferred internal narrative of some viewers. The fact that Kenzi as a character also mischaracterized what happened, applying her own baggage to the narrative, is a fictional version of the animus that Lauren’s reasonable actions earned from real world viewers.

And yet, I recognize that I am also providing some degree of personal narrative input to the past plotline. That Lauren was enslaved is an objective truth, and I accept that she had no option without having more evidence. When Lauren had sex with Bo, seemingly at the Ash’s order, we did not know the coercive power that he held over her beyond ownership. Was there evidence of the consequences of disobedience? Should Lauren have accepted these consequences if it meant not doing harm to Bo? When we later learned that the Ash could have held Nadia’s death over Lauren’s head as her Sword of Damocles, did we re-visit what happened? Is Lauren’s willingness to place her own safety ahead of Bo’s illustrative of her character? Or is it more true to say that it is illustrative of how she was perceiving Bo at the time? My subjective interpretation is that Bo would have been more forgiving if she’d understood that this was Lauren’s only choice to stay safe and to protect Nadia.

While the blame for malfeasance in episode 108 ultimately and unquestionably remains with the Ash, is there an ethical question in the slavery/“spybang” storyline that viewers edited subjectively in a constructed narrative of their/our own? Are we taking the threads that Lost Girl offered us, and using them to weave a more complete story and character tapestry? How many “histories” of this particular event could be constructed — both by characters and the viewership?

I see no disapproval in Trick’s explanation of subjective viewpoints in history — beyond a need to recognize their existence. For the show to at least acknowledge the possibility of “truth” being mutable would be an interesting choice because it would be close to a confession that all that ambiguity we’ve been wrestling with is at least explainable, if not actually intentional.

I don’t dispute that this episode had flaws. I was surprised by how unmoved I was by the deaths of Trick and Aife, which seemed like a desperate appeal to emotion (as character deaths tend to be). I never read Trick as a benevolent Grandfather figure; there was always a strong sense of duplicitousness to his actions. His solution to conflict was to hide rather than face truth — from concealing his identity as the Blood King to keeping secrets from Bo and consigning Aife to dungeons and hospitals. The fact that this led to his demise did not surprise me. There has always been a sense that secrecy, and the lies needed to sustain it, will inevitably do more harm than good; Trick paid the ultimate price.

The rebuttal to Trick’s consistent mendacity is Bo’s statement: “Keeping me in the dark does not protect me”. I cheered at this line, and it has been a long time in coming! The better part of this episode were the character details on display. I am much more happy to see an appropriately mature Bo who can get along with Lauren because there is as task at hand, than drunk Bo or Bo in a negligee on a swing, acting out her frustration at ending a relationship  Dyson (as we saw in season 2).

I was also glad to see Tamsin independently choosing honesty as the best policy, in admitting she and Bo had sex, first during the bar conversation with Lauren, and again in the shack with Bo and Lauren. Tamsin’s reaction to realizing she was raped by Jack was heartbreaking and it is entirely within character that Bo would immediately reach out. It is also Bo who attempts to exact immediate retributive justice by stabbing Jack, which is consistent with her character as we have known it from the series premiere.

[Sidebar: I really hope there is an extremely good reason for this pregnancy storyline. A laughing Jack mocking the woman he violated was deeply unpleasant].

I can accept that Lauren — who has typically been the character who provides solutions to dilemmas — is facing doubt and questioning everything she thinks she knows. Lauren has typically come to the rescue of Bo and all her allies with Science. Her apparent failure in the past few episodes appears to have challenged the character. It is also reasonable that Bo does not pursue a further debate on their relationship when she has the opportunity — respecting Lauren’s wishes is the honorable choice to make.

I am tempted to hope that (another) major character exit may indicate that Bo and Lauren will survive the final episode, unless the show intends to annihilate its entire cast! Do I think that their relationship will be repaired again? My biggest clue for an affirmative response is in the conversation that Lauren and Tamsin have at the Dal. It’s not that Lauren doubts her decision, but the comments made by Tamsin about — of all things! – beer suggest that sometimes you should stop overthinking everything, and try to savor and value something for its own precious sake.

