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Lodge 49 gives its characters room to fail while taking stock of the collateral damage

David Pasquesi and Wyatt Russell
Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)
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Turns out, it was hummus.

When Lenore (Bertila Damas) lashed out at Liz and Dud for not buying into her MLM scheme, she flung hummus at them, not ranch dressing as I thought after watching “DisOrientation.” But as “Conjuncio” (A-), the fourth episode of season two confirms, Dud caught a chickpea bullet for his twin sister. And yet Lenore’s sudden lack of hospitality wasn’t enough to keep Liz away; she returned to the Fydro hawker’s den because she has questions about her father, which is as close as she can get to getting answers to questions about her mother. Of all the mysteries on this show—is there a hidden lodge within Lodge 49? Is there anything to all this alchemy talk?—the one least likely to be solved concerns who “Mom Dudley” was. She died when Liz and Dud were very young, so young that Dud treats her like a non-entity. “You’re nostalgic for something that never ever happened,” he tells Liz after finding out she’s been gambling and pumping Lenore for info on their mom and dad in her now-abundant spare time.

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Written and directed by Lodge 49 regulars Alina Markin and Michael Trim, respectively, the spirited “Conjunctio” reveals even more about Liz: She has a helluva poker face, was a bit of a legend in her high school (in part, for getting arrested), and is now almost as aimless as her brother. Liz began this season unmoored—no significant debt, no job, no real pressing obligations. And like a rapidly deflating balloon, she’s been flying around with no direction, which is why she finds herself hiding out from the FAA in a Dumpster with Lenore. Which isn’t to say that her life prior to losing her temp job (and before that, her job at Shamroxx/Omni) was much more purpose-driven. I suppose that’s one of the key questions of the show: where or how do we get purpose? Does that come before or after stability? And is punching a clock any more conscious of a choice than not punching in at all?

Liz’s adventures may not be quite as epic as Dud’s (though right now, most of his epic deeds are still very much in the planning stage), but Sonya Cassidy makes her exploits eminently watchable. Where the first season explored their different approaches on how to “just keep livin’,” to borrow a term from another layabout, the new season affords them both the opportunity for something more than mere survival, whether that’s finding community or a greater understanding of where you came from. There’s a fire burning in Liz Dudley, one that’s been cleared of embers like her obligations to her dad and brother. Lodge 49 has never sold Liz short, but season two has found greater balance between her storyline and Dud’s. And as tonight’s episode *“Estrella y Mar” (A-) proves, Liz is also not immune to the allure of a get-rich-quick scheme disguised as (or, in Dud’s case, doubling as) community-building.

Sonya Cassidy and Wyatt Russell
Photo: Jackson Lee Davis (AMC)
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Speaking of Dud, he was dealt a dispiriting blow via a literal one from El Confidente (correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ve heard his real name yet, right?) near the end of “Conjunctio.” After reaching an agreement with Daphne (Mary Elizabeth Ellis)—who is an overworked, underpaid adjunct professor and a great reminder of the worker exploitation that exists in academia—Dud thought he was heading to Mexico to find the scrolls and make this whole Bitcoin thing work. He ignored Blaise’s warnings about “treating the scrolls like an ATM,” but only because he’s being more pragmatic than usual. Dud is ever so briefly putting physical needs—as in, the need for a physical structure to house Blaise’s experiments and offer refuge to the rest of the Lynx—before more esoteric ones. But that doesn’t mean he’s no longer Dud: “Mexico is my destiny,” he tells Blaise, who rightly observes that his young friend and apprentice may be running from something.

Dud’s lack of direction has mostly been portrayed as innocuous, but Lodge 49 EPs Jim Gavin and Peter Ocko don’t pretend that he can’t still do harm, inadvertently though it may be. When Dud marries Beth (Britt Rentschler), who’s already in a wedding dress when they see each other for the first time since high school because she’s getting married at the lodge, he does so because he’s incredibly hurt by El Confidente’s abandonment/betrayal. Dud, who just a week or two ago was trying to buy his fellow Lynx a round with a bag of lemons, doesn’t stop to think about Beth’s fiancé, Tim (David Shae). He makes a bad decision in even worse circumstances, and “Estrella y Mar” wastes little time delving into the consequences. To be clear, I’m not the one judging Dud—he’s judging himself, if his leg is any indication. Obviously, this is open to interpretation, since Blaise’s “elixirs” and other balms can’t quite compare to a hospital stay, but a few people, including Dud’s new wife Beth, note that his leg is hurting him more than before.

