The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom


Television Collision: Lost Girl Is A Lost Cause

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageCanadian fantasy show Lost Girl is currently airing its first season on SyFy for American viewers. CC2K’s TV Editor Phoebe Raven already reviewed the show last year, when it made its initial run in Canada. Her conclusion: don’t get sucked in (pun intended).

By now everyone has realized there is a hype of the supernatural surging through all genres of pop-culture. Many lament the Twilight series at the heart of this phenomenon, but it is only a symptom of what has been lingering underneath the surface for a long time. As it was with Harry Potter and wizardry, now everyone is jumping on the supernatural bandwagon and releasing surge after surge of vampire-, werewolf- and other-supernatural-being-filled pop-culture items.

It should come as no surprise then that Showcase is throwing a TV show about fae into the mix these days, and while I don’t find it as ludicrous as Twilight’s “sparkle in the sunlight” vamps, Lost Girl still misses the mark of being a good show by a long shot.
For all of you who stumbled over the term “fae” — though these days I can’t imagine it to be many of you — it is basically describing fairies, but not in the harmless Tinkerbelle sort of way.

Fae is the general term for all kinds of supernatural beings, who are gifted in some way, shape or form, which can manifest physically (shape shifting for example), but also just be a power they can exert with their mind (mind-control, driving people insane etc.). All fae (mostly) appear in human form, but can shift and bring their “real self” out whenever they please. So far, so intriguing. If you decide to include fae in your work — be it books, movies or a TV show — you have a large range of beings you can play with, there are less rules than there are in the established vampire genre.
(A great example of how exciting this can be can be found in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, which CC2K’s Book Editor Beth Woodward introduced me to and which I can recommend to all others as well.)

Vampires have been part of folklore and therefore of popular culture for so long that everyone knows the “rules” to this genre. Stake to the heart, sunlight, no reflection, holy water, crosses, garlic… and so on and so forth. Now, these days most vampire-related pop-culture commodities pick and choose from these general rules of the genre. Where in Buffy the vamps still didn’t have a reflection, in Vampire Diaries they can even walk in the sun (thanks to those stupid magic rings), in Twilight sunlight simply makes them sparkle and most of the vamps have lost all respect for the Church and its symbols. Yeah, yeah, even the vamps’ morals have gone to hell, what can I say?!

The rules for the fae world haven’t been established yet, though. Looking back at pop-culture we got the occasional “demon”, who could even possess fae-like abilities such as mind-control or shape shifting, but the specific term “fae” hasn’t been heavily used per se.
Now, of course, we got the incredibly disappointing revelation this season on True Blood that Sookie is a fairy, a fact she even commented on as “How lame is that?”, so I am guessing we will see an increase of fae and fairies in the near future.

So in a way Lost Girl is the spear head of this new “Fae Movement” and many ground breakers don’t have it easy. However, some ground breakers simply broke ground with more skill than Lost Girl attempts. Just to clarify, I am not riffing on this show because it is Canadian, I actually welcome variety in my TV schedule and rejoice at every quality show not produced in America, just for diversity’s sake. However, I hold every show to the same high standards I have come to expect from watching too much HBO and Mad Men. Sorry, but once the bar is raised, there is no way to unraise it.

ImageAt the center of Lost Girl is Bo, a wildly charismatic woman, who is actually a succubus. Meaning she sucks the life energy from people, mostly men, who she sleeps with and they end up dead next to her in her bed. This fact has led to her running all her life, from the law, presumably. Her powers, however, don’t end here. Her mere touch is intoxicating and basically makes the person she touches (male or female) horny and lose their own will. In general, you’d be better served staying away from Bo.

What Bo didn’t know, because she was abandoned as a child and grew up in an orphanage, is that the fae world is actually quite organized and they take care of their own. They live in secret, of course — because only True Blood is bold enough to attempt a version where supernatural life is made public — and they are divided into two “teams”, the Dark Fae and the Light Fae. Yes, you may read “Bad Fae” and “Good Fae” into this. What happens is that every fae is put through a “test” at a certain age, which is a fight to the death against another fae, and if he or she survives this duel, they have to choose a side.

Now, Bo, finally discovered by the fae world and given some information as to what she actually is, has to fight in such a duel as well and wins — highly unlikely as it is, seeing as how she only just learned how to harness her powers properly — and then has the audacity to choose neither side and remain unaffiliated. This is unheard of in the fae world and instantly establishes her as an outsider and “the cool kid”.

