Dispatches From Lodge 49’s Elsewhere

As of now, my prior article on Lodge 49 is the most read of 2020. (It has a leg up by being the year’s first blog.) So that’s a sign that the public demands I write more about it! What if all the TV series halting production before completing their seasons is cosmic punishment for nobody stepping up to bring back Lodge 49 after AMC’s president, Sarah Barnett, slew it despite claiming to champion art? Skedaddle past my SPOILERY Dispatches From Elsewhere critique so you can read me rant about Lynxes some more! Just kidding! I reference it a bunch in the review too.

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“Imagine you’re midway through eating a scrumptious tri-tip sandwich off a paper plate when the server tosses the last half in the trash. Then they give you a Philly cheesesteak on a silver platter. These sandwiches are comparable in quality & have their own unique aspects, BUT YOU WANTED TO FINISH EATING YOUR ORIGINAL SANDWICH!” AMC’s treatment of Lodge 49 & Dispatches From Elsewhere as explained with food metaphors. Also both have fake water scams.

Much like how Batwoman being greenlit wasn’t directly the cause of Gotham getting whacked, Dispatches From Elsewhere wasn’t entirely to blame for AMC condemning Lodge 49. So I gave it a shot. (I didn’t stream any episodes online so traitorous AMC couldn’t get ratings data from me!) Unfortunately much like Batwoman, the unofficial replacement isn’t as intriguing as what came before. D From E has a somewhat more famous cast, yet that doesn’t automatically make it the more worthwhile series. (Eve Lindley is its least famous yet most compelling player.) Meanwhile Lodge 49’s ensemble cast of character actors is more than the sum of its parts. DFE’s best episode, “Clara,” is directed by Alethea Jones, future Emmy winner for Lodge 49’s “Circles.”

I didn’t read about the original game or watch  its documentary so I would be surprised. Creator Jason Segel relocated it from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Its premise is a quartet of strangers (Segel, Lindley, Andre 3000 Benjamin, & Sally Field) who become friends playing an elaborate scavenger hunt/LARP about the feud between The Jejune Institute & The Elsewhere Society. The Jejune Institute presents itself as a responsible for many revolutionary products, but it’s unclear whether it’s a known company in this reality. It takes Fredwynn several episodes to hypothesize that Jejune is a sham, which seems like something an obsessive hardcase would’ve researched immediately. (Yes, Fredwynn, why does the government seek to silence Hollow Earth proponents?) I suspected the dueling factions were two sides of the same coin early on, so the late reveal that the game was illustrating a false dichotomy between art & commerce felt perfunctory. The series feels skewed against commerce as it showcases the sacrifices to corporate advertising Clara/Lee made for her projects.

Don’t Trust The D In Apartment E is narrated as a fairy tale similar to certain episodes of Legion. The narrator, usually the delightful Richard E. Grant as Octavio Coleman Esq., explains that the lead character for each episode is you, the viewer. This can grow tiresome. If you have to directly instruct viewers to be empathetic to your characters, they probably aren’t going to be interested in the show to begin with. The quartet was paired based on psych profiles for how they’d complement each other, so it’s not as if it was an uphill battle for them finding common ground either. For a show about “divine nonchalance,” it can be too heavyhanded in its execution.

The most graceful arc is Simone’s & Peter’s courtship, which is ironic given that it’s realistically awkward. Simone, anxious about whether Peter understands she’s transgender, temporarily sabotages it by vexedly asking him whether he prefers cake or pie, which Peter cannot answer. This is a trick question! There are too many different varieties of cake & pie to give a blanket answer. (Plus you have to clarify where cheesecake stands.) Without specific examples of each to compare (crab cake or pumpkin pie?), this is a lousy way to gauge romantic compatibility.

