From the start, AMC’s Lodge 49 presented itself, first and foremost, as a vibe, a show that was about capturing a particular feeling more than anything else. That’s not to say the series from creator Jim Gavin doesn’t have a story to tell, it’s just that this particular tale isn’t something that can be summed up in a sentence or two. With an elevator pitch more or less off the table, the series relies on connecting with its audience via the very fun, particular energy it’s putting out into the world. And for viewers who are tuned to that distinct wavelength, Lodge 49 continues to be a unique gem whose continuation during the age of Peak TV is nothing short of a miracle itself.
The first season was an anomaly of sorts, a sort of throwback series to the days before AMC was known primarily for shows about people hacking zombies (and each other) to bits. The story of Wyatt Russell’s Sean ‘Dud’ Dudley, his sister Liz (Sonya Cassidy), and the mostly strange members of the Order of the Lynx, including Ernie (Brent Jennings), Connie (Linda Emond), and the would-be alchemist Blaise St. John (David Pasquesi) defies attempts to describe it. But it mainly revolves around a group of people trying to find good in the world that constantly seems to want to shake them off like fleas on a dog.
It’s a simple notion, one that Gavin and showrunner Peter Ocko enjoy examining from a vaguely surrealistic angle. That angle makes the show’s late capitalism, post-recession world less of a slog. Dud and the other characters are all struggling in one way or another, but they continue to face their challenges by looking for the goodness in everything. This season liberally sprinkles the phrase “life is good” around as a mantra so that Dud, Liz, Ernie, and just about everyone else can continue to get out of bed in the morning. The phrase is tossed around so much it almost loses all meaning, until good things start happening in the weirdest ways possible.
Season 2 picks up very shortly after the events of the season 1 finale, with Dud on the mend after a shark attack gave him some closure with regard to the disappearance of his father and caused him to literally see the light. Meanwhile, Ernie went on a wild adventure of his own, and Liz continues her slide down the chute, as she likes to call it. Most everyone is in a slightly different place from where they were when the series began, with the exception of Connie, who is far, far away from the sandy shores of Long Beach.
That sort of narrative compression works in the series’ favor, as the fable-like aspect of the story works better if it’s hitting the characters all at once. That’s not to say it couldn’t work some other way. In fact, Lodge 49 is one of those rare shows that could excise its extra component and still be a richly rewarding hangout. And that’s what makes this series special: the desire to check in with this group of characters every week, just to see how they’re doing and what they’re up to.
It’s rare for a television series nowadays to be successful by more or less eschewing plot — or, at the very least, by making plot secondary to its characters. Lodge 49 has a plot — or the makings of one — but it’s often as vague and hazy as one of Connie’s migraines. But as the season 2 premiere, ‘All Circles Vanish,’ makes clear, there’s plenty of plot to come. Whether it’s a dream or not — it’s hard to tell when Paul Giamatti (who is also a producer on the show) is making a cameo appearance before jumping out of an airplane clutching a typewriter — is uncertain, but it does add another layer of intrigue, mystery, and possibly greater meaning to the lives of these otherwise disparate characters.
In other words, Lodge 49 season 2 has its fair share of curveballs. Some of them come in the form of guest stars like a hilarious Bronson Pinchot, a kindly Pollyanna McIntosh, and, of course, Cheech Marin. But, regardless its cast of guest stars, cameos, or hints at unifying theories of life, Lodge 49 never loses sight of what makes its so special in the first place. That’s especially tricky given that it’s actually quite difficult to define what that is exactly. Mainly, it’s a feeling, and that feeling is good. And that’s reason enough to tune in for another season of this incredibly charming comedy.
Lodge 49 premieres Monday, August 12 @9pm on AMC.