Are you watching Lodge 49? Are you seeing what Paul Giamatti is doing on Lodge 49? Hopefully, for your sake, the answer to both questions is either “yes” or a yes preceded by a long “yoooooooo” for emphasis. It’s been a blast. Lodge 49 was already a blast, to be fair. The show is a mix of fun and relaxing and sad and hopeful and profound and it’s not like anything else on television. It started as a story about some broken people looking for meaning in the artificial family of a Freemason-lite fraternal group called The Lodge. In the ensuing two seasons, it has somehow morphed into all of that plus a mad dash to Mexico to uncover a mysterious Lodge-related artifact. In the past, I have described it all as “Big Lebowski meets National Treasure.” There’s a tiny bit of The Leftovers in there, too. That’s close, I think.
This season, Lodge 49 added Giamatti to the cast in what appears to be an extended guest role. It wasn’t exactly a shocker of an addition, in large part because he’s an executive producer on the show and had appeared previously in voice-only form, but I was in no way prepared for what has transpired since. The character he’s playing is such a pompous maniac, such an unhinged weirdo, that it has turned my whole world upside down. It’s all I want to talk about. I have to tell people. People have to know. I’m going to tell you about it now.
Who is this maniac Paul Giamatti is playing?
Paul Giamatti plays a character named L. Marvin Metz. The L stands for “Lamar,” which is awesome. (You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone call Paul Giamatti “Lamar.”) L. Marvin Metz is the author of a series of novels about a cop/spy/vigilante-type named Tom Stone. Think like a combination of Bosch and James Bond with a touch of Michael Scott’s “Michael Scarn” character from The Office. Metz was mentioned frequently in the first season because one of the show’s main characters — Ernie, a toilet supply salesman and influential member of the Lodge — is a mega-fan and listens to the audiobooks while he drives around Long Beach. Metz never appeared on screen but the voice in the audiobooks was definitely and unmistakably Paul Giamatti. This brings us to season two.
The second season’s premiere opened with a flash-forward to a mustachioed Paul Giamatti as L. Marvin Metz clutching a typewriter and leaping out of a plane that appeared to be crashing. The story then backtracked to show how everything got there. Metz did not appear for a few episodes, but the first time he popped again he promptly fled a book signing and ran out of the store through a large window. This would not be the last time Metz heaved himself through a window or wall.
What do you mean by “heaved himself through a window or wall”?
Excellent question. What I mean is that, for reasons that have not been fully explained to this point but appear to have something to do with a mental breakdown that was brought on by a creative and career crisis, he occasionally feels compelled to launch himself headfirst through whatever nearby solid object catches his eye. Like this:
And also like this:
It is very much in character for a show like Lodge 49, which once introduced Bruce Campbell after a long and mysterious journey toward his character and then promptly stabbed him through the eye with the horn of a stuffed narwhal after an accidental fall, but please don’t take it for granted. There is a television show that is on the air right now that features Paul Giamatti hurling himself through windows and walls and out of airplanes. It’s not so much that people aren’t talking about it enough as it is that people are talking about anything else at all.
It’s okay. I’m not mad. There are a lot of shows and you can’t watch them all. And this is kind of my job anyway, to bring things like this to your attention. The big thing here is that the wrong gets corrected.
What else is up with this guy beside the window thing?
Well, there’s a whole backstory. Trying to explain it all would be impossible and make the show sound strange and bad, which it is not. (Strange: yes, delightfully; bad: not even a little.) Metz has revealed himself to be a mostly grandiose blowhard, a charming man who means well and who has a very inflated sense of his own importance, the kind of Writer who has a blond muse who only speaks in French sentences that the show never translates (the captions when she speaks read-only “speaking in French”), and the kind of writer who reveals to his loyal fans within an hour of meeting them that he hasn’t ejaculated in 10 years because he’s worried it will stifle his creativity.
In short, it is high-level Giamatti. Everything he says and does is hilarious. He commits so fully to the absurdity of the character that I almost wish he only played this character from now on, even if it would ruin Billions, a show in which he is also great. (Between his character’s decade-long abstinence on this show and his character’s submissive streak on Billions, we are really in the golden age of Televised Giamatti Sex Things.) In the episodes after the formal introduction of the character, he has funded a group trip to Mexico in search of mysterious scrolls that were written by the founder of the Lodge and allegedly reveal anything from the alchemy required to create gold from nothing to the secret to unlocking Bitcoin to the meaning of life. They could also mean nothing.
I should pause here to tell you that I am now going to discuss some very specific plot points from an episode that aired very recently. If you haven’t seen it and reading this makes you want to see it and you are the type of person who gets very upset about knowing things about an episode before watching the episode, you might want to bail here and circle back later. If you aren’t that person, I really do recommend you keep reading.
Will it help and/or be fun if I keep reading?
Do you want to read about a character played by Paul Giamatti pooping his pants and how that pants-pooping eventually led to him shooting someone?
Hmm. Okay, shoot.
Here are some things that L. Marvin Metz did in a single recent hour of television:
— He pooped his pants after the Waitress from Always Sunny (Mary Elizabeth Ellis!) fired a mistaken warning shot at them through a door.
— He said this about it:
— He put the gun in a cargo pocket of the shorts he put on after pooping his pants.
— He got into a dumpling-eating contest at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico with Liz, the burnout sister of the show’s burnout lead, Dud, who spends many episodes day-drinking out of a thermos named “Thermosaurus.”
— He lost the dumpling-eating contest.
— He did this while competing:
— He broke his 10-year ejaculation-free streak by having sex with a British woman in a phone booth and he wailed with such powerful moans of ecstasy that it echoed throughout the entire resort.
— He accidentally shot someone on the floor above him in the hotel because he was trying to get comfortable on the floor he insisted to sleep on and he bumped into the trigger of the gun in his cargo pocket, thus both confirming the storytelling principle of Chekhov’s Gun and inventing a storytelling principle I have started calling Giamatti’s Cargo Pocket.
— He attempted to purchase the scrolls at an auction but lost to a mysterious bidder who paid $500,000.
— He stood by and watched as his muse took the stage amid the post-auction chaos and performed a haunting a capella rendition of “The Impossible Dream” and then continued standing by as she calmly turned around and set a large tapestry ablaze before exiting to her left.
— He commissioned a small plane to fly them back to Long Beach with the scrolls they ran off with during the tapestry-burning confusion.
— He announced that he would fly the plane because a) the pilot was taking too long, and b) the main character of his books can fly a plane and he can do anything that character can do.
— He announced mid-flight that, actually, he does not know how to fly a plane.
— He leaped out of the airplane while clutching the typewriter.
Which caught us up to the beginning of the season.
Lodge 49 sounds wild.
It really is. It is also so good. This needs repeating because an inference could be drawn from everything I just typed — the window-smashing, the pants-pooping, the cargo-shorts-related gunplay — that the show is just silliness. Again, it’s not. It is a lot of silliness, to be sure, but it is so many other things, too. And again, Lodge 49 was all of these things before it popped in Paul Giamatti. It didn’t even need him to be great, just like it didn’t need to cast Bronson Pinchot as a crooked accountant or Cheech Marin as a man named El Confidente who drives a full-size van that has a unicorn airbrushed on its door. But it did all that anyway. It’s been pretty incredible.