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On another show, we probably wouldn’t be expected to worry too much about the feelings of a character we hardly know (Tim), especially not when they get caught up in the struggle of our charismatic lead, who hasn’t made many selfish missteps. But accountability is just as woven into the fabric of Lodge 49 as empathy—without ever being didactic, the show has looked out at the havoc wreaked by giant corporations and the indifferent, inscrutable market. We’ve now spent 15 hours getting to know the people who were directly affected by mismanagement or whatever the reasons are behind the long decline of the aerospace industry in Long Beach. We’ve seen them come together to help each other, but though Lodge 49 is undeniably surreal, it still navigates the same confines we do, which means its characters are just as flawed. The show wants to believe we can be better and frequently shows us just that, but it also leaves space for its characters to flail in their personal and professional lives.

Wyatt Russell and Brent Jennings
Photo: Michael Moriatis (AMC)
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This discussion about the effects of the “Tao of Dud” has been an ongoing one, both in the show and the comments sections of these reviews. Years ago, I would have just been frustrated by a character like Dud, Wyatt Russell’s charms notwithstanding. But while even contemporary me recognizes his flaws, when Dud describes the simple future he wants El Confidente to make happen through one of his paintings, I know he’s doing his best. Does he also do some harm along the way? Yes, but who hasn’t? And yet, that doesn’t mean that we or the show should gloss over the consequences of his actions. To wit, there’s Ernie and Dud’s exchange in “Estrella y Mar” with the gift-basket guy turned bookstore employee, who makes a mealy-mouthed apology—“Sorry you guys got caught up” in Captain/Gary Green’s (Bruce Campbell) schemes—while hiding behind the old “but I had to make a living” line.

Connie’s storyline this season has a similar beat—she’s also been ailing, and also been trying to find a way to get better. She returns to Long Beach with the “remedy” for her mysterious illness, but the same unwillingness to choose between Scott and Ernie. Linda Emond makes Connie’s frustration palpable when she tells Scott and Ernie that she can’t worry about making the situation easier for them, she has to focus on making it easier for herself. There’s a certain selfishness to that statement and we see how her absence has affected them both (though it’s taken a greater toll on Scott, it would seem). It’s also very honest, and may be just what they all need to hear right now. Of course, Dud does get his comeuppance this hour, as he has to quit one of his Temp Joy gigs because he ended up assigned to Beth’s workplace, where Tim also happens to work (and is where the two actually met). He isn’t really given the choice to bow out of his marriage—as Liz notes after Blaise accidentally shoots a nail into Beth’s hand, “crucifixion is grounds for divorce.” Still, I believe Dud when he says that he learned his place after seeing Tim and Beth together in the hospital.

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As for Liz, she finds out too late that Lenore could never be the mother figure she needs, even though the latter expounds on the virtues of handling your own auto repairs. Liz’s life gets a little more perspective, too; she may have always been willing to roll up her sleeves at Shamroxx, but she never got her hands dirty the way Lenore apparently has. We feel for them both as their shaky relationship crumbles, a scene made more poignant and absurd by the racing horse who’s shot offscreen after winning a race (and if that isn’t a nod to late capitalism, I don’t know what is). But when the dust clears, it’s just brother and sister again, who may be the combination of “fire and water” espoused by Fydro salespeople or at least the “star and sea” of the episode title. In either case, they’re magic.

Stray observations

  • *This episode was directed by Alethea Jones and written by Dana Ledoux Miller. It’s currently listed as “The Honeymoon” on IMDb, but my screener tells me the episode is titled “Estrella y Mar,” as does the mighty Futon Critic.
  • Apologies for not posting a review of “Conjunctio” last week, but I couldn’t find a substitute in time over the holiday weekend.
  • “It’s an endless catalog of bullshit... the point is, I’m enjoying the bullshit.” I feel the same way about astrology, Connie.
  • I can’t help but think Blaise is no closer to figuring out the magnum opus, despite Dud’s observation, especially after seeing him come unhinged in the fight with Scott. “I’m the only one who can see!” isn’t the Blaise we know and love, and I think he may actually be worse off when we see him again.
  • I kinda missed Bob this week, but damn if Ernie didn’t turn in some of his own poetry: “Screw fate—fate keeps taking me places I don’t want to go.” Watching him watch his ex-wife enjoy the life they could have had together is heartbreaking, and Brent Jennings sells every moment of it.
  • I know Scott basically represents “the system” at times, but season two has done a great job of giving him more dimension, just as Eric Allan Kramer has wrung more sympathy for the big “meanie.”
  • I was sure the door to nowhere that’s been staring us (and Jocelyn) in the face all season would lead to the “lodge within the lodge,” but as Connie finds herself in a closet at the end, it’s probably just another hidden passageway, right?
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