AMC’s indescribable Lodge 49 wrapped its wonderful first season Monday night. The season finale was melancholic but lighthearted, offering the possibility of new hope for the Long Beach outpost of the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx.
And now is the time when we have to declare a spoiler alert, as the closing moments of the finale defenestrated all that sun-drenched whimsy. Dud (Wyatt Russell) finally got back into the water, astride a surfboard off the SoCal coast. And then he was attacked by a shark. The gory assault bookended season 1 in multiple ways, suggesting an explanation for the disappearance of Dud’s father even as it hyperbolized Dud’s snakebite wound.
EW spoke to Lodge 49 creator Jim Gavin and showrunner Peter Ocko about the finale, the deeper meanings of Lodge’s cheerful mysteries, and what lies ahead in the recently announced season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the ending. When did you decide this season would end with a shark attack?
JIM GAVIN: That notion of an ending has been there since the first draft of the pilot a few years ago. Once we were in the room and writing, it was kind of almost writing towards justifying a crazed ending, and making it meaningful in a large way for Dud. It was definitely well-planned. Throughout the season, there’s little clues and prophetic statements. If you go back, you’ll see.
Where was that shark attack scene filmed?
PETER OCKO: We like to pretend we shot the whole show in Long Beach. We shot about 10 percent of it there. But that whole entire sequence was shot in Long Beach.
GAVIN: That was at Cabrillo Beach. It’s very much a local’s beach, in San Pedro. We have to give a lot of credit to our director, Randall Einhorn. He’s had a lot of experience shooting out in the water.
Right before the shark attack, there’s a great moment with Liz [Sonya Cassidy]. Her debt has just been forgiven, which is the best thing that’s happened to her in a long time. And then she seems to realize something, and heads to the beach where Dud is about to get attacked. What’s going on there? I interpreted that as, basically, she thinks that if something good has happened to her, something apocalyptic must also be happening.
OCKO: We’ve trained you well as a show, I think. If something good is happening, something bad is coming: In our big bag of tricks, that’s our favorite. It’s sort of twin intuition. We don’t go to the well of true magic that often on the show, but there are moments on the show which I think are relatable, insofar as we’ve all felt that. There’s moments in life you just don’t know why.
Peter, you’ve worked on shows with straight-up supernatural elements, like Pushing Daisies and The Leftovers. What are some of the difficulties of a show like Lodge 49, which feels more grounded in the middle area of magical realism?
OCKO: We’ve always been careful with the mysteries, to not let them become so tantalizing that you want to skip the other parts of the story. That’s our guiding principle. There’s the Above and Below, the high and the low. In this show, we live in the real world. Jim’s created a world that is both fantastic and grounded. We try and find that balance, so that we can enjoy both worlds.
GAVIN: Any books that the term “magical realism” might be applied to, I think those books live and die on how well an author can actually capture the texture of reality. For me, first and foremost is getting it right. Getting what a mood in Southern California feels like. All the jobs I’ve had, different experiences. If you get that texture right, then you can crack it a little bit. Whether there is magic, or a character perceiving something new and different in the mundane reality, you have to establish a real world before it can have any sense of magic to it. That’s something all our actors do so well. They have such a lived-in quality.
What jobs were you drawing on specifically?
GAVIN: Ernie’s job, I did that for a couple years. I was a toilet salesman. I’ve had many a Dud-like temp job. I worked as a journalist back in the day. I’ve had many failed careers. Which, as a writer, is a nice thing to have. All those careers I intended to be the career. I was just very bad at all of them. When you find out you’re bad at everything, you become a fiction writer.
Was there a Beautiful Jeff at your toilet sales job?
GAVIN: I worked out of a manufacturer’s rep in Gardena. When I left the company, some new guys came in. They were these really handsome dudes from Cerritos. They kind of inspired Beautiful Jeff. If you don’t have an eyepatch or a big scar on your face, you’re like a fashion plate in the plumbing-sales world.
As Ernie, Brent Jennings has been so great this season, and it really feels like his story carries so much of the spirit of the show. What’s ahead for him?
GAVIN: He’s a man at a certain age, but he still wants things and is still fighting. I think going forward, there’ll be this temptation to get off his horse. Dud is there as a squire to make sure he stays on his horse and continues to join the battle.