Mahlers5th

Towards the end of episode 513, Trick tells Bo, When someone recounts the past, it becomes a narrative, a story. I have mine, your mother has hers and [Jack] has his. And now you, Bo Dennis, need yours. And for it to be true, you need to draw your own conclusions, find your own truth.” For five seasons, Bo has been searching for answers about her parentage, her past, and her own identity — and we’ve been right there with her, trying to puzzle out all the clues and breadcrumbs and puzzles left for us by the writers. She has passed through the Dawning, taken rides on a Death Train, travelled to Hel and back, and opened Pandora’s box in search of the capital-T Truth. But Lost Girl is a world in which memory can be erased; characters can assume other forms, inhabit other bodies, and be written out of existence; text can disappear as mysteriously as it appears in the Fae history books; dreams become prophecy; prophecy can be manipulated, and History itself can be altered with the stroke of a blood-tipped pen. In such a world, Trick suggests, the prospect of establishing “historical truth” – what actually happened – is impossible. What Bo is left with is finding her own narrative truth – an explanation, a story that feels most true, real, and coherent to her.

This theme is implicitly or explicitly addressed throughout the episode. Did Aife go to Jack’s penthouse because she genuinely wanted to get back together with him or was she merely feigning affection as part of a plan she thought she had concocted with Bo to send him back to Tartarus? It was Jack (as Bo) who presumably proposed the plan when he visited Aife in the institution – but to what end? To set up an illusion of family unity? To make a compelling case for the story of Bo’s origins that he wants her to believe, namely, that Aife was rescued from the Dark King’s dungeon and saved from insanity by Jack, had a penchant for bad boys, fell for “the ultimate Bad Boy” and conceived Bo in love? Was it to seduce Bo into his ultimate plans for her by framing it as “rising together as a family”? Later, Aife tells Bo that everything she said at dinner about loving Jack was “true” but she was aware that he may have had other motives, that the good she thought she saw in him was illusory: “It was always about you, Bo.” Trick reinforces this version: “Think, Bo, her strength and powers, combined with my blood. The perfect fertile ground for what he wanted to create. You. There was no saving, only the intention to create and use.” Jack hints at still another possibility over dinner: “Sea urchin. Used as a model in developmental biology since the 1800’s. Artificial spawning.” Was Bo the product of some form of in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering? (Is Tamsin’s pregnancy meant to be another demonstration of Jack’s ability to fertilize through a non-penetrative act?)

Bo hopes to find “answers” among the contents of a box of Aife’s records that Trick has collected. Surely videotapes can’t lie and will offer the historical truth. Instead, all she finds are contradictions. In one tape, Aife snarls that Bo has evil inside her and should be killed. In another, someone she believes is Bo (actually Jack) visits her in the institution and she greets her lovingly. We see photographs of Bo above Aife’s bed in which Bo looks about 4 years old – roughly the same age as the little girl in the wall painting Bo discovers in Tartarus. But back in episode 102, Will o’ the Wisp tells Bo that “29 years ago” (i.e. when Bo was about one) he saw a Fae midwife – identified in episode 108 as Lou Ann Heidinger — crashing through a forest carrying an infant with Bo’s birthmark : “She was afraid. Someone was trying to hurt you.” By age 4, the Bo we know was being raised by the Dennis family and Aife was still imprisoned in Tartarus.

In one of her very best performances in the series, Inga Cadranel (as Aife) struggles to reconcile her conviction that Bo visited her in the hospital with Bo’s own adamant denial that the event ever took place. It isn’t Bo who drives Aife mad as much as Aife’s inability to reconcile and integrate these multiple versions of reality. In one of the final scenes of the episode, the bodies of Trick and Aife have been arranged – presumably by Jack – in a dramatic tableau behind a drawn curtain. Why? If this episode was originally written as a cliffhanger to whet our appetite for season 6 (as Valksy suggests) I would have been left wondering: Did that actually happen? Was that real?

