By Paula R. Stiles
Recap: Perpetually broke, Bo and Kenzi encounter Ciara as she exits establishment where they are windowshopping. Ciara offers to treat them to lunch, as thanks for Bo saving her life a couple of weeks before, but they politely turn her down, citing Kenzi’s sudden(faked) illness. Bo still can’t bring herself to have lunch with the billionairess who replaced her in Dyson’s bed.
Meanwhile, halfway around town, a young playboy is taking a very drunk, and very willing, young girl to bed. But as they’re discussing her favourite brand of condom, a shadow passes over the girl and crushes the man’s neck offscreen.
While surveying the crime scene, both Dyson and Hale immediately peg it as a Fae kill, maybe a serial killer, and a sloppy one, since the Fae isn’t even feeding on its victims. This isn’t the first kill of young, rich men in their 20s. The two detectives immediately recruit Bo and Kenzi to go undercover at the parties, which Bo and Kenzi agree to do, after a little persuasion. Bo is much-less-thrilled to find out that Dyson recruited Ciara to help her get into that milieu. Though Ciara is happy to help, Bo is cold to her, not even interested in letting Ciara buy her an expensive dress for the first party.
At the party, Kenzi gets whisked off for a “private tour” by a kid who finds girls from the wrong side of the tracks attractive. Meanwhile, Bo chats up a shy, geeky boy and a bitchy fashion designer, Lita, who is flitting around, snarking at everyone and acting mysterious. Unsurprisingly, Kenzi ends up in trouble first, being hit from behind by someone, which shocks her escort, soon after she looked inside an odd Balinese box. She wakes up next to two dead guys – one her playboy would-be friend and the other the geek. The geek, Clive, wakes up. He was only knocked out, too. They both freak out at the dead body of the playboy.
At the station, Kenzi gets the third degree from a cop played by Fulvio Cecere, until Hale comes in and rescues her. She’s able to describe the Balinese box to him, giving him a minor lead. Out in the hallway, Bo is waiting to give her witness statement along with the others at the party when she encounters an elderly homeless woman, Maganda, who babbles about lost trees and a serpent with a woman’s face. When Bo mentions Lita to Dyson, he says she wasn’t on the list. They determine that she is a snake type of Fae. Bo and Dyson go undercover (with Ciara’s enthusiastic support) as a couple looking to change his sartorial style. When she realises she’s been made by Fae cops, Lita spits venom in Dyson’s face and flees. Dyson is okay, but Bo delays her pursuit of Lita in making sure he is. She then pursues Lita out to the street, but runs into the homeless woman again. Fortunately, Dyson recovers quickly and knocks down Lita, who turns out to be a Mami Wata.
Kenzi and Hale meet with Clive, who is horrified to find out that his friends were killed by Fae. Kenzi reassures him that the guilty Fae is in custody. But Lita insists that she only fled because she was selling her Fae snakeskin around town (A Kobold named “Heinze” meets with Bo and Dyson at the bar and appears to back up her story, though both of them are very suspicious of his behaviour). Meanwhile, Bo and Kenzi, working independently with Ciara, conclude that Lita is not the murderer. When Kenzi phones Clive, trying to warn him, she hears his murder over the phone. Dyson confirms it after they find the body.
Heinze returns to the Dal Riata, to Trick’s great displeasure, trying to sell things to customers there. Trick kicks him out.
Meanwhile, the Ash forces overwork on Lauren, making her redo autopsies on a harmless species of Fae know as the “Peri” (Under Fae?) that are like bugs and are only dangerous in swarms. Lauren determines that they were deliberately killed by electrocution. She refuses to go any further in her research, however, unless the Ash helps her with Nadia’s curse. He refuses, having her dragged back to her lab.
Meanwhile, Bo & Co. figure out that the killer is Maganda. She was a kind of tree nymph, a “Batibat” (um, except that a Batibat is from the Philippines and not Bali, and she’s a type of demon, show). Her tree was cut down and Heinze bought it, cutting it apart and selling the pieces around town. She’s been killing anyone in possession of her wood in order to get it back, the instinct so strong that it’s driven her mad. Trick says that her type of Fae are completely peaceable unless their tree is cut down. When she appears in the Dal Riata, her crushing attack on Dyson forces a crisis. It turns out that Heinze had deliberately left behind his cane (made of her wood) to pass the problem off to Trick, which is why Dyson’s getting the squeeze now. After tricking Maganda off Dyson with the cane, Bo forces Heinze to retrieve all of Maganda’s tree, promising Maganda that he will do so. Maganda tearfully agrees to submit to justice as long as she gets all the wood back, even though it will never make her tree grow again. Lachlan has her incarcerated, with the idea of eventually sending her back home (perhaps to find a new tree?). Lachlan doesn’t mention his persecution of Lauren, who is locked in another cell, after telling Bo how he is willing to do anything to save the Fae.
Bo visits Ciara afterward, admitting that she likes her and that she senses Ciara is lonely (Ciara has made offhand comments all episode that Dyson doesn’t talk to her much about his work). She says that she and Dyson no longer have an attraction, so Ciara is safe in that respect. But she strongly suggests that Ciara have a frank talk with Dyson. Ciara waits for him at their apartment with a bottle of wine and has it out with him. She asks him flat-out if he loves her. He…hedges. She accepts his ambiguous answer, at least for now.
Review: This one was okay, but only just okay. Despite a fairly convoluted plot, the moral issues were simplistic to the point of being a tiny bit ludicrous. I think the writers need to stop taking their moral stances from bumper stickers and the greatest hits of Band Aid.