OCKO: Brent, in many ways, has held the center of this show, in a way that kind of sets the tone for everybody. It allows Wyatt to go and give us this wonderfully varied and interesting performance. But Brent gives us a rock on which to build the other things.
We’re speaking just a couple hours after AMC officially renewed Lodge. Have you been working on season 2?
OCKO: We’ve been at it for a couple months now. We are so happy and relieved that it will be seen by people besides ourselves.
Lodge 49’s Long Beach feels overpopulated with great characters. Is there anyone you’re hoping to explore more in season 2?
OCKO: We would happily do an entire series based around Jeremy, Champ, and Gerson. Better Call Jeremy!
GAVIN: We’re an ensemble cast. Wyatt, Brent, Sonya, David [Pasquesi], Linda [Emond], Eric [Allan Kramer]: We’re trying to tell full stories for all of them. My hope is that you’re kind of in love with all these characters in some way. We do have this Kingdom of Long Beach, where hopefully it’s fun to spend time with the Shamroxx Guys, or Bob Kruger, played by Brian Doyle Murray, over at West Coast Super Sales. We want them to be memorable. We owe that to such a great cast.
The last time we saw Ernie, he was meeting a El Confidente, played by guest star Cheech Marin. After teasing this character earlier in the season, what did you want to accomplish with this big introduction
OCKO: It’s a tremendous relief for Ernie that not all of what Larry said is a bunch of lies. It had an emotional impact on the story, and I think it literally kept hope alive, for that fantastic piece of the story. For us, that’s the way to launch into season 2, resetting the rules back to where we started.
GAVIN: We’ll see more of El Confidente.
What are some of your ambitions for season 2?
GAVIN: I think we will be digging into the history of the Lodge itself, and as it relates to the history of Long Beach, and [the city’s] aerospace past. How those communities were built around what was once an engine of prosperity — and it’s now an empty space in the center of town. We will continue to tell that story, always with an eye on the fringe places: your strip malls, your service-job community, the highways and byways of industrial plumbing sales. All the things that viewers are clamoring for in this television environment.
You might be joking, but as someone raised in the California suburbs, it was extremely moving to see, like, a big emotional scene between Liz and Dud taking place in an empty storefront in a strip mall.
GAVIN: We think of the strip mall as like a little neighborhood in itself, almost like a family. You have the surly uncle Burt in a pawn shop, and Alice and Paul at the donut shop. There is a community there. And one of its members has fallen on hard times.
OCKO: A lot of our show is about the upside of catastrophe.
I hate to so bluntly ask about something that my old writing teacher would’ve referred to as a “motif,” but what’s up with all the swimming pools?
GAVIN: There’s two things for me: One, the central metaphor for the series is this idea of alchemy, making gold, making something from nothing. Alchemy is based on the four elements. This first season is our water season. We will move on to other elements going forward. The other aspect is, anyone who’s grown up in Southern California has had an afternoon by a pool with a cinderblock wall and the telephone wires, and just a kind of weird sense of perfection and eternity in a little summer moment. That kind of mood haunts Dud, and that’s what he’s chasing. That pool might be a picture of Eden. And I think in many ways, we’re all chasing some Eden in our heads.
A moment from the finale that just killed me was Ernie on the golf course giving Dud a promise. “I’ll be here at the same time every week, so you’ll always know where to find me.” Maybe this is way off, but I almost interpreted that as Ernie talking to the audience. Here’s a TV character, promising he’ll be around in the same timeslot every week.
OCKO: There’s a feeling to this show. It is a promise to a viewer: You can show up and be in a place that makes you feel something. It reminds me of a lot of the shows I grew up on. I couldn’t tell you a single story from them, but I could tell you how I felt watching them. I spent a lot of time in front of a TV as a child. It certainly influenced the direction I took in my life. There’s such a warm feeling, such a warm connection I’ve felt, to a bigger world and to other places, that in some ways I felt has been lost in the massive output of television lately. There seems to be such a frenzy to grab onto people’s attention.
You mentioned that this season’s element was “water.” What is season 2’s element?
GAVIN: Dare we spoil it?
OCKO [at the same second]: Fire.