Oh my god is this a weird show. The whole thing seems to operate in a weed haze, a cloud of smoke. Its overly-languid pace and its plot that seemingly goes absolutely nowhere is so ridiculously antithetical to life these days that in its weirdness, it presents a life that doesn’t seem all that bad. But, somehow, the show’s creators have us tuning in week after week expecting and hoping that something, anything, will actually happen, only to be disappointed time after time. But, also, not disappointed. And that’s where the weirdness comes in. I mean, what other show could get away with ten episodes of nothingness (but not in a Seinfeld kind of way) in today’s plot-driven television world?
So, this show is not only named after the Thomas Pynchon novel, The Crying of Lot 49, one can draw a direct line from the plot of that novel to the vague plot of the show. And when I say “vague,” I truly mean vague. Both involve a mysterious society into which a rudderless individual is thrown. In this case it’s the surfing pool boy, Dud (Wyatt Russell), who happens upon the Order of the Lynx, which is essentially a Mason-like fraternal order whose local lodge is number 49. He was once an employee of his dad’s pool business, but has fallen on hard times since his dad died, the business bankrupted and he was bitten by a poisonous snake on a surfing trip, which has ruined his ankle and his surfing life. He drives a Volkswagen Thing, is constantly drinking out of a thirsty-two ouncer plastic mug and has about as little motivation as any loser inhabiting the low, sun-bleached Long Beach community in which he wanders. I wish I could even describe the narrative further, but there’s honestly not much to it. He discovers this lodge, which is filled with relatively normal men and woman, and feels in some way that joining it will somehow give his life purpose. But, really, it doesn’t. But maybe it will. Although every time we think that maybe some of the magical elements the show hints at will come to the surface and the mystical connection that Dud has to the lodge will be revealed, the show pulls back and we’re left watching him work a temp job, pawn stuff and fight with his sister (Sonya Cassidy). His sister, who is a waitress at a Tilted Kilt kind of joint, and is self-destructive, cynical and nihilistic in the same way Dud is weirdly optimistic and incredibly earnest.
I’m going to go ahead and assume there is all sorts of underlying myth going on with this show. Some biblical allegory or connection to some literary thing (besides the Pynchon novel) that I don’t understand. Maybe Dud is like Jesus and the lodge is the ancient world or something. Or maybe he’s Odysseus and the lodge is, uh, Ithica. Maybe it’s like O Brother, Where Art Thou? or some esoteric thing that’s beyond my understanding that parallels something. Or perhaps it’s just completely original and completely weird. All I know is that it kept me watching because every time I think it’s going to zig, it zags. But it never zags hard. It just kind of meanders off in the opposite direction of where I wanted it to go. Like a stoner following a leaf while you’re trying to direct him to some event. The whole thing just has this particular and peculiar way about it that is so unlike anything else on TV that in and of itself makes it interesting. It’s like that odd Norwegian slow television thing, but with more donuts and the occasional rodent resurrection. The series has already gotten a second season from AMC, so it’ll be super-interesting to see if they keep up the pacing or if they get a nudge to up the ante just a little bit. Odds are we’re in for another season of hoping for something, expecting something and being disappointed on a weekly basis (but also excited because the show completely submarines our expectations).