Once upon a time there was a fraternal order of losers, a pot-dealing alchemist, a mysteriously mummified corpse, a washed up surfer, and a forlorn love affair between a toilet supply salesman and a terminally ill journalist.
So begins the unusual tale of AMC’s newest hour-long dramedy series, which just concluded its first season on Oct. 8. Underneath all the supernatural lore and enthralling weirdness, “Lodge 49” humanizes an ensemble cast of misfits looking for a place to belong.
The opening scene introduces the audience to Sean Dudley, played by Wyatt Russell, the lovably outlandish protagonist with unrelenting optimism after a series of disastrous events leave him orphaned and disabled.
Ironically referred to as Dud, the unorthodox lead is shown combing the beach with a metal detector, scrounging for valuables to trade in at the local pawn shop. The first clue appears as a cryptic signet ring, adorned with a golden lynx.
Dud pays for his gas with the few loose coins he is able to find in between the deteriorating seats of his bright yellow jalopy. Unsurprisingly, the engine fails later in the day, but an act of fate strands him right in front of “The Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx.”
This is a consistent pattern in plot development. Something unfortunate happens that turns out to be a great stroke of luck and the chaos of the world seemingly has purpose. Coincidences drive the plot and start to appear orchestrated as Dud becomes more involved in the order.
I found this function of the show to be especially effective in holding my attention. I kept studying each scene, looking for the next hint at what craziness might follow.
The rest of the first season follows similar twists and turns. Dud joins the lodge, then begins unearthing its mysterious origins and the enigmatic tales of its founder. Hallucinations drive the plot and build tension by leaving the question of their legitimacy unanswered.
The lodge is home to an assorted family of underdogs, eccentrics and has-beens. Ernie Fontaine, played by Brent Jennings, acts as Dud’s mentor. They form an unusual but sincere friendship.
The pair complement each other, with Ernie being a skeptic pessimist that balances Dud’s tendencies towards impulsivity, and Dud giving him lessons on seeing the glass half full.
For Dud, Lodge 49 becomes a literal escape from reality. Outside the tantalizing walls of the lodge he goes back to trying to navigate the obstacles of crippling debt and his strained relationship with his twin sister Liz Dudley, played by Sonya Cassidy.
Liz became my favorite character throughout the series. She takes over as a pseudo-parent when their father goes missing and leaves her with thousands of dollars in debt, forcing her to work at a local restaurant chain that serves greasy food via scantily clad waitresses.
Despite this, she clearly has big dreams and attempts to pursue them throughout the first season. Liz acts as her own barrier and frequently sabotages herself, which I found to be heartfelt and relatable. She may act as an antagonistic element in Dud’s life, questioning his choice to participate in the lodge. However, she remains a sympathetic character.
“Lodge 49” is outstanding in its treatment of characters. The cast is impressively in tune with their respective roles, and the performances are one of the show’s great achievements. The conflict, heartache and beauty achieved simply through shared dialogue is really remarkable.
The characters and their flaws felt genuine and softening instead of off-putting and cynical. At times, I could feel myself becoming so involved in their world that I forgot I was watching actors.
I found myself anticipating each new episode, watching the weekly installments rather than waiting for a streaming service. I needed to know what was going to happen, even though the show ends on a huge cliffhanger.
I highly recommend giving “Lodge 49” a chance. If you pay attention, you will be rewarded for your patience.