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Another quest in the Golden State

AMC
Dud and Ernie get existential in the SoCal-set "dramedy" called "Lodge 49."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – There is a scene in the second episode of Season 2 of Lodge 49 where surfer/pool boy Shawn “Dud” Dudley (Wyatt Russell) is drunk out of his mind and has a vision of Larry Loomis (Kenneth Welsh) talking to him at the bar of the Lynx lodge – Lodge 49 – where the deceased Lynx leader tells Dud (read: “The Dude” – he is very Jeffrey Lebowski-ish) to “find the grail.”

When Larry tells Dud this, it sounded like he was saying, “find the girl,” just like in 1974’s Chinatown, Noah Cross (John Huston) says it to J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) in an ominous interaction at Cross’s palatial California estate.

Find the grail. Find the girl. Recall in The Big Lebowski, the Dude is concerned the German nihilist kidnappers are “going to kill that poor woman.” The Dude is on a quest of sorts. He is driven to see it through, even though it is pretty clear, from his laid-back hippie nature that it is not his natural state to go on a quest.

Gittes, in Chinatown, is on a quest, even though he begins to sense there is a much larger conspiracy afoot as he runs afoul of very powerful people, like Noah Cross.

For our young, chill friend Dud, his path is difficult at times, but as long as he is amongst friends - and his sister - he feels useful, even though his parents are both dead (his father seems to have drowned under mysterious circumstances) and his future prospects seem uncertain.

But so it was with The Dude in The Big Lebowski. He lived simply. He bowled and smoked a lot of weed. His best friend was, essentially, his opposite. And this seems to be the case with Dud and his lodge buddy (and sometime golfing partner) Ernie (Brent Jennings). Both seem enmeshed in something far bigger than themselves. In the meantime, both The Dude and Dud learn more about the power of friendship and community, albeit in different ways. And then there is the pleasure and pain we are shown in these stories (and in Chinatown, too; who can forget Roman Polanski slicing Jake's nose at the reservoir?)

Dud in Lodge 49. (AMC); "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski (Working Title)

I found Season 1 of Lodge 49 to be somewhat slow-paced but quite engaging in its talk of secret rooms, alchemy, shamanistic encounters with animals (a snake bites Dud while he was surfing in Nicaragua) and the search for the "true lodge," as noted by Larry Loomis, played by the wonderful Kenneth Welsh, who sought out another "lodge" - a "Black Lodge" in the second season of Twin Peaks.

There are synchronicities, serendipities and wild visions. Words and numbers seem to mean something else in Lodge 49. And what is the nature of Lodge 1 in London? And why the keen interest in the Long Beach, California-set Lodge 49? Is it because of things that happened there in prior decades, as we soon learn? And what of the alchemical angle; turning lead into gold? As The Dude would say: "Hills and valleys. Strikes and gutters." You win some. You lose some. Dud seems to gain and lose money and other things rather often as we enjoy this "purty good story," as The Stranger would likely say.

And that California thing. Chinatown, The Big Lebowski and Lodge 49 are all set in California. And for me that is interesting only in that the setting is key to the story. California has always loomed large in my life, even though I never lived there. Why? Because of film and television and, to a lesser extent, popular music. But the Golden State is never far away, on any given day. In the case of Lodge 49, Dud being bitten by a shark, while surfing, makes sense, because Long Beach is on, well, a beach! And surfers utilize said beach. And sharks (real or imagined) see surfers as a potential food source. But there are other things really going on below the surface, right?

Film production is there in California. Hollywood dominates. Always has, even with more productions being made in states like Georgia, New Mexico and Louisiana. It makes sense, right? But when I was younger, i resented California dominating TV shows and movies. Even when a film or TV show was set in another state, I had a keen eye able to tell me if it had been filmed in California, long before IMDB and Wikipedia took the fun out of everything. For me, the California "mystery" was part of a lifelong quest of mine. To make sense of the Golden State and its role in so many of our lives, whether or not we know it or acknowledge it.

Actually, California has a "role," if you will, in Lodge 49, which I find appealing in a way. The show's writers note the bad traffic. The suburban office islands, some of which are empty and contain their own stories and mysteries. Questions are raised. Dud is told by Larry to "find the grail." Noah Cross makes it clear to J.J. Gittes that he must "find the girl." The grail. The girl. The point is that they lead to bigger questions about who we are and why we are here. Some of the answers are downright depressing and ugly and disturbing. But not all of them are. And the quest many of these characters are on are proving to be important in the improvement and development of their lives. So much to learn. So many stories to tell.

So far, I am on the edge of my seat wanting to know more about what Ernie found in Mexico and what the meaning of the "true lodge" really is. And it's all happening under the glaring lights (can't see the stars at night in Long Beach) of mystical, magical California.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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