“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”]
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.
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]
“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?
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…