“The Solemn Duty of the Squire” reveals some truths about Lodge 49, and the show continues to quietly excel as a character drama.
If there’s a theme running through AMC’s Lodge 49, it’s that of fantasy crashing into reality; destiny being interrupted by bad luck; and truth never quite matching the lies we tell. They’re all the same thing, of course, ably demonstrated by “The Solemn Duty of the Squire”, which poked some holes in almost every character’s ideas of what life has in store for them.
Take Blaise (David Pasquesi), for instance. What he believes is an innocent romantic relationship with the Order of the Lynx’s London emissary, Avery (Tyson Ritter), turns out to be him playing patsy to a self-serving treasure hunter. Lodge 49 was refreshingly blasé about Blaise and his homosexuality, and Pasquesi played up the hurt when he needed to. The question is whether his thirst for validation through his academia – or, more specifically, through his alchemy – will trump the betrayal. We’ll see.
Ernie’s (Brent Jennings) love life isn’t looking too great, either – but then again neither is his career. The hunt for the enigmatic “Captain” left Beautiful Jeff (Michael Lee Kimel) hospitalised with severe dehydration, and he’s taking at least some of the responsibility. And then, as always, there’s Dud (Wyatt Russell). In “The Solemn Duty of the Squire” (the title obviously refers to him), he tried to fulfil that solemn duty by buying Ernie a new television, which he bought with a high-interest payday loan, and which fell off the wall and onto his old one, leading to a funny fall-out in which Ernie repeatedly shot Dud with an air rifle.
Dud is, clearly, an idiot, but he’s pitiable in that a lot of his self-destructive tendencies come from a desire to do right by people, and what he’s hamstrung by the most is short-term thinking born of an earnest, naïve belief that fate has something more in store for him. To offset the additional debt he looks for a day job to complement his graveyard shift; when he’s offered a position which might potentially set him up with a real career, he turns it down. “Nah, I don’t need a career, just the money.” Instead he takes a thankless admin role out in the desert, working for a tubby gadabout who idles in an inflatable pool. To him, this is all temporary. The Lodge will provide.
But will it? The real London emissary, Jocelyn Pugh (Adam Godley), finally arrived in “The Solemn Duty of the Squire”, and what he discovered in the Lodge’s books was that they had been thoroughly cooked by the late Larry Loomis (Kenneth Welsh). Threatened with dissolution, he’d taken out a fraudulent loan. Now the chickens have come home to roost, financially speaking, and there’s every chance that Lodge 49 will be foreclosed. How, then, will its true secrets be spilled? And what will that mean to the people like Dud who are banking everything that they will be?
The uncomfortable reality is that the Lodge likely doesn’t have any secrets (mummy in a secret room notwithstanding.) It’s a place where men who are unhappy or at the very least unsatisfied seek communion and validation. It’s fulfilling its purpose, in that sense, but its unglamorous reality might not be enough to satisfy those who want, desperately, to believe that the purpose is divine and preordained. That’s what Lodge 49 is about, really: That reality is enough, and that even if it isn’t, it’s probably all you’re going to get.
Liz (Sonya Cassidy) isn’t a member of the Lodge, but she’s no less vulnerable to self-doubt, although with her it manifests the other way around. She doesn’t believe she’s destined for great things – on the contrary, she truly believes that Shamrock’s is her lot in life. In “The Solemn Duty of the Squire”, she pulled on a business suit and made a real attempt at bettering herself, applying for a position that’s worthy of her intelligence. And then she walked out halfway through the interview process. Her convenient excuse, shared with her corporate love-interest (Hayden Szeto), was that the background check would reveal a felony. But the real reason is that she feels apart from that world; so saddled by her father’s debts that the only way she sees of wriggling from beneath them is to toil thanklessly, perhaps forever. When asked what she dreams of, she says “zero”. What she means is that she worries all day and all night about what she owes, and can’t see any future beyond that.
Lodge 49 has a lot of truth in its writing, particularly this. It might be a show largely about a dumb man with fanciful ambitions, but at its core it’s a show about real people with romantic, personal and economic anxieties. It has its flaws, but it’s pleasantly unglamorous, and has a point of view. That’s more than you can say for most.