I don’t know who to believe!” Bo laments at one point, speaking for all of us. We’ve spent five seasons trying to make the pieces fit, too, only to learn there may not be a single clear and satisfying Answer after all. Like Bo, it seems we’re meant to create our own meaning and formulate our own conclusions. I’m cool with that and have really enjoyed the archeological journey along the way. Whatever alchemical magic keeps us enthralled as viewers, impatient to see what comes next, Lost Girl has always offered more than enough of that kind of magic for me. It didn’t bother me that the Bo we saw in season 4 was quite different from the Bo we had come to know and love through the first three seasons. I was able to reconcile the different depictions in my own mind as a consequence of various forces acting on Bo from within and without – not the least being the complete erasure of memory she suffered while on the Death Train. I chalked up apparent inconsistencies in other characters here and there to the fact that real people in the real world are complex and full of contradictions. The contradictions made the characters more real for me, not less.

Until episode 513. That’s when Lost Girl finally lost me.

It wasn’t the Doccubus break-up in the previous episode. That scene was emotionally wrenching but compelling. While Lauren’s decision seemed inexplicable in the moment, it felt real – not that I believed that explanation she offered Bo; but on reflection, I could think of a few others that seemed plausible to me. I thought Lauren might still be dying, despite having taken the antidote, and was concealing this from Bo to allow her to focus on saving the world (the fact that Lauren looked perfectly healthy in episode 513 eliminated that hypothesis!).

At this point, I’m inclined to believe a variation of Valksy’s thesis. We agree that the break-up isn’t permanent and that Lauren is taking her distance for now so as not to endanger Bo. However, I don’t agree with Valksy that it was the fact of being inhabited by Zee that was the main source of Lauren’s sense of vulnerability and humiliation. I think it was the fact that she allowed herself to be manipulated by Jack to the point of injecting herself with a nearly lethal serum on his say-so, endangering Bo and almost getting herself killed in the process. She doesn’t trust herself not to be taken in again or sees herself as too easy a mark for Jack’s manipulations, too susceptible to his formidable powers, and is unwilling to be used to compromise, hurt or endanger Bo. I know other viewers came to different conclusions about whether the scene made sense or was merely a manipulative plot device, but for me the pieces fit.

What changed in episode 513 was that in an effort to cram in plot, authenticity of character was sacrificed. The novelist-screenwriter Raymond Chandler once wrote that a good plot is one which makes good scenes and that the ideal mystery is one you would read even if the end was missing. In one of the early scenes of episode 513, Lauren calls Dyson – not Bo (who is standing right next to him) – to say that Jack has escaped. That already seemed odd, but whatever. When they meet in the lab, Bo and Lauren barely exchange a word or look. They seem to be ignoring each other. Whether that was intentional or not, it rings false. They behaved, if not exactly like strangers, then certainly not like two women deeply in love who have just painfully separated. Their interaction felt contrived. Where was that famous chemistry? The episode has Lauren telling us about it but it’s nowhere in evidence.

In a subsequent conversation with Tamsin, Lauren asks after Bo but it felt more perfunctory than deeply worried (“I want to be sure she’s not alone”). It seemed like a strained opening for Tamsin to confess she had sex with “Bo” and for Lauren to say that she doesn’t have the right to control Bo’s actions – she is free to do as she pleases. Very noble, Lauren, but you don’t care if Bo slept with Tamsin? Not one tiny bit? Nothing warranting a fleeting look of pain, jealousy, grief, anything?! And really, what’s up with Lauren anyway?! She’s suddenly super awkward geeky with the emotional IQ of, well, a sea urchin. Tamsin has just told her she’s dying, no legacy, no biggie and Lauren wants to know about new facial creams and night masks and to discuss Tamsin’s symptoms over a hoppy beer. This Lauren was a caricature of Lauren.

I could find nothing in the story to explain or justify this apparent personality regression, nor the aloofness between Bo and Lauren. Instead of disappearing into the story, I felt distracted and annoyed by the emotional inconsistencies. Doccubus has always been the heart of the show for me and I’ve cheered or suffered with each change in fortune in their relationship, but this was different. I stopped caring what happens to them. I don’t know if that also explains why, despite powerful performances by Inga Cadranel and Rick Howland, I felt strangely unmoved by the deaths of Trick and Aife.

I’m prepared to deal with whatever fate has been meted out for Bo and Lauren by the writers as long as the fit of the pieces takes on “aesthetic finality”. But it may be that the writers were obliged to pull things together in a hurry and to bring this long, wonderful story to a close sooner than they had anticipated. If that is the case, I’m prepared to forgive a few mistakes! If this show and these characters hadn’t meant so damn much to me, I would have shrugged off the inconsistencies and changed the channel. But I know I’ll miss them terribly when they’re gone, so I’ll be trying to savor and value the last three episodes as something precious.

