“Ernie, I think we are the one true lodge.”
Say it, Connie! Tell us once and for all what’s long been suspected, both on screen and in various forums and group texts—that the ailing but scrappy members of Lodge 49 have made it heaven on Earth; that even as entire industries crumble around them, there are some man-made institutions, like the lodge system, that endure. Remind Ernie and viewers at home that, for all its mysteries, the lodge is ultimately just a structure that is given purpose by the people who enter it.
I apologize if I’m getting carried away, but “The Door,” Lodge 49's season-two finale, is such an incredibly beautiful and uplifting hour of television. It’s big-hearted TV in the vein of reality series like Great British Baking Show—which was always more invested in craftsmanship than competition—and scripted shows like Forever and The Good Place. Even as it underscores its characters flaws, Lodge 49 has never doubted their ability to do good when given the chance. Just look at how Liz takes on the possible albatrosses that are Champ and Jeremy to look for temp work as a team, or at Scott realizing that his vision for the lodge didn’t include what was actually best for it, or Dud helping Blaise find a new storefront. It’s the anti-Game Of Thrones, and not just because it shies away from plot-driven storytelling. Lodge 49 has full faith in every one of its characters (obviously, minus the Janets and Tariqs of Long Beach) to set the world right again, no prophecies needed. “We are special!,” Dud tells Blaise as they debrief after the Mexico trip, then, just as quickly: “no more special than anyone else, you know what I mean?”
Their paths have almost been as obstacle-strewn as Bran’s long journey to the Wall; they’ve been beset by debt, marital problems, corporate restructuring, deaths in the family, and the occasional attack by beast (surely, a shark qualifies). The Lynx—and Liz and the Shamroxx crew—have done some kind of shitty things, either due to their own egos or just spinning out in grief (e.g.., Blaise). But they’re equally capable of making amends as they are doing harm, which is how everyone ended up in Guadalajara last episode, in a hilarious and desperate attempt to secure the scrolls and the lodge’s financial future. That bid didn’t end well, though it could have been worse. Someone—say, L. Marvin Metz—could have gone splat after jumping from the jet at the end of “Le Rêve Impossible.” But Lamar lived to write turgid prose another day, though he regrettably doesn’t make an appearance tonight.
Other, nearly-as-captivating characters who don’t find their way into the season finale include El Confidente, Daphne, and Jocelyn (yes, Jocelyn, who tried, in his own way, to save Lodge 49). Instead, “The Door” returns to those who started it all: to Liz and Dud, who become the “mimes in space” they were destined to be (in reality, just night swimmers); to Ernie, who’s rediscovered his passion for life; to Blaise, who is finally “at home”; and to Scott and Connie, who didn’t lose each other in the dissolution of their marriage. After the road trips and would-be heists, the story loops back to Long Beach, where Burt is still collecting debts—and probably always will be—and Janet is still trying to find a way to exploit what has been (erroneously) referred to as Liz’s “death wish,” and will certainly continue to do so.
But just as in “Full Fathom Five,” Lodge 49 delivers resolution rather than a simple retread in its finale, which is hopefully just the end of this season and not the series. If it is the last ride, though, there is no better way to go out than with “The Door,” which comes full circle while still pointing to all the paths not yet taken. The Lynx recommit to their order and each other. Ernie ascends to the role of Sovereign Protector and part-time manager at Super Sales, while making his mentorship of Dud official. Blaise buys into the Orbis housing development (if it can be called that) and becomes Champ’s neighbor. Another trip is planned, this time to Catalina. Dud realizes he can dig his own pool, an idea that Liz actually supports. Many of these new opportunities and directions are spelled out with the Orbis drilling equipment looming in the background, perhaps symbolizing how tapped-out capitalist ventures are.
From the beginning, Lodge 49 has posited that there is a better way, and “The Door” helps define it. Ernie helped Dud find community, and Dud helped Ernie find family. Blaise helped heal Dud, then Dud vouched for Blaise (to the real estate agent, who’s prepared to “spot” the apothecary a few months’ rent while he sorts his business out). Liz stuck her neck out for her Higher Steaks employees, and ended up with a temping entourage. No one has had to do it on their own, not even Scott, whose abrasiveness initially kept his fellow Lynx at arm’s length, but whose ideas for the lodge are finally being heard (even implemented). Written by Jim Gavin, the finale pays off on the character-driven storylines, while continuing to tease more fantastical possibilities. Still, as Ernie notes in tonight’s exceptionally moving episode, the thing about quests is that they end.
