Lodge 49 (S01E01) “As Above, So Below”

Lodge 49 is a quirky, funny and well-written show created by Jim Gavin. It is quite possibly the best program on television that you should be watching.

“How do I join? I’m sorry, I’m probably doing this all wrong. It’s a big secret thing, isn’t it?” – Sean Dudley

Dud Isn’t the Dude

Lodge 49 - Dud finds the ring - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Dud finds the ring – Courtesy of AMC

I had been waiting for Lodge 49 since I first heard about it in November 2017. When I learned that Paul Giamatti was an executive producer and Jim Gavin was the creator I thought sign me up. Then Wyatt Russell was cast and I knew I was in.

This isn’t your ordinary sitcom not by a long shot. So, if you are expecting pat one-liners and a laugh track, this isn’t the show for you. However, if you value storytelling and terrific acting then you have come to the right place.

The premiere episode was our introduction to the Long Beach of Jim Gavin’s imagination and some of its interesting characters. While the series has been criticized as being “too slow,” I beg to differ. It is about laying the groundwork.

We run into Wyatt Russell’s character, Dud. His given name is Sean Dudley. At first glance, you might think, “Hey, it’s the Dude from the Big Lebowski. “Not even close, sorry.

Dud definitely gives off that surfer vibe but you get the sense that beneath all of that Jeff Spicoli speak (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) lies an easy-going guy with a deeply philosophical bent.

When we first encounter him, he is meandering along the beach with a metal detector. It goes off and he finds a ring. This one is special, gold with the crest of a lynx.

Intrigued, he brings the item to the local pawn shop dealer named Burt (Joe Grifasi). From their exchange, we can tell that Dud is in debt to him for a significant amount of cash. When Burt tells him that the ring is worthless, he lets him know the origin of it.

Finding the Lynx

This is the first time the Lodge is mentioned. Fascinated with the thought of this club, Dud begins his quest for knowledge. For all intent and purposes, he is a lost soul who spends most of his days looking for a place to crash.

He either hangs out at the Donut shop with his surfer friend and counter girl, Alice Ba (Celia Au) or he is squatting in his former apartment drinking Jack Daniels and reading books. You know something has happened to him but you can’t figure out what.

Ernie and the Crows

Lodge 49 - Ernie Fontaine - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Ernie Fontaine – Courtesy of AMC

Ernie Fontaine (the exceptional Brent Jennings of Red Heat, Moneyball) is a desperate man. He needs sleep and is being kept awake by the cawing of crows outside his house. In boxer shorts on his front lawn, armed with a BB gun, he takes aim at the birds sitting on the wire above his roof.

Much like Dud, things aren’t going exceptionally well for Ernie either. A plumbing fixtures salesman, we learn that times are tough. Like his beachcombing counterpart, money is an issue for him as well.

He approaches his boss, Bob Kruger (played by the talented character actor and comedian, Brian Doyle-Murray) and inquires about his commission only to be told that it is on hold because no one has the money to pay their bills.

Ernie is a bachelor and lives alone with his cat. Like Dud, he too is a lost soul wandering around searching for something that seems out of reach.

Blaise the Keeper of Knowledge

Lodge 49 - Blaise St. John - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Blaise St. John – Courtesy of AMC

Blaise St. John portrayed by the wonderful David Pasquesi (Andrew Meyer on Veep) is the local apothecarist and dispensary owner. When we are introduced to him, he is selling some primo weed to a rich kid when Ernie enters his shop to pick up some medicine for his cat. The two men start to discuss the “tavern.”

When Blaise asks him if he is okay, Ernie responds by telling him about the crow dilemma that is prohibiting him from sleeping. Right away, Blaise jumps on that and says, “signs and symbols.” He also tells him that it foretells “doom.”

In that little exchange, it is pretty clear that Blaise is more than what he appears to be. Inside him is esoteric knowledge that will probably come to light at a future date.