I liked that they tried to make Ciara more sympathetic and didn’t go the easy route of making her a bitch or a vapid twit. I think they could have started that process sooner (since her situation with her husband wasn’t exactly a love match, considering he had her previous husband murdered), but better late than never. Unfortunately, she’s still only there to be the New Girlfriend who is too perfect, too awesome, too accommodating to be her own person, and to serve as a romantic wedge between Dyson and Bo. If I cared about the Bo/Dyson pairing, I might care more about the outcome of the conflict between Bo and Ciara. But since I’m not Team Dyson, I’m not emotionally invested in seeing them get back together. Also, the way Dyson keeps sniffing around Bo – when he supposedly doesn’t have the capacity to frankly give a damn, Scahlett, anymore – is confusing.
Equally frustrating was the subplot between Lachlan and Lauren. Okay, I get it. This is a long-simmering mytharc and they can’t pull the trigger halfway through the season (though some more midseason “oomph”, last-minute added episode order or not, might have been nice). But for me to care about Lachlan’s willingness to do anything to save the Fae (or, at least, the Light Fae), I have to understand why he would go through such byzantine manipulations and torture of Lauren to get Bo to do something that she is already naturally inclined to do. And I don’t.
It seems pretty obvious that the former Ash manipulated Lauren into becoming his slave by cursing Nadia. It’s a nasty approach, but it’s effective. However, I don’t get why Lachlan would intentionally alienate Bo by proxy. Bo is inclined to help, already, but abusing Lauren makes her less inclined to help Lachlan, not more. Why not treat Lauren better and then suck Bo in that way? It works for Dyson and Trick. Sure, they’re good guys, but they’ve also been manipulating Bo from the start. You’d think it would work for Lachlan, too. His behaviour makes no sense and seems to be taken right out of the Dumb Evil Overlord’s Handbook.
I wasn’t thrilled with the two female MOTWs, either. First of all, why was the Mami Wata not Bantu African? I get that they like to play around with different ethnicities, to emphasise the cosmopolitan nature of the Fae, but that has its bland, and even offensive, moments. While the Wikipedia page may describe the Mami Wata as “light-skinned”, she is not white (though, strictly speaking, Sitara Hewitt is South Asian. She also appeared as Rayyan on Little Mosque on the Prairie and has done Bollywood work).
Also, the Wiki page (and the episode) overemphasises the Mami Wata’s serpentine associations and greatly deemphasises her central identity as a water deity. When I lived in Cameroon, the Mami Wata was a female water spirit (more like a naiad than a mermaid or serpent figure) who seduced men and drained their vitality until they wasted away. Even by the early 90s, the Mami Wata had become a metaphor for the symptoms of AIDS, which was already endemic in the country, but was also an open secret nobody liked to talk about. The serpent aspect of the folklore probably exists because the ubiquitous cobra is an excellent swimmer. The spitting aspect? Not really a part of the Mami Wata legend.
Now I understand that fictional stories are going to play with aspects of myths (though going from a seductive water deity to a Nagini-style land snake is a bit of a leap), but making Lita Indian and and a quintessentially African deity seems like a cheat – and a condescending one, at that. If she’s really a Nagini, just call her one. The two figures are not synonymous, or even parallel.
The problem is not so much Lita herself as her juxtaposition with Maganda (played by Pamela Matthews, who is First Nations not Filipino). Lita is sophisticated and treacherous; Maganda is good-hearted but not the sharpest tool in the shed. The show is far more judgemental of Lita (whom the regular characters try to blame for the murders, even after it’s clear she’s innocent of them) than it is of Maganda (who actually committed the murders). The smart, competitive, controlled ethnic character is evil, while the dumb, parochial, impulsive ethnic character is good, even though all one did was sell her own skin, while the other killed innocent humans. She didn’t mean to kill anybody, you know. She was just acting on instinct. Ick.
Plus, the show gives us a heavy-handed anti-deforestation metaphor in the chopping down of Maganda’s tree. Which is nice and all, but the “bad guy” is a German Fae who didn’t chop the tree down himself. Which means that local Fae did, but we don’t hear about that. The Ferngully-style rant is all very well, and yes, foreign logging companies are happy to come in and clear-cut tropical rainforest to the detriment of everything and everybody except the fattening of a few bank accounts. But they hardly do so in defiance of local law.
Local (or national) governments are paid off for the necessary licenses. Local people work to cut down the trees. And they do it for the same reason Americans enthusiastically let frakking and wilderness drilling bills go through, while ignoring historical disasters like Centralia and Exxon Valdez – greed. So, the Evil White Man trope in Heinze the sneaky Kobold (Kobolds can’t catch a break since American Gods came out) seems a bit much. Nor am I too wild about the trope we seem to be getting in season two where older female Fae are either senile (Maganda, the Mongolian Death Worm) or bitter old bats (the Norn).
Considering all of the above, though, I’m struck by the possibility that I’m overlooking one very positive thing – look at all those female characters! Some of them are even strong and active in the plot! And I’m not just talking about Bo or even Kenzi, either. That is awesome. How many U.S. genre shows would you see that in? Probably none – or, at least, none that are currently on (Come back, Xena! We miss you!). Now if the writers would just be more conscientious in their folklore research….
Next Week: Masks: Bo travels to Africa, to find the shaman who cursed Nadia. Romantic complications and mytharc advancement ensue.
You can watch the second season of Lost Girl on Syfy, Monday nights at 10pm.