Talking to yourself is normal; a different personality replying is not. Simone converses with Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot. Janice is mocked by a phantom of her younger self. (Jason Segel does this in the finale too.) Bipolar Clara Torres/Lee feels so guilt-ridden about selling out to get The IDEA, her augmented reality project, funded that she centers the game around an externalized version of her younger self. Fredwynn is like Sherlock Holmes, although his hypercognition is presented as simultaneously debilitating & allowing him to transcend into a narrator. Depressed Peter has anhedonia. His literalism, apparent lack of an inner life, & flattened affect suggests he’s on the autism spectrum, but the show doesn’t confirm it. While this seems like a lot of nuerodivergent representation, the series often frames these as flights of whimsy. As a fellow literalist, I refuse to interpret them as mere visual metaphors.

The penultimate episode ends on a trippy cliffhanger where a clown child spirits Peter away… that is not resolved at all! Rather than giving closure to the characters we’ve been following for weeks, the last episode is all about Jason Segel himself not the more sympathetic Peter. Segel’s roman a clef is nowhere as engaging as Mae Martin’s Feel Good. Fourth Wall breaks are no longer mindblowing. Dispatches From Elsewhere’s finale was terribly self-indulgent & unsatisfying. It makes all the meandering montages in Better Call Saul seem narratively essential. (I’d stab Better Call Saul in the face if it’d bring back Lodge 49, & I like that show!) I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t hate this series only for it to betray all its hard-earned good will!

The clown child turns out to be young Jason Segel doing an extended metaphor about how he didn’t enjoy being on How I Met Your Mother. Adult Segel bemoans his career as a successful actor & screenwriter. If only we all had such problems! (Now I’m reconsidering whether I liked his The Muppets.) His mid-life crisis is not interesting! Then we see Segel participate in the  Jejune Institute experience that inspired this program. He writes a screenplay about it that other characters tell him is wonderful. If you don’t know Segel’s filmography, this is utterly confusing. If you do, it’s like someone laborious explaining their own joke that wasn’t particularly funny. Even when he admits his faults it seems self-congratulatory. When he’s called out for making it all about himself, he claims the finale is actually about everybody who made & watched it. His preachy moral is that we’re all part of something special because we each have unique problems. That’s like one step above the message tacked onto the denouement of Guardians. This is not a revelatory reward for viewership. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl & Lodge 49 have similar optimistic inclusive messages but they weaved them organically into their stories. Not everything needs a profound thesis to be worthwhile, but I had been led to believe there’d be a meatier return on my investment. Pointers on how to coexist with the fundamentally belligerent & ignorant would’ve be a much more constructive message.

After ten episodes we still don’t have a clear notion of what the game was about. How was it effective promotion for Bender-Ellmore’s ad-laden augmented reality headsets? If Clara/Lee privately financed it herself with sellout money, why would she portray corporations as equally valid as artists at the game’s conclusion? Is Lee going to move to a more creatively rewarding field? Did Fredwynn literally ascend to a higher plane or did he just drive himself catatonic? If the latter, will he get the treatment he needs to recover? These vexing loose ends could’ve been easily wrapped up if the ninth episode was bit longer. Then the last episode as an explanatory epilogue would’ve been acceptable. Segel didn’t even have the decency to write a bad ending, making the whole show feel like a waste of time. This was an “It was all a dream” ending cloaked in navel-gazing metatextuality. I was going to say this series was ambitious but only intermittently successful, but now this would be the season’s most disappointing prestige TV if it wasn’t for The Sinner’s third outing.

Dispatches From Elsewhere has been described by its omniscient narrators as a “limited run episodic.” Despite this, it seems like AMC wants to bring it back as an anthology series. Why? Just let it be a one & done. It seems like a huge gamble each season when at least Lodge 49 had a plan for its next two. It didn’t work for The Terror going into the unrelated The Terror: Infamy despite the subject matter seeming perfect for more isolation horror. Does Dispatches From Elsewhere really have the brand recognition to justify continuation? (It’s not as egregious as Dirty John: Betty having nothing to do with Dirty John including its network.) Although I’ll allow it if it becomes Dispatches From Elsewhere: Lodge 49!

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I’ve spent a lot of space discussing Dispatches From Elsewhere here, but I really wanted to focus on Lodge 49. Unfortunately I didn’t budget my time wisely enough to really explain its wonders to newbies. (Maybe I’ll do it eventually?) I wager if I don’t say something immediately about Dispatches From Elsewhere then no one will care, & I won’t have a better opportunity to keep plugging Jim Gavin’s & Peter Ocko’s magnum opus interrupted. Please go back & look at the earlier articles so you can get a slightly better sense of this ineffable show. Lynxes should grok this blog though.

