Monday, December 19, 2016

The Librarians: And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Review


In Lawrence of Arabia, the title character saves the life of someone over the objections of his Arab compatriots who insist said character is fated to die, defiantly decrying, "Nothing is written". Can you really outrun your fate, your destiny?  And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy looks at what the future may hold for one of our characters, one that might not be a happy ending.  The story does a great job in tying things together, minus one or two things that I object to.

We start in medias res, with the Librarians' Guardian, Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), along with two of the Librarians, Ezekiel Jones (John Kim) and Jake Stone (Christian Kane) find themselves all wet and trapped in a cave.  How did they get there and why?  Further, what does this have to do with the few hints they can come up with (such as Jones remembering pizza)?  "We were ambushed by an Olive Garden," Baird snidely remarks, but in reality this does bring some things together.

They had last been in Las Vegas, celebrating how they had acquired the newest artifact (cleverly hidden inside the Luxor Hotel, a pyramid within a pyramid), when a strange figure freezes time. With some investigative work with Jenkins (John Larroquette), they find who it is.  It's The Reaper, a supernatural master assassin that can be summoned by other magic users and who once summoned cannot be recalled.  The Reaper now is after Eve.  Why would anyone put a hit on her?

Further, what is up with the prophecy cube that brings Eve a vision of her own death at the Library itself?  Jenkins advises her to stay within the Library, as it can provide protection  from assassins like The Reaper, but Eve is determined to stop the Reaper, alarmed that it is at the Library where the Prophecy Cube predicted her own killing.  Jenkins insists that by attempting to change the future she will only end up fulfilling it, but she will not be denied, dismissing Jenkins, or as she calls him "Skippy" (much to his puzzlement).

The Clippings Book lead them to Mayfield High School in Seattle, where there seems to be a wildly successful rate of success among a small group of students.  One of them, Tyson Lopez (Koby Kumi-Diaka), is captain of the swim team.  It just so happens he's brought some water from the lake at Mt. Parnassus, where once the Oracle of Delphi was.  This water, which Tyson spread onto the swimming pool, has created the circumstance where the swim team can see the future.

The forces around them, however, suck them, along with Principal Fairbrother (Vince Brady) into the cave where they, minus Librarian Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) are in.  Also among them is Nina Medrani (Elizabeth Huffman), Mayfield High's cleaning lady.

The Reaper is following them, but because Eve's time is still not up, the Librarians (thanks to taking a peek at the prophecy cube), find that they can move along into the future (Eve can choose any door at one point because she knows she has to move forward, Jones can use the last coin he has left to figure out what steps to take in a deadly puzzle because he saw himself donate that same coin to a museum in the future).

Jenkins and Cassandra race to find a way to extricate them out of their danger, but the only way to do so is to create another prophecy to override the first one (the other option of finding someone outside the prophecy to alter it being used by the Librarians in the cave).  We then get the 'shocking' twist: Nina IS The Oracle, who foresaw her own death at the hands of The Reaper and created the larger prophecy of killing Eve as her way out.  However, Eve, thanks to a gift from the absent Flynn, manages to outwit the Oracle (with a little help from 'Skippy').

There is one glaring aspect of And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy that made part of the resolution so obvious.  So, so completely obvious.  That is Nina.  Even the most casual viewer would have noticed that when everyone who was in the cave had been sucked in when they were at the pool, Nina was the only one not present to have found herself there.

I made a note of that right off the bat, even though she was the first one to be found.  From that small detail, it was pretty clear she was the instigator of the whole affair, even down to being the Oracle herself.  At that point, I was just waiting for everyone else to reach that conclusion.

Granted, everyone else noticed that they had all dried off but that Nina was the only one of them still wet, and the explanation was a good one.  However, it was pretty clear that Nina was our villain, and that didn't take me out of the story completely, but it was predictable.

Still, And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy was quite clever in how it got around to reach Point Z from Point A.  We start the episode with them already deep into the mystery, and through flashbacks and thinking ahead we find a logic to how everything came about and where they end up.  When a story manages to put things together, especially when it starts not at the beginning, it's a sign of clever, thoughtful plotting.

Despite the horror elements of The Reaper (whom Jones refers to as "Mr. Stabby-Fingers" and more in line with a Scream-type monster), there is still a bit of humor in the episode.  We have Eve calling the stuffy Jenkins "Skippy" (a nickname that leaves him genuinely puzzled but that in the end helps save them); we have Jones horrified, almost angry, at the history-loving Stone when he mentions "the M Word" to Jones: Museum. 

We also have great interplay between the main cast.  And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy ends with them all back at the Vegas bar and grill, with even Jenkins joining them.  This scene, and the one where they were all sharing a pizza celebrating their latest victory, together were wonderful and reveal so much as to why The Librarians is such a strong show.

Before The Reaper arrives, the Librarians beg the Guardian to stay with them at the bar.  Quickly we see they don't want her to be alone, or feel lonely because Flynn isn't there.  It's a nice touch to show that despite their different personalities and tastes, the Librarians have formed a bit of a family (a protective mom to her tough son, sweet daughter, shady other son).  They work together so well, and genuinely care about each other.  In this first bar scene, the characters appear relax, happy to have done their work but moreover happy to be with each other.  It's a lovely, congenial scene.

The second time they are together, they have the somewhat cranky but loving grandfather figure in Jenkins.  I noticed that Jenkins did not have a beer, unlike everyone else.  Instead, he was drinking from a coffee cup.  I don't know whether this is how Jenkins is (more formal even in relaxed settings) or a decision by Larroquette to not be seen with a bottle as a prop given Larroquette's battle with alcoholism.  Either way, as a non-drinker myself I'm glad to have little touches like that.

As a side note, good for Larroquette in not just for being successful in treating his alcoholism but in being on a television show where someone can be seen as joining people socially without having to be socially drinking with them to be part of the group. 

The guest stars were all wonderful: Kumi-Diaka's youthful innocence as Tyson, Brady's mix of elitism and kindness as Principal Fairbrother, and Huffman's mix of comedy and menace as Nina/The Oracle. However, I would take The Librarians to task on one aspect on their casting.  Huffman's character veered dangerously close towards stereotyping 'Hispanics' as servants with some English-speaking abilities (if memory serves correct, she greeted the Librarians with an 'Hola').

The 'hola' bit was more confusing given Nina's surname was given as "Medrani", which sounds Italian to me.

I'm not going to make a major issue out of this given how good And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is.  I applaud any time television/film roles are filled with minority actors regardless.  I just offer some concern that we not come close to stereotypes.

The major beef would be with regards to how obvious it was that Nina wasn't who she said she was.  Apart from that though, The Librarians continues to be among the best sci-fi/fantasy shows around, a strong mix of humor and action that makes it a delightful romp.  It's good to see a show build on its strengths and hope it will do so further into the future.   


Next Episode: And the Tears of a Clown

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