Last August, AMC aired a series on Mondays called Lodge 49, and if you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. The series averaged a dismal 300,000 viewers, and I actually bailed on the series after AMC canceled Dietland, which performed marginally better than Lodge 49, because I assumed that it didn’t have a prayer at a second season. Then again, Dietland was lousy, and Lodge 49 is not — it had a strong critical reception and a few champions in the critical community, among them Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg, who actually convinced me to dive back into the series. AMC being AMC — completely strapped for original content outside of its three The Walking Dead series and another season of Better Call Saul, which will not return until 2020 — surprisingly agreed to renew the series for a second season, which premieres on Monday after the second season premiere of The Terror.
If you’re wondering what Lodge 49 is about, well, that’s something of a head-scratcher, as well. I’ve watched the whole season, and honestly, I couldn’t tell you. It’s not that the series is in any way obtuse or confusing or difficult to follow — in fact, it is an enjoyably pleasant series to watch — it’s that it really isn’t about anything. I mean, it’s about a Lodge. And it’s about the people who frequent the Lodge, and it’s about the efforts of the characters to keep the Lodge open so that they can continue to frequent it, but I’m not sure there’s a greater design at play here.
Honestly, that may be the most appealing thing about Lodge 49: It’s not trying to make any grand statements. It’s not a show about “who will die next,” there’s not a big mystery to solve (although, there is a mystery, but it’s an afterthought); it doesn’t take up big social issues, nor does it try to solve the world’s problems. There are no cops or robbers or lawyers, superheroes, promiscuous teenagers, wealthy housewives, dragons, or spies. There is nothing profound about Lodge 49 and that is absolutely to its credit. I kind of love it, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.
Lodge 49 stars Wyatt Russell as Sean ‘Dud’ Dudley, a good-natured 20-something layabout and lost soul grieving over the suicide of his father, who decided one day to walk into the ocean. Dud’s life ambitions amounted to spending the morning surfing and spending the rest of the day running his Dad’s surf shop. Alas, Dud was bitten in the ankle by a snake, which robbed him of the ability to surf, and the family lost the debt-ridden surf shop after Dud’s Dad died. One day, however, Dud aimlessly wanders into Lodge 49, and after being mistaken for someone else, ends up joining the lodge. What is it they do there, exactly? Nothing much. They drink. They socialize. They chill.
Dud has a best friend and mentor at the Lodge, Ernie Fontaine (Brent Jennings), who sells plumbing supplies. Ernie is sleeping with a member of the Lodge, Connie, who is married to another member of the Lodge, Scott. She also has cancer. Dud also has a sister, Liz (Sonya Cassidy) who is also grieving over her father’s death, but she’s also obsessed with paying off the debt their father left behind by working a dead-end job she hates as a waitress at a Hooters-like establishment.
There’s more to the series — primarily some vague notions about finding the “one true Lodge” — but not much, honestly. Dud is trying to find purpose in life, and he believes that the Lodge can help provide it. The Lodge, however, is on the brink of going under because its senile leader ran it into the ground. Ernie is trying to land a big client, the elusive and mysterious Captain. Liz hates her life, but she’s also terrified of succeeding and runs from it at every opportunity. Cheech Marin shows up in a couple of episodes, and so does Bruce Campbell. He’s tremendously fun.
That’s about it, which makes Lodge 49 an almost impossible series to market — the trailers look like those old Mad Men sneak previews designed not to give anything away, except there’s nothing to give away here. It’s a show that will live-and-die by word of mouth, and AMC is clearly banking on the hope that there was enough word-of-mouth between seasons to boost viewership based on attracting new viewers on Hulu. I’m not sure how well that gamble will pay off, either, because it’s also a hard sell based on word of mouth.
“Hey! Pajibans. There’s this really great show about this surfer dude who joins a social club and they drink beer and hang out! You should really watch it!”
“Do they solve crimes?”
“How are the fight scenes?”
“There’s not really any fight scenes. I mean. A few punches are thrown, but they’re not really fighting.”
“OK, umm. Who is the bad guy?”
“There are no bad guys.”
“But there’s a trial, right?”
“Is there a journey? A quest? A ring at the end?”
“What kind of crimes are committed?”
“Well, Dud squats in empty apartments sometimes.”
“But OK, is there someone we can thirst over?”
“I mean, Dud’s a decent-looking scruffy surfer dude. His sister is super cute. But, it’s not really that kind of show.”
“What kind of show is it?”
“And I should watch it?”
“Oh yeah, for sure! It’s charming as hell. You’d love it.”
Lodge 49 returns for its second season on Monday. You can catch up with the first season on Hulu.
Header Image Source: AMC