None of us are immune to conversations regarding that latest must-binge box set, be it the truest of crimes or most fantastical and strange a thing, and invariably the conversation lies in predictions, contemplations and what the mystery will be when finally revealed. It’s so exciting not to know, to be part of not knowing, and that excitement’s fuelled television for a while; Lost, of course, kept folks throwing out theories for 6 seasons, while Flashforward, The Event, Manifest and such gave audiences the same ‘what is going on?’ question for almost a complete season before being cancelled, because nobody cared. Now, the Netflix model has unleashed yet more mysteries, twists, thrills and spills to talk over a pint in an evening, and scream ‘I’m only on episode 3, don’t tell me!’ at one another. Meanwhile, in comes AMC’s Lodge 49, fashionably late to a party it wasn’t invited to and happy eating some leftovers, cracking open a beer and sitting in the corner, letting the world wash over it. A slacker mystery of the (ahem) highest order.
Lodge 49 centres on slacker-surfer Dud (Wyatt Russell), who finds his life lacking direction after a horrible snakebite, the loss of his family’s pool-cleaning company and the death of his father. Finding a ring on the beach, he begins to set in motion the riddle of where the jewellery comes from, and ultimately the world of Lodge 49. Simultaneously, Ernie (Brent Jennings) is managing the outlet of the secret society know as Lodge 49, as its leader is ailing and missing, its community is dwindling and his work life and love life are spiralling. Two lost souls looking for some push in the right direction, they open the door to one another and, ultimately, a whole host of questions and red herrings; Lodge 49 really embraces the lackadaisical ‘what will happen next?’ attitude twinned with the need to just have a good time in this life.
Stepping off from the post-modern slacker-noirs of The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski, and Under The Silver Lake, Lodge 49 embraces the sunny landscape of California for its dark underbelly mystery, and amps up the bizarre world of those that choose to inhabit it. Every twist is played straight, but the stakes really seem high; there’s no pulling out of guns, there are no kidnappings and threats, there are just the stakes of life’s direction. The tone is almost always upbeat and relaxed; it’s a good-time TV show that also happens to be full of riddles and enigmas, but at its core is about relationships. Relationships between Dud and Ernie, between Dud and the Lodge-goers, Dud and his sister, Ernie and his boss, Ernie and the Lodge, Ernie and a contract known as “The Captain”, whoever he is, if he even exists. Well-written, immensely performed and always served with a smile, Lodge 49 plays many notes over 10 episodes, and yet never feels malicious, mischievous or manipulative.
Russell is at his peak as Dud. If you’ve watched him in any film, you’ll note he has a laid-back, chill persona going on, but never more so than in Lodge 49, where he’s allowed to dig deep into the slacker nature. When Dud has to face reality outside the Lodge, and contemplate moving on from the losses in his life, Russell invigorates the role with so much hidden emotion, without missing a step. Jennings’ Ernie, meanwhile, plays manipulation and desperation so well, alongside a fervent belief in his own actions, so even when he begins doing questionable things, you pull for him to bring the Lodge together before it’s too late. Sonya Cassidy as Dud’s sister, Liz, is a stand-out of the show, trying to climb a career ladder while never losing her sense of self and friends she’s made along the way – any time we focus on her, things are both fun and full of hope.
Lodge 49 dropped on Amazon Prime Video in the UK around the same time it aired in America, but with nary a fanfare. It’s a shame that the show has fallen by the wayside for people; this is the kind of light-hearted yet compelling television that draws audiences in, gets them guessing where it will go, but keeps them coming back for the characters, the scripts, the gorgeous cinematography and the kind, feel-good tone. The Good Place garners a lot of attention for the same reasons, and while Lodge 49 doesn’t have the same level of mystery attached to it, the show still pulls the rug from under our feet time and again. Lodge 49 is wonderfully sweet, earnest, hilarious, hopeful and kind. Too few shows embrace humanity to this degree, while also asking bigger questions amid the hunt for answers. Add this to your watchlist and get ready for 10 delightful instalments and some magnificent performances to boot.
Lodge 49: Season 1 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.