Lodge 49, created by Jim Gavin and airing on AMC, is about lost and wandering characters seeking some kind of purpose, for a way out of life’s rut. For some, it’s right in front of them, and they don’t realize it; for others, it’s exactly what those clueless ones have. The idea of fraternity, the connection between people, plays at the heart of the pilot, and starts what looks to be a mellow, character-driven comedy/drama that hits a spot that’s been absent or at least rare on television lately.
At the center is Wyatt Russell’s Sean “Dud” Dudley, an ex-surfer who now hides in his vacant apartment and spends the remainder of his time at the local donut shop near his missing/dead father’s now defunct pool shop. There is also Brent Jennings’ Ernie, a fixture manufacturing salesman who is down on his luck as commissions and bets don’t go his way. Dud is searching for some purpose, lost to bad luck and heartbreak, and finds a ring on the beach. It happens to belong to an order called the Order of the Lynx, located at Lodge 49. By pure chance, or as Dud sees it, fate, he runs out of gas right outside Lodge 49 and feels it’s the very thing to change his life. Ernie is the successor to the leadership, and through professional hardship and a little bit of cheating, he is looking for a way to get his own life in order.
The first thing to note about Lodge 49 is its tone: even though everyone has problems and worries, there’s a free-spirited joyfulness to its style. It’s a good time, despite the downers its characters face. It doesn’t lose its sense of fun, with character quirks, excellent music choice (a mixture of psychedelic and classic), a great chemistry between various characters, and clever writing. It’s refreshing to have characters who are down and out, not always having the answers, and the show certainly reflects that, while also taking a fanciful and cheery tone. It can be easy to go dour and depressing when things aren’t looking up for the leads, but here it is done with care in its approach and uses it to define who these people are.
The chemistry between Dud and his sister Liz (Sonya Cassidy) became an instant favorite for me, as their lightly complicated relationship led to some close familial ribbing while still having each other’s back. They were both affected by the death of their father in different ways, and while Dud is avoiding her over loan issues, they still look out for each other, as Dud proves at the end of the episode when slipping some money into her stash, and Liz allowing him to crash on her couch.
When Lodge 49 becomes a factor in the story, the pilot really takes off. This fascinating cast of characters whom we will be getting to know this season is plentiful with unique personalities. It’s fun to see David Pasquesi in a sort of mellow, sort of excitable role as a character named Blaise St. John, whose kind demeanor here should be a fun presence on the show. The lodge members appear to be an oddball misfit cast, all with interesting backgrounds and, I’m sure, more to reveal as the season goes on. But as a short tease here, the pilot provides a quick brush of their types.
Lodge 49‘s pilot is a breath of fresh air, even if it feels a bit slight in the story department. This show will certainly be a slow burn, taking its time and frustrating a number of viewers. But for me, hanging out with these characters and these performers with this style is just what I’m looking for. This is only an introduction, and taking it as such, it’s a success. There could have always been more in the way of pushing a narrative, but this doesn’t look to be that kind of series. It’s Pynchon-esque, a hang-out show that has something to say about life and its hardships, and will take however long it wants to tell it fully. I respect that approach, and based on the pilot, it’s going to do so with heart, a sense of lighthearted fun, and a dash of tough emotion.