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Lost Girl (Seasons 1 and 2)

2005248

Lost Girl shouldn’t be a good show. With a premise like “bisexual succubus with a werewolf boyfriend investigates supernatural crimes and uses sex to heal herself”, it should, in fact, be an unsightly mess. But somehow, it takes that easily exploitable premise and turns it into a terrifically watchable light-hearted urban fantasy action series stocked with characters that I absolutely love. It’s funny without descending into Hercules: The Legendary Journey cheesiness, and dramatic without ever taking itself, say, Battlestar Galactica seriously. Obviously a show about a woman who eats sex and fights monsters has more than its share of sex and violence, but what drives the show is how much the characters seem to genuinely care for each other, especially the main character, Bo, and her best friend, Kenzi.

The world of Lost Girl is a secret world of Fae creatures, including goblins, werewolves, sirens, will o’ wisps – as well as mesmerists, telepaths, and other less obviously folkloric creatures – who live among, and feed off of, humans. Their near immortality allows them to acquire tremendous power and influence in the human world, as police officers, club owners, and wealthy patrons of the arts. Bo, the protagonist, is the titular lost girl, raised among humans with no knowledge of her Fae heritage. When her uncontrollable appetite for sexual energy emerged ten years ago, she went on the run, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. After she uses her powers to save a human girl, however, the local Fae of her latest refuge apprehend her. Now she must choose between the Dark and the Light, but Bo’s been on her own a long time, and she’s not so sure she wants to play by anyone’s rules…

If that sounds ludicrous, well, it often is. Episodic threats range from pregnant nightmares to cursed tribes of circus folk to existential evils from a prehistoric age. In the background is always the centuries-old truce between the Dark and the Light Fae, and the possibility that Bo, unaligned as she is, might tip the balance and spark a new war. There is also the more personal mystery of who Bo’s real parents are, and why she was left to be raised by humans. These tensions drive the arc of each season, with Dark or Light characters trying to manipulate Bo into serving their interests, or Bo taking particular jobs because they promise answers about her origins. While these are handled pretty well for what they are, the strongest drama and overall emotional payoff comes not from the Epic Battle of Good and Evil and What is Evil Anyway and Is Bo the Chosen One, but from the way the characters interact with each other and this strange, magical world. The characters are what makes the show fun, quality entertainment.

Before giving Lost Girl a shot, I tried to watch Once Upon a Time, which is also about a strong female lead with mystery parents who finds herself in a fantasy world trying to right wrongs. I only made it about two episodes in; something in the story didn’t click, felt stilted and forced. They’ve got great actors, an interesting premise, and yet…I didn’t care. About any of it. Meanwhile, in Probably Canada, I’m tearing up because Bo’s heart is breaking and Kenzi is being the bestest friend. Relationships in Lost Girl feel immediately real and genuine because the writing and the acting meet each other and make it work. Characters like Dyson and Trick convey a real sense of history between each other, Bo and Kenzi’s affection for each other feels so sincere it breaks your heart a little bit, and a sweetness develops between the characters as they go on adventures together. I believe these characters, and I believe that they actually like each other, and that makes all the difference.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important that central friendship is to the show. Bo should be a ridiculous, exploitative Super Sexy Action Chick stereotype. Kenzi should be the obnoxiously “cute” comic relief. Instead, they are the emotional heart of the show, as they live in a drafty squat and take odd jobs from magical weirdos to keep themselves in booze and breakfast cereal long enough to scare up a job that doesn’t pay them in secrets or character development. Lovers betray them, go missing, or die, but it’s Bo and Kenzi against the world every time, and I think that’s what makes this show great. It’s really a show about two women who care about each other, and support each other, whether that’s against the pain of deceitful lovers or the midnight attacks of morag assassins. I believe in this core relationship. It’s what brings me back, whatever other missteps that the writers may make along the way.

I guess I’m making this sound a little soap opera-esque, so let me emphasize that Lost Girl is way too fun to get hung up on heartbreak and melodrama. Your OTP broke up? Don’t worry, Mama Kenzi is going to take you out on the TOWN. Going to the bar is a Once an Episode occurrence; actually, half the important scenes in the show might happen at the Dal, and half the booze in the show goes right into Kenzi. Relationships end, human and fae alike die horrible deaths, and the end of the entire world is probably just around the corner, but Kenzi will crack a joke, Bo will wear leather pants, and we’ll all go drink about it at the Dal afterward.

It’s fair to say that the writers do make some unfortunate choices, although I’d say they are fairly predictable ones. A lot of the romantic tension involves the love triangle with Bo, Lauren, and Dyson, and let me tell you, it’s rough being a long-time love interest of those last two. There’s a strong current in the show encouraging Bo to settle down to a monogamous relationship, and no one (well, no one who isn’t Dark Fae) seems to question that unspoken mandate, even though everything about her character suggests she is inherently polyamorous. She can also be a bit of a self-righteous, hypocritical dick about murder sometimes, showing little mercy for attempted date-rapists and creepy graverobbing kidnappers, but going all Louis from Interview with a Vampire when it comes to killing an acknowledged serial killer.

I do also wish there were more people of color on the show. Occasionally a glaring missed opportunity will pop up in an episode (why were the kirin and aswangs white?), although the fact that the show mines non-Western folklore at all is kind of an incredible leap forward. Only one of the main cast is nonwhite, and he’s a self-confessed sidekick. Other black characters come and go every other episode, ranging in power from murder victim to the Ash himself, Lord of the Light Fae. It’s better than the average fantasy or science fiction show, where a black actor is typically cast as the Proud Alien Warrior, but it could still be better.

That said, and the occasional shoe sale joke aside, Lost Girl feels both sex and femme positive to me. We see loving same sex relationships (although usually with a tragic twist for one reason or another), and no one cares to comment on either Bo’s promiscuity (aside from the love triangle tension mentioned above) or Kenzi’s complete lack of a sex life, which demonstrates a pretty progressive attitude toward sex, although there is a disappointingly typical attitude toward BDSM as the province of freaks and villains in one episode. There’s a lot of complicated stuff happening with the sexual content of Lost Girl, but it’s progress. They took a creature that represents everything that men fear about female sexuality, and made her a hero. Sex isn’t a weapon for Bo; it’s a power. That’s got to mean something.

Lost Girl is a surprisingly well put-together, character-driven show, and I recommend it without reservations or caveats. Bo is strong and vulnerable, a capable fighter and charismatic leader, a hot-tempered outsider prone to getting in over her head, but also wise enough to rely on the strength and expertise of friends when necessary. I have a soft spot for heroes who gather allies through their goodness, decency, and tendency to do the right thing even when it is to their detriment. Bo is good to people, and her heroism gathers heroes to her, so that when she faces the enemy, whether a powerful magical being or the darkness within herself, she is not alone. I guess maybe that’s a little cheesy, but it’s what I love about this show. Bo saves people, but sometimes needs a little help from her friends. Bo saves Kenzi, and Dyson saves Bo, and Kenzi saves Dyson. The Garuda, the Naga, the Morrigan, these big bads are all there, looming in the background, but that’s not the real drama. What really matters is which of our friends is in trouble, and what are we going to do about it?

Watch it on Netflix. Or, if you are in Canada, at its home page on Showcase.

Buy it on Amazon. Or, if you have a preferred vendor, feel free to mention them in the comments. I’d like to list additional options on future reviews.

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