Connie Wright the Love of Ernie’s Life

Lodge 49 - Connie Wright - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Connie Wright – Courtesy of AMC

Part of the reason why Ernie is floundering in life is because he can’t get over not having his sweetheart Connie Wright (Linda Emond – Madam Secretary, The Blacklist). Connie belongs to another man, Scott (Eric Allan Kramer – Men in Tights, Good Luck Charlie, Mike & Molly).

The two former lovers are having a romantic tête-à-tête in a motel room when they start talking about Ernie’s gambling habit, the fact that he can’t get promoted at the Lodge to Sovereign Protector and that the place is falling apart.

But there is a moment where he laments the fact that he is 59-years-old and he has nothing to show for it. His longing is only compounded by Connie having to leave to return to her husband.

Liz Dudley the Reluctant Twin

Lodge 49 - Liz 2 - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Liz 2 – Courtesy of AMC

Liz is Sean’s twin (Sonya Cassidy – Humans). She is exactly like her brother and Ernie. Somehow, she can’t seem to get her head above water either.

Her father left his debt of over $80,000 to her via a co-signed loan before he passed away.  So, to make ends meet she waits tables at a “breastaurant” called Shamroxx. This establishment is like a combination of Hooters and the Tilted Kilt.

When Dud visits her at the restaurant, he tells her that he will pay her everything he owes and he will get back their childhood home. Sadly, Liz tells him it’s all gone.

Part of her frustration is the fact that her brother refuses to recognize that the life they used to have is over. Not only does she carry the weight of her father’s burden but she also bears her brother’s as well.

Scott Wright the Stalwart Companion

Lodge 49 - Scott Wright - Courtesy of AMC
Lodge 49 – Scott Wright – Courtesy of AMC

Scott who is the husband of Connie is everything that Ernie isn’t. He is younger and more successful. Plus, he has the heart of the woman that Ernie loves.

At the Lodge, when he first encounters Dud, he razzes him by telling him he is with the Long Beach Harbor Patrol and that he can do background checks on anyone that wants to join.

Of course, this gives Dud a bit of a moment until Scott lets him in on the joke. Scott is a bit of an imposing presence, however despite his size you can catch a glimpse of what might lie beneath all that bravado. He may be a bit vulnerable like everyone else.

The Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx

When Dud finally makes his way to the Lodge, he meets Ernie. This is quite fortuitous for both men as we will discover at a later date. Like a kid in a candy store, Dud is clearly enthralled with the order and is eager to join.

Ernie, on the other hand thinks that he is a flake. In an attempt to scare him off, he tells Dud the dues are $2,000 which is the exact amount of what he owes his bookie. When Dud doesn’t flinch, Ernie pauses but still thinks the kid will never show up.

At the next meeting, Ernie is surprised when Dud wanders in and not the more ideal candidate Arturo who he was talking up to the other Lodge members. It is quite clear that Dud belongs with the Lynx.

There is something about this place that grounds his restless spirit and gives him peace. It does the same thing for the others as well. A home away from home, a place where they can enjoy their camaraderie and forget whatever may be troubling them on the outside.

The Verdict

From the moment that you meet these characters, you want to know what is going on with them and what makes them tick. They are like people that you work with or your neighbors. Nothing is glamorous about them or extraordinary.

That is the charm of this show, the little nuances and the fact that you have to pay attention to what is going on. Lodge 49 is not background noise rather it is a book. Episode 1 is all about discovering this world that Jim Gavin has created.

The writing is sublime. What is refreshing is the characters have conversations and interact with one another. This is storytelling at its very best. You are compelled to “turn the page” and dive into each of these personalities.

When Dud gives the Lodge his story at the very end of the show, it is heartbreaking. You feel his pain at losing his dad and you understand why he is so lost. When he talks about not being able to surf anymore which was the very thing that he loves and what he was good at I dare you to keep from tearing up.

“It was fate. I felt like I was meant to be here.” You were, Dud and so are we.

Catch Lodge 49 every Monday at 10 PM on AMC.