“The Door” is a great bridge to a season three, and also an immensely respectful and generous ending to the stories of these Long Beach residents. Despite the presence of the scrolls, no one’s troubles are waved away. They do tackle their obstacles together, though, starting with Ernie returning the Thing to Dud to help him get out on the road as a traveling salesman, and cop a few more “miles” before knighthood. The sense of unity is palpable, and made all the more so by the time that the episode devotes to Dud and Liz’s respective storylines. Dud stumbling onto the lodge was the Big Bang of this world of possibilities, and his faith is what has often kept it turning. But he also experienced significant doubts, doubts that led him to an annulled marriage and Speedy’s old job (though that seems to be working out).
Liz, meanwhile, has rarely had the luxury of even being okay, let alone happy. She retains the same mettle she showed in season one, but this year, Liz proved to be more than just capable of rolling with the punches—she actually threw one. What’s more, she was finally able to shed that air of resignation, the one that quelled ambition and led so many people to say she had a death wish. As the psychic suggests, “Maybe you’re just drawn to what other people fear. That probably makes you more alive.” The night swim she takes with Dud helps him get back in the water, but the move was just as important for her—it allowed her to reconnect with her mother (who enjoyed swimming at night), something she’d been trying to do all season long. Liz no longer feels tied down by family, but she has strengthened her ties to her brother and their mother.
As befits the show’s sense of balance and complementarity, Dud is fixated on their dad, and how losing him opened up the door to the lodge and the other parts of his new life. “I don’t know if I can square that,” Dud tells Ernie. “On some days, all the beautiful things in my life break my heart. Will it always feel this way?” It’s been happening all season long, but in this scene, Lodge 49 makes clear the toll that Dud’s optimism exacts. That fear and sadness haven’t immobilized him, but they have taken some of the (temp) joy out of things like his potential knighthood. And in demonstrating Dud’s crisis of faith and revived convictions, Wyatt Russell has turned in one of the best, most under-the-radar performances of the year. His reading of “He’s even more beautiful than I imagined!” (re: Beautiful Jeff) is one of my favorite things about this TV season, period. The sunniness he displays could easily be written off as an extension of Russell’s natural charisma, but the chill we feel when it turns off, however briefly, is testament to just how carefully calibrated his performance is.
Dud’s wised up; he’s no longer blithely oblivious, but he’s still genuinely concerned about everyone around him. It reflects the maturation of the show, which has gone from casting about for answers to rebuilding a community from the ruins of commerce. Instead of world domination or annihilation, Lodge 49 has focused on rehabilitation, on healing. And it’s done so through compelling, occasionally even breathless, storytelling, which makes it the most impressive of all the big-hearted shows. We question because we care; we don’t care just because we have questions. Jim Gavin and Peter Ocko have left the door open to new adventures, but their effortlessly captivating series will be no less so if this is the end. And how many shows can say that? (But, if you’re reading this, AMC, more Lodge 49 could only be a good thing.)
- Jim Gavin and Jake Schreier handled finale duties again, and acquitted themselves nicely.
- Paul Giamatti has to get an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a drama, right? Right?
- Connie adopts a nom de plume (Abdulliyah or Abdulia Bardwell?) and sheds her writer’s block, which would surely make Lamar proud.
- The three-way handshake between Dud, Bob, and Ernie was so pure and so clumsy, that it brought a tear to my eye.
- “I want this to be your moment, too!” Yeah, I just about lost it there. Brent Jennings is my favorite.
- Lingering questions: What happened to Genevieve? Why was Herman in Guadalajara? Did El Confidente really give up questing, or has he become raveled in Janet’s scheme? Who exactly called Melinda/Clara? What was going on at Ludibrium?
- I couldn’t find anything on any of the Knights Of The Round Table being buried alive the way Dud kind of is by the rain/gravel. But maybe that makes him the Lady Of The Lake? Will he pass Excalibur on to Liz, who is almost certainly Jackie Loomis reincarnated? I mean, that would explain her intense feelings of déjà vu when she saw the throne room.
- I’ve gotten much better at explaining the appeal of this show, including the fact that it is just gorgeous. There’s a fresco quality to the photography and cinematography, which complements the flatter, religious icon look of the moments where characters appear to have a halo or crown behind their heads.
- Season grade: A. I don’t know where we go from here, but the fact that I immediately wanted to re-immerse myself in the world of Lodge 49 is a pretty good indicator of just how superb this sophomore season was.
- Thank you for reading along and for providing great insights and comments! I’m sorry we had to double up on reviews at one point in the first half, as it’s been a lot of fun reading the discussions you all have among yourselves at the end of each episode. Speaking of which, someone posted something on the WOT that placed Lodge 49 in the same context as The Good Place, which just feels so spot-on.