Narrative truth can be defined as the criterion we use to
decide when a certain experience has been captured to our satisfaction; it depends on continuity and closure and the extent to which the fit of the pieces takes on an aesthetic finality. Narrative truth is what we have in mind when we say such and such is a good story, that a given
explanation carries conviction, that one solution
to a mystery must be true. Once a given construction
has acquired narrative truth, it becomes just as real
as any other kind of truth.

[Donald Spence, Narrative Truth and Historical Truth, 1982]

mangababe

“Bo [is] grappling with different narratives of her past” – Michael Grassi on “Family Portrait” episode 513

When a television series is pitched, sold, and put into production, the creator and/or show runner will often have a comprehensive series “bible” outlining the background story to the world, the characters, and their grounding motivations (ie what drives them from their introduction) – it is this which gives the writers a world and framework within which to build their stories.

Whether we actively recognize it or not, when we spend the time indulging in our favorite stories, such as Lost Girl, the stories and characters we see often play a part in helping us to understand our own “story”. Who we are. Where we came from. What “family” means for us.

And “Family Portrait” in particular, is focused on Bo finally unraveling the differing stories that she has been told since she found out that she is not human, but Fae.

Both Mahlers5th and Valksy have touched on the theme of “narrative truth” – that which becomes our truth as we create our story day-by-day, year-after-year.

In my case, there was a time when I was a little kid, being asked by a Chinese relative what my given Chinese name was, and I had no answer. I didn’t know. When I asked my parents, they couldn’t remember. My dad said that I’d been given one by his father (from whom he’d been estranged for many years) when I was born, but somehow, no one wrote it down and it was lost.

I found this distressing as a little girl searching for what it meant to be bi-racial. Sound familiar?

Eventually, I gave up and realized that my Chinese name died with my grandfather when I was 9 years old. It only stopped bothering me when I stopped caring because there was no story other than “forgotten and lost”. It took me into my 20’s to accept that there are some stories and truths which will never be adequately explained or understood; sanity requires letting go, accepting the existing narrative for what “is” and moving on.

So what does this story have to do with Lost Girl?

Honestly?

The only reason I haven’t completely given up on Lost Girl has to do with my ability to just let go of anything making sense and enjoy the pretty.

It may sound incredibly shallow of me, given how much a truthful narrative — the story of a bisexual woman as protagonist and a loving relationship between two women — would mean to me and others whose narrative has never been shown or truthfully told in media.

Since the middle of Season 3, neither the characters nor the overall narrative have made any sense. The arc of the series seems to vary from writer to writer, and season to season. Remember what I said about a show “bible”? I swear it feels like the series bible was tossed out somewhere around S3. It doesn’t make me love Lost Girl any less, because in the larger picture, it’s still a damn important piece of world changing television.

However, the last two episodes have been so out of character and disjointed that it makes me wonder where the hell we’re going.

Break up Bo and Lauren AGAIN? Sure, whatever. And the next episode they go back to being best friends sans benefits. *sigh*

The only thing that makes sense now is that Bo is the product of an evil and twisted mind – a weapon of sorts – the culmination of two incredibly dangerous powers united in one being. And unfortunately, I think that Aoife did love “Jack” for rescuing her from the Dark dungeons, but she’s a victim of Stockholm syndrome. So while she may have willingly consented to sex with Jack, she may have later realized exactly what his plan was and as such realized that her daughter would be a mix of both Dark and Light, both powerful and dangerous if not educated about the entirety of her powers.

I don’t think Trick is any better morally than any of the other Ancients; looking back to the first season, his motivation is just as suspect. He has kept Bo in the “dark” because he is well aware of how much power she carries…and I think his motivations have been to keep that knowledge from the general Fae population as well as from Bo herself. It’s his way of exerting control over a situation in which he had no control after giving up his only daughter for the “good” of all Fae.

And finally, I think Jack/Hades has realized that he will never truly control his daughter. She continues to be the “unaligned” Succubus shunning both Dark and Light, especially because of her love for Lauren and her love for all beings, not just Fae. “You wear her humanity like a shield.”

