[Review] - The Librarians, Season 1 Episodes 3 And 4, "And The Horns Of A Dilemma/And Santa's Midnight Run"

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
The Librarians precursor, Leverage, was not shy about casting geek icons for each week's marks. Librarians appears to be keeping up that tradition (and five seasons of Leverage has awarded Devlin and Rogers a full rolodex of willing participants), nabbing two of geekdom's bigger names for guest spots in it's first two independent episodes. Look for this to be a trend that continues throughout the course of the show's run, and a highlight week to week (also, because they film in Oregon, the show is uniquely able to feature a blend of Canadian and American character actors, making it a film fan's Where's Waldo).

With the premiere behind it, Librarians now has the opportunity to stand on it's own, unrestricted by the players and parameters of the films that inspired it. It can be it's own thing, and in these two episodes we begin to see the shape of things to come. As I said in my review of the premiere, this is clearly not a show that takes itself serious, but these episodes really express how far outside the reservation the show is willing to live, in the name of having more than a little fun.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are art people live in.

I stated in my first review that this is a show that will live and breathe by the MST3K manta, and these episode really affirm that. And it might be a bit of an issue for me, if I'm being honest. No matter what kind of story you are telling, the most important thing is consistency So long as a story is internally consistent, it doesn't matter if it's a hard edged war drama, or a rollicking yarn about space wizards, the consistency holds it together. Personally though, I like detail. I like logical explanation. I like to be able to explain the whys and hows. It's my scientific mind. It's for people like me that lightsabers have focusing crystals inside them; we're not content with just a laser sword. So, a series like this, where they are content to blow away an assorted number of plot holes with explanations likes "it has to do with lay-lines" or "it connects to the representation of a door," I'm willing to follow, but the little voice in my head screams "that's too easy. Make them work for it!"

This is a personal problem, and one I need to overcome for the sake of my enjoyment of the series and for these reviews not to come off as sounding bitter. Because with these cheats in place, the show is fine. It's a hell of a lot of fun. Rather than get hung up on minutia, it uses work arounds both for convenience and world building. I would hope that there is a show bible behind the scenes that the writers are adhering to when describing what exactly these lay lines can do, and other such mystical phenomena Thus far, with four television hours in, they haven't noticeably contradicted themselves. So long as they stick with being consistent, it shouldn't matter how nonsensical they make things. And I'll eventually get over my hangups. Hopefully.

My biggest complaint in the premiere was the speed at which the writers felt the need to rush through various levels of characterization. Cassie's betrayal, Eve and Flynn's emotional attachment, the somewhat easy teamanship that came to this assorted band of weirdos. Happily, the writers appear to have taken their foot off the accelerator in these followups, allowing the cast to settle into their roles a little more organically. With the exception of Ezekial (and to a lesser extent Jenkins), the characters are now getting the ability to show that they are not simply the press clipping versions of themselves, but more rounded and complete characters. I'm especially enjoying the growing interplay between Stone and Cassie. Stone's admission at the end of Horns that he can work with her, but will likely never be able to trust her, was genuinely touching. In those few minutes, they managed to invoke more emotional honesty in that sentiment than Agents of SHIELD managed in half a season of the exact same from Skye to Ward.

The actors are also getting the chance to flex their muscles inside these new characters. Christian Kane is having no problem making Stone an easy favourite, though Lindy Booth is clearly the winner in having "gotten" her character the fastest, and having the most fun. John Larroquette seems to be having a lot of fun as the curmudgeony exposition machine back at home base, and I'd love to see him venture into the field, or get a chance to act up against a future guest star. So far, he's only really had a chance to bond with Rebecca Romijn, and her character is purposefully reserved, so there isn't much room to expand that relationship just yet. They are clearly intent on softening her up, and while the emotional stuff isn't Romijn's strongest suit, as least the writers are willing to let the character grow and evolve. Most writer's rooms are afraid of that sort of forward development.

These two episodes were primarily focused on establishing the sort of universe these character inhabit. Horns was about setting the rules, and Santa was about establishing background. Actually, Santa was about featuring Bruce Campbell as perhaps the greatest television Santa Claus ever, then about establishing a background. But between them, we now have a pretty good idea of how and why things work the way they do in this universe, they've established that pretty much anything out of mythology, folklore and urban legend is fair game to exist, and found new and interesting spins to put on well trodden tropes. Santa being the personification of goodwill, as well as being the accumulation of every popular perception of the idea of Santa throughout history, right back to Odin, was a really clever spin. And, having Tricia Helfer and Bruce Campbell around to ensure that we'd be entertained no matter what helped the show immensely (is it wrong that I already want Timothy Hutton and Beth Riesgraf to turn up? Mark Sheppard too, while they're at it).

What also became clear is that this is a very cheap series. I mean literally, it is clear that the show isn't operating with a Game of Thrones budget. They appear to be operating at barely a Bold and the Beautiful budget. TNT isn't the richest network around, and even with some extra funding for the premiere, the CG and stunt work was at a minimum level. These episodes showed that they are being very careful where and when they spend their money. Santa especially had barely any CGI at all (which, no CG is better than bad CG). But they also contained a lot of rough cuts. A lot of actors miming falling out of chimneys and cameras cutting to already closed doors. Very little "transitional action" as they might call it. For instance, as Matt Frewer (who gets the largest margin for "big acting") is blown towards the back of the plane as the rear doors open, the camera cuts to Eve reaching for him, then back as he's already suspended midair. The expensive "needs to be seamless" stuff happened between cuts, which makes the show just that much cheaper to produce. It's not a complaint until it really starts being distracting, just an observation.

The series also isn't big on subtly, likely as a way to appeal to a wide range of ages. Which brings us to the series' big mystery: who is Dulaque. Because of the aforementioned lack of subtly, there is a reasonable expectation that we an already figure it out. In the premiere, which was already steeped in Arthurian lore, the name Dulaque immediately suggested Lancelot, former right hand to the Welsh king and eventually adulterer. And Frewer's namedropping of Morgan Le Faye in a familiar sense reaffirmed an Arthurian connection. However, Jenkin's two comments call such a simply explanation into doubt. First, he declared that Dulaque was simply his most recently used assumed name, though one that was familiar enough to cause Jenkins to jump. Second, at the end, he slipped and identified Dulaque as a fellow caretaker, and that they are very hard to kill (Judson, suggested to have been over two thousand years old, continued on in his role after he died). My current theory: he's Merlin. Caretaker of all that was mystical in Arthur's court (one of the iterations of the Library) until he was expelled, now set about the Earth for a thousand years trying to return magic to its former glory. And using the names of his former compatriots as cover in the process.

Let's see how well that theory holds up over the next six episodes.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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