The theory of Lost Girl is great. I love the concept of a literally man-eating, strong, independent woman at the center of a supernatural show. Ever since Buffy we have had too many human females falling for the male supernatural creatures instead of being empowered themselves. However, Lost Girl fumbles in the execution of this great idea.
The pilot episode was a hot mess, which tried to do too many things at once, establishing not only Bo’s character history but also her unlikely friendship with human girl Kenzi, who for some reason just keeps hanging around and is indefinable in terms of how old she actually is. Furthermore the pilot also tried to establish the entire fae world the show is supposed to be set in as well as introduce Bo’s male counterpart and eternal love interest.

I made it past the pilot though, because I am not easily deterred by crappy TV craftsmanship (I am a loyal Bones viewer even though I continually point out the incompetence of the show’s writers), but Lost Girl only marginally gets better. For some reason Bo and her human sidekick Kenzi think it’s a good idea to set up a sort of “private investigating service” — and am I the only one who is reminded of Joss Whedon’s Angel here? — which would be a fine choice if
a) Bo new anything about being a fae and how to harness and use her powers to her advantage without her powers taking over control and
b) if Bo had any connections in whichever city she is in (it’s never made explicit), because the best way to investigate is to know someone who knows someone who can help you, or at least get you clients.


We’re so in love, can’t you tell?

But alright, Bo needs a “job” and she can’t very well hold a regular one down, so we’ll go with it. We’ll even go with the unlikely and oh so obvious love storyline her and Dyson have going on. Oh, have I not told you about him? Yeah, he’s a Light Fae, one of the good guys, natch, and he is also a Police Detective, whose job seemingly only consists of keeping fae business on the DL, together with his also-fae detective partner. It’s not entirely clear what kind of fae Dyson is, but he turns into a wolf-like creature when he goes “full out fae”, so take your best guess.

What’s so handy about Dyson is that Bo can suck energy from him — read “have wild, animal sex with him” — and yet it won’t kill him. But it feeds her appetite and also helps her heal faster, should she get injured, which she does a lot. Hence they have sex a lot. And even though they said they would keep it casual, they both develop feelings for one another, but neither is able to express these and so they just keep going along. Sounds familiar? I know, and we are only in Episode 5 of the show. Seems to me we can guess where this is going already.

That’s the main problem with Lost Girl: we know everything that happens before it ever happens. It is one cliché after the other, even though the fae world is such a new area for a TV show to venture. The way these Dark and Light Fae are handled is just clumsy. I don’t know whether it is the very basic terminology of “dark” and “light” that is leading the writers down this trite path, but to equate “Dark Fae” with all the thieves and murderers and those taking away good luck from humans (a sort of Anti-Leprechaun if you will) just seems one-dimensional and boring. Light Fae never kill anyone and they can’t tread on Dark Fae territory, yadee-yada. Name a cliché, it is at work in Lost Girl.
What made Buffy, Angel and all kinds of other supernatural shows so great was the fact they were morally ambiguous. Our heroes did things we may not agree with, killed demons and sometimes even humans and we were appalled, but it made them so much more real and believable. We wanted them to work for their redemption and forgiveness and in the end, we were then happy to give it to them.

Lost Girl isn’t morally ambiguous in the least. Even though Bo has not chosen a side so far, and therefore can even take jobs from the Dark Fae — hey, a girl’s gotta pay the bills somehow — we all know she is ultimately going to choose the Light side, simply because in the universe of Lost Girl that’s the side all the good guys are on, and our central heroine is of course a good guy.

Now don’t even get me started on the horrible, awful, cheesy, barf-inducing opening credits including a voice-over Lost Girl suffers from. It would simply lead too far. And also don’t inquire about the awful flashbacks and Bo’s “search for identity” that is being handled with such a lack of aplomb and innovation it’s infuriating. Yes, all heroes need an origin story and most times our heroes go on a quest to find their “identity” or the source of their powers, but if you are going to tread this familiar road, at least TRY to tread with some attitude, or have a funny walk or something.

Lost Girl
doesn’t even have a lot of humor to offer to make up for all the things it is lacking. At least Haven, the wonderful mystery summer show on SyFy, had a lot of cool one-liners and sarcasm to make up for its shortcomings. Instead on Lost Girl we find slightly miscast actors with weird accents and very little chemistry on screen. It’s sad to see such a good premise go to waste. I wonder what HBO would have done with this material. A girl can dream……