This post contains details from The Librarians episodes 1 and 2, which aired Dec. 7.
Like its subject matter, the Librarian franchise is loaded with history. It began in 2004 with The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, a TV movie that followed librarian/adventurer Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) in pursuit of historical/magical artifacts. Two subsequent TV movies followed: 2006’s The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines and 2008’s The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice.
Ten years after its debut, the TV movies are getting an update with a 10-episode, weekly series: The Librarians. (Note the plural—librarians not librarian—as this will be important to the show.) The TV series premiered on TNT Sunday with two back-to-back episodes: “The Crown of King Arthur” and “The Sword in the Stone.” It saw the return of original stars—Wyle, Bob Newhart, and Jane Curtin—as well as new ones—Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth, and John Kim.
Though it’s an expansion of the original movies, The Librarians feels like its own standalone work, one that can be watched with or without knowledge of the prior films. More on that in bit, but first, the premise: After a chance meeting, counter-terrorism agent Eve Baird (Romijn) is selected by the library (it’s magical, and can do that) to be Flynn’s guardian, despite his protests. Together, they discover that an ancient cult, the Serpent Brotherhood, is killing off librarian candidates, whom Flynn beat out to land the singular job. The brotherhood wants to bring magic out from the hidden, underground library and into the earthly world, but they need the crown of King Arthur and the stone that held the sword of Excalibur in order to do so. They will eliminate anyone who threatens the plan. To stop the brotherhood, Flynn and Eve must find and save the three candidates—Jake Stone (Kane), Cassandra Cillian (Booth), and Ezekiel Jones (Kim)—who missed the interviews on that fateful day, and enlist their help.
Got all that? Out of context, the premise sounds a bit crazy. Fantasy and adventure media is, of course, very much a part of our pop-culture landscape: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc. This show, in particular, is very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones franchise. But, there’s so much that goes into The Librarians, much of which is told through fast-paced, far-out narratives. It beckons the question: Will viewers buy into it? I, for one, did, absolutely. The world of the show sucks you in and becomes entirely believable. Once you accept it, you’re in for the whole ride. (Ninja fight in an Oklahoma dive bar? Keep it coming!)
Wyle and Romijn’s chemistry, though, comes off as a bit stiff at first, mostly because of Romijn’s rigid agent. It seemed like Wyle just popped back into the character he’d played three times prior, while Romijn was still finding her footing. But, then again, would you, as a counter-terrorist agent, immediately gel with someone, in pursuit of historical artifacts, who popped out of thin air? Exactly. Soon, the pair develop a nice rapport: He is the nerdy yet charismatic librarian, and she is the serious yet warm-hearted agent. There’s even quite a bit of humor. Once they get into the groove of things, they act as one cohesive unit. The series’ ability to balance and bring together old and new—the original star, and the newcomer—is its strong suit.
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There is some work to be done, as expected with any new series. The adventures were fleshed out, but the side characters, especially, less so. Jake is an art history connoisseur with an IQ of 190. Cassandra is brilliant, and her thoughts often take the form of auditory and sensory hallucinations. Ezekiel is the tech guy who comes off as that kid from high school who could ace every class if he wanted to but just doesn’t care to; also, he’s a very skilled thief. Jenkins is the caretaker with an attitude who works out of the library’s branch office. That’s all great, but what motivates them? Why did Jake hide his brilliance under the cloak of an Oklahoma oil rig? What motivates Ezekiel to steal? Why is Jenkins so damn cantankerous? The series is in need of some character development, refining. Still, we’re only two episodes in, and it’s pretty safe to assume that these answers will come in due time.
Without saying too much, the second episode ends in a way that gives you the sense that Flynn won’t be as central to the series. He basically passes the torch to Eve. Here, especially, it seems that the series will forge its own path. If that’s the case, will The Librarians survive with less of a presence from its charismatic lead, one who carried its three original films? I, for one, look forward to finding out.
[Edit note: Many of you have wisely pointed out how I overlooked Cassandra’s condition. My question about her hallucinations has since been removed.]