In the side stories of Hades tricking Aoife and Tamsin (really? that was just as tasteless as episode 407), I see a nothing but plot devices to separate Bo from her chosen family, much like his helping/tempting Lauren with the power of Fae biology. And Dyson? Well, regardless of pledging fealty to Bo at the end of S4, his history as Trick’s lap dog makes him just as guilty. He has continually and deliberately kept knowledge of many things from Bo in his attempt to “protect” her. Like she really needs it.

I think Bo –being the melding of both Darkness and the Blood Mage — actually has the power to kill an Ancient, but it may be at the cost of her humanity. Where as the Ancients all seem to have some weakness that keeps them from destroying one another.

I understand why Anna has said these last two episodes are her favorites; she got to act the hell out of them! Bo had all the action and emotion, even if she wasn’t the one driving the plot forward. The action continues to prove (and has since the middle of Season 3) that she’s still just along for the ride. I guess these last few episodes will tell if Bo will finally be able to live the life SHE chooses.

I’m still here…dug in, with Scotch in hand, ready to ride out the last ever *sob* episodes. I sure as hell hope TPTB prove me wrong and there’s some sort of happy ending. Either that or “fade to black” with the gunshot like the Sopranos…

Lost Girl Episode 512: Judgement Fae

“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]

Valksy

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.

Mahlers5th
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.

Valksy

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?

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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.

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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.

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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]

Lost Girl 5.11 – “Sweet Valkyrie High”

As soon as I saw the episode title I was excited. See, when I was a kid, I read all the Sweet Valley High books, which chronicled the lives of the Wakefield twins Jessica and Elizabeth in Southern California, starting with Double Love and ending when I finally couldn’t keep up with all of the ghostwritten special editions, spinoffs, melodramatic twists, the terrible, awful College Years and then finally culminating in the most recent publication written ten years after the last book ended, Sweet Valley Confidential. I did read that one to find out what happened. I will never get those hours of my life back.

I’m not proud. Amusing as the books are now, I’m horrified at the messages they put out and how I thought being like the Wakefields was something to aspire to when I was a kid. No wonder I’ve needed so much therapy. If, like me, you read the books, I highly recommend reading IF YOU LIVED HERE YOU’D BE PERFECT BY NOW by Robin Hardwick – a hilarious takedown of Sweet Valley High and what it said about being female (or even just human), and was a much-appreciated antidote.

Much more empowering is Lost Girl and this episode specifically for reminding us that who we were doesn’t have to determine who we are, that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible, that decency and honesty are still going concerns, that we are all in this together, and we are better as a team.

Plus, Stacey said she chalupaed in her pants! In this new spoiler-free world I’ve been trying to live in, I knew nothing of the plot or the writer of the episode, but as soon as I heard that line I knew it HAD to have been written by Emily Andras. And I’m a sucker for a good pants-soiling joke. (Here’s one I taught my kids: “Knock knock!” “Who’s there?” “Poop!” “Poop who?” “Poo-poo pants!”)

This episode advanced the story in the present, filled in some history, and resolved some lingering tensions between the characters that needed resolving.

First, the plot:  it thickens. Hades is a bad guy (and even though this puts me at odds with Bo et al, I prefer to call him Hades over Jack), and he’s out of his cage. We all knew mere walls couldn’t keep him confined. In trying to figure out how to send him back to Tartarus (and presumably trap him there), Tamsin at least succeeded in flushing out his true colors, maybe. Escaping his cell won’t engender more trust in him from Bo, but I guess that’s only if she finds out.

The history:  we know more about Tamsin’s past, how she met Acacia and where she fits in, and a bit more backstory on Hades and his plans to build an army. It seems like a roundabout plan unless manipulating Bo to choose freely is part of the plan, but hey. I wonder why he needs an army anyway.

Then Bo and Tamsin buried the sorry-I-slept-with-you-and-toyed-with-your-heart hatchet, Lauren came clean to Evony, and Acaia took over Valhalla.

Plus this episode was just fun to watch. I laughed. I felt emotions. I didn’t know what would happen next but was excited to find out. And if, as Mrs. Unaligned observed, it seemed odd that Tamsin was outcast from Valhalla forever back in medieval times for giving Rainer’s soul to Trick but then in the 1950’s she was sent back to the Valkyrie Academy and had to learn (relearn?) that she was a warrior, not a nursemaid, I didn’t let those details trouble me.