I don’t want to begrudge other fandoms, but the save Anne With An E fervor hitting at the same time as save Lodge 49 wasn’t helpful. Every time we struggled to get the Lodge 49 campaign trending, It’d get drowned out by Anne fans. If only their cancellations hadn’t overlapped! Furthermore I’ve been informed that Anne With An E does have a conclusion, albeit rushed. A typically abrupt Netflix cancellation would’ve been announced after the season was released, not before. So it was able to wrap things up with a planned end, unlike Lodge 49 getting its legs cut out from under it. If only this had been made clearer to fans … well they probably still would’ve campaigned.

“Hey Netflix, could you please save critical darling & cult fave Lodge 49?” “Nah, we’re going to shill Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury snake oil brand instead.” Since it only need two seasons to wrap up, it would’ve fit the Netflix model perfectly. I presume it not having the streaming rights to the first two seasons mucked that up. So curse Hulu & Amazon Prime for not following through!

My cat put me to sleep after listening to this Pod 49 interview, & I dreamt there was another episode where Scott gets a battleaxe from a secret Lynx armory.

Since they’re wealthier than the blue collar cast, Janet Price & L. Marvin Metz seem like they should be antagonists but are in the same boat as the protagonists. Late stage capitalism’s collapse is just hitting them differently. The real antagonist of Lodge 49 is amorphous misfortune that strikes at Dud in particular. Janet’s schemes are self-serving but she does come through for others once Liz pressures her. She is versed in the economic teachings of Hartwood Fritz Merrill but was conditioned by her parents to become an Elizabeth Holmesian fraudster. The end of season two suggests she might try franchising Lynx Lodges. Could she revitalize Lodge membership with her esoteric marketing acumen, or will she drain it of its wonders via consumerism? Lamar is much friendlier but his ambitions can disastrously exceed his reach. He is the personification of “grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Although an extremely prolific writer, he possesses none of the practical skills he boasts of mastering whilst chronicling Tom Stone’s exploits. In summation, give Paul Giamatti an Emmy for best guest actor!

Metz isn’t in any of El Confidante’s paintings. He’s a writer compelled to jump through glass panes. Is he trying to literally break the Fourth Wall? He mysteriously vanishes after the plane crash. Does he actually come from another plane of existence & is subconsciously trying to return? Wyatt Russell made a cast & crew shirt featuring Dud entering the show’s writers’ room via portal after all. (I saw a picture of one online & forgot to save it for future reference.)

Hey it’s a profile on me. This would never happen to L. Marvin Metz. Just because you can write a novel, it doesn’t mean that you should.

Since it leaked they’re looking for an “Alison Brie-type,” what if Disney+ casts Sonya Cassidy as Jennifer Walters the Sensational She-Hulk? Lodge 49 has demonstrated that she’s superb at comedy, American accents, & smashing! We’ll most likely get Brie-Hulk (The real deal must be at least as jacked as BossLogic’s render & several hues more vibrant.), but I had to put it out there since her televisual brother gets to play US Agent. (Stephanie Beatriz is another good choice bandied about.) Sonya Cassidy & Nicole Power need to play sisters in something, perhaps an arc on Kim’s Convenience. (Here’s Simu Liu discussing how momentous Shang-Chi will be.)

I WILL BURY YOU WITH YOUR GOLDEN ARM!!! (This was directed by Sam Raimi in case you’re worried about Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness being too scary.) What if flattening the curve on COVID-19 unleashes an even more virulent outbreak of pulmonary gold disease? Are Misty Knight & Thor more susceptible to it?

Continue watching Lodge 49 on Hulu whilst you shelter in place! Isn’t all sheltering in a single place, much like how all dispatches arrive from elsewhere? As soon as it’s safe to travel again, I’m off to The Paciifc Trash Vortex to collect it on VHS! Keep Fydrated!

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