Looked at on paper (or screen) my affection becomes even more baffling. It’s yet another televisual offering where creatures of legend turn out to be true – see Grimm, Mirror, Mirror, Once Upon a Time, Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, etc. The production values and directorial style vary between modest and meh, and on first approach it at best achieves the amusement level of a third-tier Buffy episode.
And yet after a mere clutch of episode I can firmly say I simply adore it. I even think I’ve a notion why. I think creator Michelle Lovretta has made a list of every post-Buffy and fairy tale trope – and I mean every freaking one of them – and has methodically tweaked them just enough, not to radically change the entire urban fantasy, but to perhaps stretch the parameters of usual pleasures just enough to make aficionados feel real gratitude at the effort expended.
Right off, Lost Girl offers something that differentiates itself in a way that non-genre shows would be swell to emulate: a femme hero un-crushed by her backstory. While supernaturals from Buffy to Sookie to the entire cast of Once Upon a Time suffer their supernatural-ness, Lost Girl’s hero, the casually bi, trimly pumped, no-bullshit Bo (Anna Silk) accepts that she’s a deadly Fae.
A what? A Fae, a succubus who, through an accident of birth, occasionally sexy-sucks the life out of jerks. That is, until she hooks up with a hot Fae dude who lets her in on an epic backstory.
Warning: info dump! Seems that a war between the Light and Dark clans of Fae has been been going on for ages. And it turns out that Bo was raised by human parents while kept in the dark about this Fae business. So, she must choose between Light and Dark Fae, but being stout of heart and cranky of spirit, she tells them all to piss off and, like Fleetwood Mac suggested so long ago, goes her own way.
She does, however, avail herself of the Fae medicinals of the shy and lovely Dr. Lauren (Zoie Palmer), who you totally know will have supernatural sex with Bo, and who gives our hero a medication that allows her to just sort of nibble at people’s energy instead of draining them outright. (Hey, it’s that kind of show.) As it’s really early in the story’s arc, I will say no more, except to note that once-a-loner-Bo meets, pals up with and starts a PI agency with kohl-eyed Kenzi (Ksenia Solo), a goofy, post-goth petty thief human. Supernatural chemistry, kicky dialogue and Solo’s ceaselessly silly/energetic performance manage to make us buy into this beyond-absurd conceit, which comes complete with headless assassins, werewolves, underwater monsters, unearthly dwarves with agendas and so on.
Still, what’s the big? Again, the lack of hand-wringing mixed with the show’s overall light touch is constantly refreshing, as is both women’s advanced coping abilities.
So, want to talk about sex? Yeah? Cool. There’s tons of it here, and in the show’s world, it’s no big, which makes sense when your hero is a being whose entire deal is sexual.
This is a show where the hero gets information from people by using her psychic abilities to get them so horny, they beg to spill (so to speak). Where, in that aforementioned Bo/scientist scene, lesbian sex-spark is a natural. Where Bo milks info from a cougar college administrator via a calf leg touch that causes the woman to practically orgasm the answers. Where another Fae literally tongue-kisses Bo back to health and to a few implied orgasms. It’s really something.
What Lost Girl isn’t is an HBO/Showtime/name-yer-basic-cable-channel-pandering-to-dudes boob parade. It is what comes after we accept as a given that gender orientation is, of course, an in-flux designation. So does that make the show feminist? Can’t say, it’s too early in its run. Certainly, Lost Girl is what comes after whatever it is we think of as “feminist” in TV action hero terms. While the show is usually having too much fun to attach itself to one congruous ideology, what it does have to say about self-determination manifests itself most often in the syntax of style.
Whereas Buffy once quipped that she was “not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots,” the girls and boys of Lost Girl look like they deal with the terrible economy with refreshing trips to retailers selling couture designers’ “diffusion lines.” Think of the iconic Missoni house creating a budget-conscious line for Target, Versace’s high style pretties for H&M at Nu Depression prices or Vera Wang dong the same at Kohl’s. Lost Girl’s constant engagement with fashion could be off-puttingly elitist but the whiff of the bargain makes it endearingly egalitarian. Instead of class resentment, we can enjoy the looks.
There’s the sloe-eyed Fae werewolf (Kristen Holden-Ried) who’s partial to complexly rockin’ leather combos that suggest off-label John Varvatos; the mystery bartender named Trick (Rick Howland), whose way-butch, deep-dyed denim and rolled-sleeve style is off-season Diesel all the way; and the adorable, what-the-fuck-is-she-wearing Kenzi, whose loopy gothiness suggests Betsey Johnson after listening to My Chemical Romance a lot.
Again, just looking at these people is a tiny pleasure. I like to imagine them shopping (or in Kenzi’s case, liberating items from previous owners), which is just such an interesting way to craft a character, you know? And this isn’t about the evil tang of capitalism and over-consumption. Lost Girl loves style because fashion allows people with a unique way to beautifully present themselves to the world – and these are some pretty unique people.
As for where these stylish supernaturals hang, we see Lost Girl’s creators charming yet again with a rejection of the usual. Instead of True Blood’s “Fangtasia,” a sleaze dive straight out of a Rob Zombie lyric or an industrial metal light show hangout left over from an Underworld movie, the show’s creators offer us what looks like an airy German beer garden, heavy on the oak and steins.
But problems do exist with Lost Girl. The FX are pretty crappy, but I choose to think this as emblematic of the show having its priorities in the right place. The fact that Bo killed people before that blonde fixed up her sexual appetite is rather glossed over, but I’m trusting that we’ll be finessing that as episodes progress. And the one thing that does cause a certain amount of teeth gnashing for Bo is the least interesting part of the show for me: the whole “Who are my real parents?” thing. As played by Silk with a delicate mix of fuck-off, bite-me and muted need, Bo just doesn’t really seem the sort to need the crutch of a never-known bloodline.
But this too could be teased out and finessed; the show is called Lost Girl, after all. I’ll accentuate a positive view and say it will be a neat hat trick when the show lives up to the melancholy that lives right now in Bo’s startled responses; in Trick’s already exhausted helplessness regarding Dark/Light Fae hatreds; in the way the show plays with us with the simple fact that, unlike everyone else who is Fae and super-powered, Kenzi, the most instantly lovable character, is constantly in danger of a horrible instant death.
As of now, Lost Girl gracefully aims low-to-medium-high and always hits its mark. But I’ll be there watching as it inevitably aims higher. It’s the rare show you just have faith in.
Ian Grey has written, co-written or been a contributor to books on cinema, fine art, fashion, identity politics, music and tragedy. His column "Grey Matters" runs every week at Press Play.