(But if anyone can explain the timeline, please tell me in the comments.)

Finally, knowing as we do that Lost Girl is the sexy descendent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, did anyone else think that Stacey’s working at the Bayou Burrito (where you tell us how you like it) was an homage to Buffy and the Doublemeat Palace? I did.

I wrote this on a plane and probably won’t edit it, so if it seems rambly and disjointed, that’s why. And if it’s better than usual, tell me so I can stop wasting time on editing!

Until next week!

–Sally

Lost Girl Episode 511 – “Sweet Valkyrie High”

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

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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.]

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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?

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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?]

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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]

Lost Girl Episode 510: Like Father, Like Daughter

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
[Vergil, the Aeneid Bk II]

I believe Father knows best. And Bo will come to believe it, too.
[Hades to Zee, episode 510}

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[Ed. Note: Valksy had to tend to a sick cat and wasn’t able to collaborate in writing about this week’s episode but we discussed it at length and her handprint can be seen everywhere].

Like Father, Like Daughter. The title of episode 510 reminds us that whatever else happens in the next 44 minutes of season 5B — and a lot will happen — at the heart of the episode, season, and series is that nagging question: Is Bo making choices of her own free will or is she playing out an inevitable and unavoidable series of events that has been scripted in advance by her father?

There’s no doubt that Hades is a masterful dramaturge who has been carefully putting the pieces of a very long game in place for a very long time – beginning well before Bo’s birth. Just think of the cascade of events he has set in motion in season 5 alone. At the end of season 4, Kenzi is convinced that freely choosing to sacrifice herself is the only way to close the portal. Bo chooses to follow Kenzi to Valhalla and chooses to trade her own freedom for Kenzi’s when Freyja threatens to claim her soul for Hades. In Tartarus, Bo is persuaded by Persephone (repeat after me: stepmothers in fiction are always evil) that choosing to take the Artemis candle is her only means of escape. In freely choosing to light it, Bo unwittingly brings back the Ancients, who in turn unleash the Nyx. In a last-ditch effort to stop the Nyx and save the world, Bo chooses to open Hades’ box and liberates him. Hades makes it clear that Bo is free to use the box to return him to Tartarus at any time but she chooses instead to contain the Nyx (and kill both Iris and Cece) for the greater good of saving the world. Really, did she have any other choice?

We don’t know the full extent of Hades’ powers yet, but surely one of them must be the power to think an infinite number of moves ahead and predict or determine what choices the actors in his plot will make. This brings us to this week’s B-caper. Thieves have been dispatched to the Santiago castle in Spain where Kenzi has retreated to retrieve a painting of The Vanishing – a depiction of the Ancient’s Last Supper on earth centuries ago, before they were banished from the Earth (by Hades himself, as we learn from Zee in the final scene). Within Kenzi’s earshot, the thieves happen to drop references to a succubus who slayed the Una Mens, so naturally enough she chooses to return from exile to warn Bo she is in danger, and chooses to bring with her the first siren,  Heathcliff.

As it turns out, Hades’ never really needed the siren. In fact, the entire painting caper was a ruse concocted by Hades for unclear reasons. No-one is actually banished, and saving Zee — or making Bo believe she had “vanished” Zee — doesn’t seem to have been Hades’ primary motivation. Zee implies as much when she points out that Hades didn’t hesitate in vanishing her, Hera and Iris “all those years ago” – why not do it again? His reply is interesting, if enigmatic: “Your time will come, when it’s just.”

So what was Hades’ deal with the Vanishing painting? Banishing Zee – or allowing Bo to believe he had helped her by providing key information about how to use the painting – would have further encouraged Bo to trust him. But I think there may have been an even subtler game in play between the two of them around the painting. Bo had intended to use the painting to banish both Hades and Zee. She didn’t. She chose instead to banish only Zee. Now, we know it wouldn’t have worked anyway, but Bo didn’t know that when she made the choice. And this is the second time Bo has spared Hades since his return. How did Hades know she wouldn’t at least try to vanish him (and ruin his plan)? Is his influence direct, as in mind control? Or is she playing out an unavoidable destiny he has shaped ahead of her?

