Recently, I watched El Camino, the Breaking Bad movie. If you are reading a culture site, you probably did as well. I thought Breaking Bad was great, in all its bleak glory. So many of the big, hit shows, and the critically-acclaimed darlings, are dark in one way or another. They are dark like Mad Men, or dark like Game of Thrones. Also, sometimes terrible like Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones sucks. Deal with it. I don’t mind dark at all, but when you get something that is bright, empathetic, and fun, it can be a breath of fresh air. That’s what has been so great about Lodge 49. Well, part of it.
Lodge 49 is the rare hour-long comedy-drama that balances the comedy and drama equally well, and treats them with equal import. The second season just ended. It was really good, just like the first season. It was also barely watched. Lodge 49 is a cult show, but the cult is in love with it because it gives them something that no other show does. It brims with hope and optimism. It’s also beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and genuinely funny. We fear there won’t be a third season. All we can do is champion the show and hope for the best.
When the show began, I decided to watch it because the ads had a Big Lebowski, Inherent Vice vibe to them. It’s not really like that, even if the show takes place in sunny California and features a main character, Wyatt Russell’s Sean “Dud” Dudley, that seems like a slacker, stoner type. He’s not, though. He’s simply a man dealing with pain, with being lost, while trying to see the sunny side of things.
So many characters on the show, almost everybody buy Sean and his twin sister Liz, are middle aged and dealing with life changes. This is a show with empathy and compassion, but it doesn’t ignore the realities of the world. Characters deal with job uncertainty, debt, failed relationships, and death. They spent their time hanging out at a fraternal lodge, the titular Lodge 49 of the Order of the Lynx. It feels like a hang out show, but then it started to get crazy.
The second season featured the main cast pondering the mysteries of the sacred scrolls that were written by the order’s founder Fritz Howard Merrill. The journey brings them across some colorful characters, like Cheech Marin’s El Confidente, who paints the future that he sees in his dreams, and the insane, and insanely prolific, author L. Marvin Metz, played with aplomb by Paul Giamatti. This journey ended in the penultimate episode of the season. It was great. Ernie, Dud’s best friend other than his sister, jumps through a flaming tapestry while dressed like a mariachi. What could be left for the finale?
It turns out quietness and closure. Ernie is made the Supreme Leader of Lodge 49. He also gets Dud his car back. This is what qualifies as the events of the season finale. And that’s fine, because it’s all so lived in and wonderful. These are characters you genuinely enjoy spending time with. I get a lot of laughs from the show, but it can nail the pathos as well. Dud and Ernie go on great adventures, but the crux of this episode is a heart-to-heart conversation they have in the lodge’s previously secret library. Dud is trying to square all the joy he is feeling in his life with the lingering pain of his dad’s death. He asks Ernie, who reveals this season for the first time he had a child die young and it made his life unravel, if it always feels like this. Ernie tells him it does, but it’s the price you have to pay for all the good stuff you get to experience. No show makes you laugh, and then tear up, like Lodge 49.
The second season ends with Dud being struck by lightning as he digs a pool, he has a string of bad luck. This leads to him sinking in the dirt, but then falling through a door of the lodge that had previously been of unknown providence. There is some magical realism to the show, but with an emphasis on the realism. It’s a cliffhanger I want to see answered deeply. Mostly, I want to spend more time with Dud, Liz, Ernie, and even Beautiful Jeff, who is even more beautiful than Dud imagined. Lodge 49 is a great show that delivers everything you could want from a TV show. It’s also a find respite from the darkness that looms on TV, and in life. In Lodge 49, people band together to get through the darkness together, and it brings viewers along for the journey.