On the Bubble: Lost Girl

Posted on February 15, 2012

10


I had to be dragged into watching this show.

First off, it’s on SyFy. As big a fan as I am of science-fiction and fantasy, and as grateful as I was to finally get access to a cable network dedicated to genre programming, SyFy is very hit or miss with its “original” stuff. Once, I would have watched anything they scheduled without question or reservation. Now, I’m more critical.

Second, nothing in the marketing looked original. I’m not bragging at all when I say that I’m too mature at this point in my life to buy a show purely on the sex appeal of the cast.

We Watched It

Bo (Anna Silk) works in a bar. One night she sees Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) leave with a guy right before Bo’s shift ends. Bo catches up to them at the elevator and can see that Kenzi has been drugged. She offers to join in for a threesome, which lets her get close enough to the guy to magically suck the life out of him with a kiss.

Bo takes the unconscious Kenzi back to her place. We see that Bo squats in an abandoned building, that she has multiple fake IDs, and that everything she owns fits in one bag that she can carry out quickly.

Kenzi wakes up before Bo leaves and convinces Bo to stay in town. During their conversation, we learn that Bo is an orphan, and ever since puberty she’s killed people during moments of high stress. It’s beyond her control. She can’t do it at will, and she can’t stop it once it starts. So she tries to distance herself from people to protect them.

They get picked up by Detectives Dyson and Hale (Kris Holden-Reid and K.C. Collins, respectively), only the detectives are clearly more than they seem. Hale gets them to come along quietly by whistling.

The detectives take them to meet the Ash (Clé Bennett), and Bo learns that she is a “fae,” a supernatural creature. No one knows who or what, specifically, she is, but there is a human doctor who studies the fae with their consent. Her name is Lauren (Zoie Palmer), and during her exam of Bo, we learn two more things.

Bo is a succubus.

Bo can influence people by touch. She knows it, and she’s used that ability for years.

There are lots of fae, and they’ve fought a very long war between the Light and the Dark. Currently there’s an uneasy truce between the Light and Dark sides. Bo, of course, is thrust into the middle of this. Something about Bo is going to decide the struggle forever, so both sides want her to choose. They can’t force her, because that would start the war again.

Bo chooses not to join either side.

Kenzi talks Bo into setting up a detective agency and helping people, and fae, with fae-related problems.

On the Bubble

First off, Lost Girl is unoriginal.

Bo is a magic orphan. Magic orphans are a literary archetype. Other examples include Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker. Magic orphans have power beyond other people, and some sort of destiny.

Using an archetype isn’t a bad thing. They exist because they resonate with us, so using archetypes can be a powerful thing. However, it’s also a predictable thing. The magic orphan, for example, must undergo trials and training to master her power, and then take control of her destiny. We know what to expect.

Expectations can be confounded, of course. Good writers do it all the time. However, successfully confounding us requires first that the writer demonstrate an understanding of the archetype and the rules surrounding it. After that demonstration, the writer starts inserting rule-breaking moments or elements. He “hangs a lantern” on unexpected traits or actions. If you’ve ever heard a courageous character defend being afraid of spiders, that’s hanging a lantern on just this kind of writing.

I’m not seeing any of that in Lost Girl. We’re just supposed to go along for the ride.

Continuing with its lack or originality, Lost Girl is recycling folklore, and we’ve got a lot of that this season. Between Lost Girl, Grimm, and Once Upon a Time, we’re overloaded.

In fact, of those three, I’m most pleasantly surprised by Once Upon a Time. It’s the least muddled. It’s clearly dealing with archetypes, and uses the past vs. present structure to confound expectations and create multi-dimensional characters.

Lost Girl and Grimm, on the other hand, grab from every culture, put them in a bag, and then shake the bag until something falls out. So far on Lost Girl, we’ve got sirens, werewolves, kappa, a succubus, and furies. We never know what to expect, and that robs us of any sense of suspense or wonder.

Second (and much less irritating), Lost Girl has no sense of place. Is it Toronto? Montreal? Vancouver? Chicago? New York? We don’t know. Granted, that makes it easier to market to a broad audience, but it also makes it less grounded.

In urban fantasy like Lost Girl, grounding the show in real places with real people is critical. It throws the fantastic into sharp relief. When the weird and wonderful intrudes into everyday contemporary life, we get a jolt.

It’s possible that the creators are doing that on purpose in an attempt to make us feel unsettled, as if we were in some Limbo between myth and reality. If that’s their intent, they need to up the voltage.

Witchblade was much better at combining the weird and the mundane, particularly in the pilot but all through the first season. Once we knew that the Witchblade existed, suddenly little elements of architecture took on new significance, and the cameras drew out attention to them.

Lost Girl doesn’t seem that ambitious.

Why not just drop it? Read on.

WTF

Let’s talk about sex, because Lost Girl is pretty frank about it.

First off, Bo is a succubus. Those mythological creatures are pure sex. They seduce men in dreams, primarily through sexual intercourse.

Second, Bo “feeds” through sex. She heals wounds and recovers from illness via sex. She’s so happy when she finds out that she can have sex with fae, feed, and not kill them. I believe it was

And yet…

Anna Silk is undeniably beautiful, and the show is happy to have her take her clothes off. However, the show also costumes her in ways that are supposed to make her blend in. She doesn’t show excessive cleavage. She doesn’t wear tiny dresses or extremely short skirts.

That seems extremely reasonable considering that Bo lives her life avoiding contact and relationships with other people. She wouldn’t dress to draw attention.

I have this suspicion that the creators want to make her seem like a real person, with a healthy interest in sex, who also has practical needs in terms of dressing to keep warm and safe and comfortable. However, it comes across as a mixed message.

My wife and I watch a show called Primeval. There’s a character named Abby Maitland, played by the lovely Hannah Spearitt. In the first season, her home life with a stolen flying lizard and her co-worker Connor Temple (Andrew Lee Potts) played a significant role. The writers thought it was perfectly reasonable for Abby to wander around her home wearing very little. Ms. Spearitt lobbied for spending less time in her underwear, and the show let her deal with roommate issues via dialogue during other actions. The show improved when it stopped pandering to adolescents.

I’m sure you’re thinking that straight men everywhere must tune in to see Anna Silk’s partial TV nudity, and you may be right. Lost Girl has already run for three seasons on Canadian television, and I doubt scenes like this hurt it:

It bugs the crap out of me.

First, I hate being manipulated. In fact, I find ham-handed manipulation insulting because it’s so disrespectful.

Second, Anna Silk is better than this. My wife and I agree that she’s doing a very good job in a not great show. Her eyes convey intelligence, and she conveys Bo’s internal life very well. She’s a better actor than this.

Thoughts?

So the question has to be, how long do we hold our breath, waiting for the show to gel? The answer is, probably not very long. There’s too much competition for our attention.

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Posted in: television