Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)

“I don’t worry about time. I’m on a clock—so what? So’s everybody.”

It’s temping to look back on the first season of Lodge 49, armed with what we now know about the lodge and Harwood Fritz Merrill and the toxic seepage at Orbis, to see which of our theories bear out. Because, as viewers, we think we have a clearer understanding of what’s unfolded over the last 10 weeks, right? We’re hip to Gary’s (Bruce Campbell) con and Gary being conned, which seemingly explains some of the more mysterious happenings, and possibly even Connie’s hallucinations. We discovered there are some cult-like elements to Shamroxx’s executive training program, but its chief proselytizer Janet is surprisingly down-to-earth. And we know the one true lodge exists, because it’s the one lodge hanging on by a thread.

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The finale delivers on all fronts, both nudging along some of the more cryptic storylines while tying up some loose ends. It’s thrilling to watch Blaise stumble upon what appear to be Merrill’s (or possibly Jackie Loomis’?) alchemical equipment just as he was giving up hope. Connie’s trip to England and Melinda’s urgent, blindfolded walk down a previously unseen hallway open up new doors, lending credence to at least some of the conjecture produced so far. Larry might be gone, and the lodge not far behind him, but if you were hooked by the deliberately-formed mystery, “Full Fathom Five” is the payoff. Well, sort of—all that’s really been resolved is that there are matters that need resolution.

But hey, I’m not complaining. I also got caught up in the mystery, looking for clues in stained glass windows and trying to remember the meanings of my Rider-Waite deck, so I’m heartened by the prospect of more show and more signs. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the quests and puzzles, thoughtfully planned though they were, always came second to the relationships that were being established and deconstructed on screen. Lodge 49’s laid-back vibe and SoCal setting belie how much care has gone into fleshing out the characters, from the devious Avery (Tyson Ritter) to the meddling, heartbroken Scott (Eric Allan Kramer). Proving Merrill’s theories could be a boon to the ailing lodge—whose members will eventually struggle to keep up with their dues, if the Orbis closure is any indication—but as I’ve previously stated, Lodge 49 struck gold early on with its deft characterization and deceptively low stakes.

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Some viewers might say the show requires patience, leaving only breadcrumbs where big-budget, capital-letter theme shows are dropping chunks of baguette to fuel speculation. That’s not entirely inaccurate; I guess I’ve just found the experience of simply watching this show more rewarding than solving some others. All the talk of Paracelsus and alchemy has turned heads (including my own, which has occasionally been preoccupied with comparing Dud and Liz to Apollo and Artemis), but Lodge 49 is so appealing as a hangout show that I’m usually prepared to just plop down in front of the screen and let the geniality and fuzzy surfer rock wash over me. This show’s exceptional cast makes even the prickliest of the Lynx members warm and inviting. There isn’t a person I wouldn’t want to hang out with (except Avery—and maybe Gary, who might be too rambunctious for me), whose life I wouldn’t want to learn more about.

It doesn’t sound particularly ambitious, yet it’s a lot for a new drama to accomplish, especially now that there are practically subgenres for the hangout show. But despite its effortless charms, Lodge 49 has been pulling double duty, gradually becoming a great workplace drama that offers poignant commentary on our need to define ourselves by what we do. Despite craving individuality in other parts of life, we buy into the titles and healthcare benefits, eagerly slotting ourselves into cubicles and partition-less desks. We do it for security, and not just the financial kind. For decades, our careers have made up a huge part of our identity. But, as Connie’s urgent plea up top notes, we’re all just just running down the clock.

The finale, directed by Randall Einhorn—who’s done such great work on this show depicting abandoned offices as graveyards—cements this as one of the central conflicts of the show. Dud and Liz have always been in opposition, because Dud’s lack of a career translates to a lack of a path and a lack of a future. But as we learn through Ernie and Liz’s humiliation in their respective workplaces in the Randall Einhorn-directed finale, loyalty and deference don’t earn you much more than aimlessness does. Per Jocelyn’s impassioned speech (delivered by voicemail to Melinda, but it applies here), that doesn’t make them worthless, though:

These are good people, who’ve fallen on hard times! It’s the fate of the working class! Or perhaps the middle class? Things are little more fluid here. It’s difficult to distinguish who’s who.

But I do know that the more technology isolates us, the more we need places like the lodge. For the first time, I truly see what it means to be a Lynx. It means community, and brotherhood. Melinda, this could be beautiful—a renaissance! A fulfillment of Merrill’s dream!

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In one of its more aggressive moves, Lodge 49 shatters the belief that there’s any type of steady employment in our increasingly automated world. Earlier this season, a drunken Gil (Jimmy Gonzales) bemoaned losing a job he was prepared to work for the rest of his life. In “Full Fathom Five,” Liz discovers she can’t crawl back to Shamroxx after literally jumping ship, because for all of the manager’s fawning praise, she isn’t actually irreplaceable. No one is—at least, not when it comes to business. But at Lodge 49, even a perceived scoundrel like Larry Loomis, whose extensive malfeasance has been revealed, isn’t excommunicated. His faults are acknowledged, but they don’t define him or erase the good he did, which, as Ernie tells Dud in the final moments, was foster a community that offers refuge for the restless and the weary alike.

One of the best episodes of the season, “Full Fathom Five” unlocks a new mystery while offering a happy if mutable conclusion. And in dispelling a myth, Lodge 49 creates an enviable reality, one in which decency is worth its weight in gold.

Stray observations

  • “Full Fathom Five” was written by Jim Gavin and, as previously mentioned, directed by Randall Einhorn. They also oversaw the first two episodes of the season, including the wonderful “Moments Of Truth In Service.”
  • I cannot applaud this exceptional cast enough; they all offer such different shades of woundedness, joy, and determination. The show wouldn’t work with anyone but Wyatt Russell in the lead, but for me, Sonya Cassidy is the real MVP. Also, I want Brent Jennings to be my dad. I really can’t wait for season two.
  • Speaking of which: I apologize for not being able to keep up with reviews, but the plethora of TV shows mean I just wasn’t able to keep up with reviews. Still, I’d like to resume coverage for season two, although the schedule will probably be recaps of the premiere, midseason, and finale.
  • A shark bite makes a believer out of Dud—again—which is something I had the chance to discuss with Jim Gavin and Peter Ocko. Check out the interview here.
  • I was so relieved to see Liz’s Dad-given debt forgiven that I don’t even care how realistic it is. She deserves a break, and I look forward to seeing Liz in something other than survival mode.
  • Thanks for reading (intermittently) and engaging in thoughtful, respectful conversations with one another. You are the one true lodge.

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