Another possibility comes to my mind – reminiscent of the time at the end of episode 418 when Bo was “baited” by her father to suck the revenants’ chi as they stumbled out of the portal, lowering her defenses against him, and allowing him to possess her (briefly). Perhaps Bo’s “choice” to banish Zee rather than Hades is an example of psychological manipulation rather than a choice forced by predestination. Hades makes it clear in a conversation with Lauren in episode 510 that he knows about Freud and transference and the power of unconscious wishes to shape our choices and behavior. What unconscious wish might he have been exploiting in Bo that held her back from getting rid of him? Didn’t the oracles reveal that truth to Bo in episode 507 (“Here Comes the Night”) – the person her heart most desires?

Kenzi knows best:

Kenzi: You could have used that painting to get rid of him, but you didn’t. You chose Zee instead. Why did you do that?
Bo: I don’t know how I feel about all this, Kenz. It’s complicated…You don’t think it’s crazy that I want him to stay?

Kenzi: Not at all. He’s your father.

Valksy didn’t like the idea that Hades is coercing Bo’s choices – she’d rather think Bo makes bad, if well-intentioned, choices, playing the hand she is dealt as best she can. Bo recognizes she isn’t sure about her father, so she is giving him the benefit of the doubt. Is this naïveté? Or something honest and brave? It takes guts to give everyone a tabula rasa, against everything you think you know and against bitter or painful experience. It looked more like naïveté to me – and Kenzi seemed to agree: “You get what you need [from your father],” she tells Bo, “But do not trust him. He’s smart, and dangerous.”

There has been a subtle seduction going on since Hades first made his appearance in episode 509, and in the opening minutes of episode 510, during the stake out with Dyson, we are beginning to see the effects of that seduction on Bo. Bo refers to Hades as “BF” – a new favorite nick name she uses repeatedly with Dyson, Lauren and Kenzi. She means “biological father” but her friends naturally enough assume she means “best friend” — because c’mon Bo, through 4 ½ seasons, hasn’t it always meant “best friend”? Is this the writers’ way of signaling the shifting allegiances in Bo’s mind, a certain softening in her attitude towards her father? As if to underscore that, she goes on to tell Dyson during the stake out, “Sometimes the worst thing is not knowing how you feel.”

Valksy wondered if the Vanishing painting was a MacGuffin (a motivating element in a story used to drive the plot but serving no further purpose) used in this case to bring back the Pyrippus. Was that Hades’ motivation in retrieving the painting? Is he a Horseman of the Apocalypse who needs his devil’s steed?

Zee speaks for all of us when she asks, “What are you doing here, Jack?” Whatever his plan may be, apparently it has begun. Did it begin with his stealing the Leviathan’s handprint 600 years ago — sometime after he was banished to the Underworld? We know that it was Hades who banished Zee, Hera, and Iris from the earthly plane but who banished Hades to Tartarus? We still don’t know why Hades’ power waned in Tartarus after Bo’s birth, and who or what took it from him, but it certainly seems likely that something or someone wanted to thwart or slow down Hades’ plans. Who?

Did something or someone take umbrage at Zee, Hera and Hades playing “gods”? Fae are supposed to live in secret (as we are reminded by the Dyson/Alicia subplot in this episode, in case viewers had forgotten). Did some stronger force become offended by their hubris, spoil their fun, slap them down, and exile them, as if to say, “Leave the humans alone, stop tormenting them for fun, you’re not gods”?  If the Ancients are called gods, but are not, then who or what is the higher power – the one who really makes magic?

We don’t get a good close look at the Vanishing painting but sitting at the center of that Last Supper tableau appears to be a formidable bearded figure with flowing white hair, arguably bearing some resemblance to the Wanderer depicted in the old Fae History books discovered by Lauren late in season 4. Just sayin’…

In looking for a God above these Fae gods, if the show needs one to explain itself, avoiding the Abrahamic god is common sense! In our mid-season 5 commentary, Valksy speculated that a good candidate for the higher power might be Kronos – Father Time, herald of the first Golden Generation of mortal men to live on the earth, and father to Hades, Zeus, and Hera (among others). In Greek Mythology, Kronos was warned that one of his children would eventually overthrow him and become the foremost immortal. With his Titan brothers and sisters at his side – the first generation of Titans to have a human appearance – Kronos initiated a war against his own children (the War of the Titans). Zeus meanwhile gathered the Olympians to fight with him against his father [http://mythagora.com/bios/kronos.html].  In the Lost Girl transfiguration of the Greek Myth, is it Hades who will be challenging his father’s power? And did he create Bo to fight by his side?

