The chilled-out surfer-dude protagonist of AMC’s Lodge 49, Sean “Dud” Dudley (Wyatt Russell), fits the archetype of the guileless fairy-tale hero. Except, when he’s introduced in the first episode, he’s languishing without any sense of direction. Dud lumbers through Long Beach, California, combing the beach for lost metal and hanging around the local donut shop. Then he stumbles upon the town’s Lynx Lodge, the unremarkable outpost of a fraternal order and the unlikely embarkation point for a proper hero’s journey.
Lodge 49, which mixes whimsical surrealism and more grounded portrayals of quotidian reality (debt and gainful employment are recurring plot hurdles), is rarely clear about what that journey entails. Dud is devoted to the idea that he was fated to join the lodge and that a purpose awaits him there, and in moments of dreamlike idiosyncrasy, the series hints that he might be right.
Strange things happen at the lodge: Blaise (David Pasquesi), a member who’s long claimed to harbor a parasite, pulls a three-foot-long worm from his nose, and when a wall in the lodge is accidentally punctured, a shocking revelation on the other side suggests that the mythical traditions of the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx might be more than just hokum for bored fortysomethings to indulge. To Dud, such events are proof positive that he was destined to join the order, maybe even that his arrival triggered them.
Lodge 49 is sympathetic to each Lynx member, and understands the role of the lodge as their respite from reality. The series has an earnestly optimistic view of companionship, and the demonstrably consequential, often heartwarming occurrences at the lodge are quite unremarkable: Shared beers and moments of mentorship act as tokens of acceptance for Dud, who wallowed in loneliness before joining the order. Glimpses into the daily lives of the Lynx’s members, who are often consumed by struggle, confirm the importance of the order, even if the club isn’t literally magical. Throughout the series, the lodge stands in stark relief to the decaying city beyond its walls.
Contrasting its whimsical portrayal of the Lynx, Lodge 49 formulates an elegiac assessment of Long Beach’s middle class. The town’s largest employer is shuttering, signaling a shift in Long Beach’s economic bedrock. Ernie (Brent Jennings), a “Luminous Knight” at the lodge, works at a plumbing wholesaler that’s in the twilight of its existence. Dud’s sister, Liz (Sonya Cassidy), is racked with debt, and forced to wait tables so that she might hide some cash from the bank that garnishes her wages. Despite the show’s topical, poignant portrayals of economic anxiety, however, it remains an airy affair: The workaday drama at Liz’s restaurant unfolds as dark comedy, and the lodge offers Ernie and his fellow Lynx a fanciful escape from reality.
Dud’s search for a true, verifiable Order of the Lynx history is the main hook of Lodge 49’s narrative, though much like the show’s protagonist, the plot tends to meander. There are whispers among the Lynx of a “One True Lodge,” a secret society within the order that performs alchemy, and one facet of Dud’s journey is to verify that claim. But the show’s prevailing concern, and source of resonant emotional stakes, is the healing power of the lodge itself: Dud and Liz lost their father one year before the events of Lodge 49, and despite its mystic quirks, the series is ultimately a portrayal of their grief.
Given the focus on Dud’s tragic family history and Long Beach’s deteriorating middle class, the show’s offhanded suggestions of the supernatural can feel frivolous by comparison. Yet Lodge 49 rarely lets the specifics of that mystery crystallize before adding a new complicating development, or another strange happening. The show’s plot complications, which include an overshadowed corporate storyline surrounding a mythical tycoon called the Captain, manage to coalesce around Dud’s grief. The Lodge, viewed through the prism of his recovery, is a place of great consequence—no matter whether it’s actually mystical or ends up merely a tavern for suffering souls. The series tracks Dud’s attempt to discover his purpose within the lodge, but its most compelling proposition is the lodge’s ability to heal him.