Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Librarians: And the Drowned Book Review


Now that we've gone through a major storyline of locating magical artifacts for an epic confrontation against Lancelot, we are in Season Two of The Librarians facing against another legendary literary figure: none other than Prospero himself. And the Drowned Book does a wonderful job bringing an update to one of Shakespeare's masterworks in a logical manner while keeping the same offbeat, wacky world of The Librarians, where magic is real and knowledge is power.

Once magic is released into the world, Shakespeare's Prospero (Richard Cox), a powerful Fictional (a figure from literature who can exist outside their story) summons another literary figure to be his servant.  Now, the different Librarians are brought together in seemingly random missions to the same location, but they have no interest in working in tandem.  Math genius Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) is set to investigate a new weather machine, master thief Ezekiel Jones (John Kim) is wooing a beautiful Italian countess for her pearl earrings, and art expert Jake Stone (Christian Kane) is after a chess set from Milan.  The Head Librarian, Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) is pretty joyful that the Junior Librarians are doing their own thing, but the Guardian/Flynn's girlfriend Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn) is not thrilled.  Back at the Library Annex, Jenkins (John Larroquette) is more concerned about artifacts popping in and out.

At the museum's exhibition of a recently-discovered ship, Professor James Worth (David S. Lee) is getting under Flynn's skin for his own powers of deduction and for his ability with Eve, whom Worth continues referring to as "Duchess".  Flynn first thinks that Worth is a Fictional himself, none other than Sherlock Holmes.  However, thanks to work Eve has been doing in putting the various pieces together, she finds that Worth is really Professor James Moriarty.

The various Librarians now find, bit by bit, that they are actually in their own version of The Tempest, and Prospero has found his book.  Determined to regain the world, he escapes with his minion Moriarty, and the Librarians find themselves about to see New York City swept into the Tempest of Tempests.  They must combine their forces and intellects to thwart the destruction of NYC, which involves a literal Sun in the Library's Sun Room and all of them working together.  With the city saved, the Librarians learn two things.  One: Prospero means business.  Two: as a team, they are better.

And the Drowned Book is a fantastic opening episode for a variety of reasons.  Let's start with the fact that we get the overall story arc for Season Two: the machinations of Prospero and the efforts to stop him.  It's good that while we will get a series of adventures, we will see them connect to one overall story. 

As a side note, The Librarians now has a greater focus and logic and consistency than Doctor Who.  Think on that for a moment.

We also get with And the Drowned Book a wonderful lesson for our heroes: their individual skills are wonderful, but they work best when they unite as a team.  There is a wonderful moment when Stone asks Cassandra for help, then is joined by Jones asking Stone for help.  As soon as they start helping out, Stone asks why they stopped working together.  Jones snaps that it was because Stone kept ordering him around, and soon a fight breaks out.  This scene works because we as the audience see that they make a great team, but that they are also individuals with different methods, ideas, and personalities.  Rather than attempt to paper over them or give them a false sense of unity, we see that they recognize the other's gifts while still having occasional conflicts.  It's that 'unity through diversity' that makes the series work: we like them as a team, and we like them as individuals, and we like them for being real in their clashing world views.

I also think the acting is some of the best I've seen from the series.  Whether or not Noah Wyle will play a greater role remains to be seen.  It's a tricky thing.  On the one hand he is wonderful as the brilliant but easily-distracted Flynn, a man who lives in the head more than on Earth.  Wyle gets the character's sometimes bumbling but brilliant manner (and his ability to spout off long lines of dialogue while making it sound coherent is wonderful).  On the other hand, would Flynn be a distraction from the great teamwork of Romijn, Larroquette, Kim, Booth, and Kane?  We spent a good amount of time with Cass, Stone, Jones, Jenkins, and Eve (curious how the women are known by their first names, and the men by their last names with the exception of Jenkins), that they've gelled into a strong group without Flynn.

Perhaps the best performance was from guest star Lee as Moriarty (who outshines Andrew Scott's overly praised Moriarty on Sherlock).  Lee makes Moriarty a fun, even funny figure.  When Prospero calls him to escape with, "Come, Villain", Lee stops a bit, puzzled and chagrined look on his face.  "Villain?  I much prefer 'antagonist'", he says to himself.  In his charming of Eve, his somewhat besotted manner with his "Duchess", and his intelligence, Lee turns Moriarty into not quite a dimwitted henchman but not a truly terrifying figure either.  I think Lee is in complete sync with The Librarians' overall tone of being light, fun, and unapologetic about it. 

That's what makes The Librarians not just fun but family-friendly, and it's good that on the whole, The Librarians keeps that.  There is one moment that might be a bit much for younger viewers (when Eve stabs Moriarty with a sword), but it's made clear that a.) it was in self-defense, b.) Eve was not aiming to hurt Moriarty, and c.) because that is not how Moriarty dies in the short story The Final Problem, the stabbing won't hurt him.  "That's not how my story ends," he tells Eve before dashing off.

Cox is quite menacing in the 'mad genius bent on world domination' mode, but his early scenes as a janitor were quite effective in fooling people it was the same person.  The regular cast work so well together, and they do get their individual moments to show the character's personalities: Kane's more stoic Stone, Cillian's sweet Cass, Kim's shrewd huckster Jones, Larroquette's droll Jenkins.  I still hold that The Librarians is one of the best-cast shows around, and guest stars Cox and Lee show it still is.

The story flowed smoothly, and I was impressed at how well they managed to bring The Tempest into And the Drowned Book without being obvious, but building it slowly and logically (or as logically as a show where magic is real can).  I also must confess, The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespearean works, so seeing Prospero rise again fills me with joy.

In fact, The Librarians fills me with joy.  There is no jumbled storytelling where illogic rules (like on Doctor Who).  There is no gloomy darkness in it (like on Gotham).  What The Librarians is really a good, fun, frothy, light, comedy-action series, with strong acting and a sense of self.  What can you say about a show where the Sun Room contains a literal sun, and Jenkins asks, "What else would you have in a Sun Room?" with complete sincerity.  Eve's reply ("Magazines?  Cozy chairs?  Mimosas?") underscores The Librarians' goofy but delightful premise.

Good acting, fun story, and a sense of wonder at the world of magic.  The Librarians' second season looks like another excellent romp through the magical world of books.

Knowledge Has No Better Ambassadors. 
It's Cool to Be a Librarian...   


Next Episode: And the Broken Staff


  1. Love checking into this Library every Sunday! Such a treat from other shows that are on.. #TheLibrarians has something for everyone.. Christian Kane is why i started watching and fell in love with the show!

    1. Thank you. I love The Librarians and am so happy that it has found a strong audience. I just wanted to see if a series could be made from The Librarian films, and see they've expanded the universe into something wonderfully witty and unapologetically fun.


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