The theme of children growing to adulthood and confronting parental authority – Mark and Dyson, Bo and Aife/Hades, Aife and Trick – has informed Lost Girl from the very beginning. It would be fitting if the series ended with a war played out between the Ancients and their own Father.

Lost Girl 5.09 – “44 Minutes To Save The World”

After such a long time without Lost Girl, it was so nice to be back with this show and these characters. I had missed them so much! I also didn’t have time to do a rewatch of 5.01-5.08, but that was okay because the “previously on Lost Girl” caught me right up.

We were right back in the action and I like that the show didn’t drag out questions that had been raised in 5.08. Tamsin is alive! Mark is alive! And Hades is out of the box and on the scene. Aw, hell.

Let’s talk about Hades for a moment. After being trapped for so long in the box, and going to such great lengths to get out, his behavior was different than I was expecting. He didn’t go into major destructive mode, or seek out Zee and her crew for immediate revenge. Instead, he was calm and, dare I say…helpful?

He helped Lauren and Dyson stop Mark’s bleeding, and then helped Lauren solve a nagging problem with her stem cell research when he dropped by her lab (ostensibly to check on the patient). Then he just sort of follows Bo around and tells her that she’s in charge and he’ll do whatever she decides is best. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy?

I don’t think so. As Mrs. Unaligned pointed out to me, people who are trying to manipulate others often try to make them think they’re in charge. Just as lessons learned are more powerful when you learn them yourself instead of having someone tell you the answer, it’s more powerful when you decide to do something on your own, rather than feeling forced into it.

Maybe whatever Hades has in mind for Bo’s role in his vision of the future requires that she chooses it freely, or maybe he just prefers to manipulate and cajole. Either way, I don’t trust anyone who grabs someone by the neck because they REALLY REALLY wanted to talk to you.

Speaking of manipulation, as the Drinks at the Dal hosts noted in their initial reactions to this episode, how great is it that Tamsin was able to engender doubt in Hera even without her Valkyrie powers? This could be a theme – how people allow themselves to be manipulated by doubt. Hades goes down this road a bit by telling Bo that what she believes about Aife and her captivity isn’t true. As well, the Leviathan told Bo in S4 that she wears Lauren’s humanity like a shield. Maybe, in trying to help Lauren achieve immortality, Hades is removing a check and balance on Bo that keeps her grounded.

Nyx is in the box, Hades is out of the box, Iris is dead, Alicia is alive, Hera/Kevin is in a coma, and Tamsin escaped. Zee is having none of it from Trick. Dyson and Mark are bonding. Kenzi is still gone. I think the box can’t be the only solution for getting rid of Hades, and it’s possible that he was posing a false dichotomy to Bo, but she did what she had to do to stop Nyx in the short term, anyway.

And finally, the ending. Holy crap! In the past, I’ve often watched promos, but this time, I just didn’t get around to it so I had NO IDEA what was coming, that Lauren was going to get hit by a truck. And it had so much more impact! (Pardon the pun.) I think from now on I won’t watch promos, to the best of my ability.

Here’s what I thought in seeing the final scene – I thought that Lauren had given herself succubus powers, and was chi-sucking Bo so she didn’t die. But then Mrs. Unaligned told me that she thought Bo had been pushing chi into Lauren. I’m not sure which is correct, but I’m sure we’ll find out tomorrow. What did YOU think was going on there?

I leave you with a final question, which I puzzled over. Why did Bo and Lauren decide to go for a walk instead of heading directly to bed? I mean, REALLY. #DoccubusSex

(Though as Mahlers5th noted, it was so nice to see them on a semblance of a normal date, walking around holding hands like a real couple. Trust M5 to spoil my pervy observation with a sentimental comment that made me say “Awwwww.”)