[Review] - The Librarians, Season 1 Episodes 7, 8, 9 And 10, "And The Rule of Three/The Heart of Darkness/The City of Light/And the Loom of Fate"

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
Sometimes, the universe just doesn't work your way. I had been reviewing TNT's The Librarians in pairs over alternating weeks. This was in part due to a schedule I couldn't keep, and in part because two episodes garnered more substance for a review. However, I failed to check TNT's broadcast schedule and completely missed that they were inexplicably burning off the final four episodes of the season, and potentially the series, in back to back broadcasts. So, what should have been a review of episodes 7 and 8 is now a clustered review of the entire later half of the season.

Trust me, this is not the way I wanted things to end. From a professional perspective, which long time readers can attest, I am obviously not, a review of this bulk does not reflect well on me. I am curious as to the rational behind the decision to air these episodes like this. The finale, certainly, I can understand the grandeur of a double episode, much like the premiere. But halving the broadcast time from a potential four weeks down to two seems an odd move, even if the ratings were dropping and TNT was anxious to simply move on (the ratings had been in gradual declining since the premiere and as of this writing TNT has given no indication as to whether or not it will grant a second season).

I wish I had been on the ball enough to review these two pairs separately, because I had vastly different opinions of both, and somewhat conveniently, I felt the same way about each of the episodes in each pair. Suffice it to say, the series did not end of the strongest of feet, but it's approach was very charming.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that aren't a science.


Perhaps the strongest thing I can say about any of these four episodes is how obvious it was that Heart of Darkness was meant to fall earlier in the broadcast order. I suspect somewhere around episode three or so. It was also a bold departure from the tone of the rest of the series, and was likely shifted so that the series could establish itself more soundly. I can see the advantages of that. The positive effect of moving it to the end, in a location that was not continuity-jarring, was that it made those final episodes seem to increase the tension, and lead us towards the finale with a foreboding. Part of me wishes they had kept it in the earlier line up. No doubt I would have complained about the show going very dark too soon if they had, but as it stands I appreciated the fact that the writers were willing to take the chance in going far outside the comfortable box they had created for themselves.

It was a straight up horror episode, and was far less "family friendly" than previous episodes, with serial killers and Cassandra hacking at the villain's gut with an axe. Not at all part of the usual framework. It also moved the character of Cassandra on from the meek and meager little sister the pilot introduced and towards the more assertive and audience appealing character she became. The biggest hint that it was meant to come earlier was the use of "math girl," a nick name used in the pilot episode and never again in the series. It would have also been an early indication of what I mentioned in my previous review, that Cassandra was clearly the favourite in the writer's room, and that more of the series would, if not focus, than be attentive towards her. No doubt motivated by the strong performance of Lindy Booth, which Darkness put to full effect.

As did Rule of Three, which will likely be, in retrospect my favourite of the season. And not just because it featured Alicia Witt as Morgan le Fay. And not just because it took place at a STEM fair (which, while being a huge supporter of STEM education, fields, research and promotion, is just the PR way of saying science fair, without the implied nerdiness, with all the actual neridness). And not just because it was the only episode that even broached the cliche of providing scientific rationals for magic. It was all of those things combined, plus Lindy Booth's geektasmic performance. But specifically, it was because the episode refused to go for the cliche of providing scientific rationals for magic. It in fact actively avoided it. It provided a rational for how science and magic can and do coexist. In fact, despite dropping one of Clarke's laws, it embraced the less often evoked corollary, proof at least that someone on the writing team reads TVTropes.

It was also another backstory episode, which fed into the ongoing mystery and arc of the series, and right up until the finale I thought I was OK with that. But they pouched it in the end. I will give the writers credit, either through design or through retroactive sheer dumb luck and desperation, they managed to pull off one of the better arcs in the recent trend. Pretty much every episode of this season was stand alone, right up until the finale, when it was revealed that everything they've been collecting all season played a part in pulling off the ending. Even Warehouse 13 never tried that. Even things like Cassandra's implied bisexuality and potential magical abilities paid off, all be it in a different timeline. And that would have been great, except that the finale was a convoluted mess of an hour, and manged to undo a considerable amount of the good will that the show had built up. It was just a mess, a victim of it's own scope and intended impact. Going big is laudable, but you need to know that you'll be able to pull it off. Leverage was able to pull it off, season after season, even if the series finale felt rushed and slightly empty. This finale falls more in line with that than say, The Maltese Falcon Job.

The show must have had the MST3K manta inscribed above the writer's room door, because it lived and breathed by it's logic. At every available opportunity, the show would gloss over explanations, double itself over in magic technobabble or just flat out hand wave reasoning away. And never once did it interfere with enjoying the show. In fact, it enhanced it. Right up until the finale. Now, for any of you who have read my Continuum reviews, you'll know that I am not one to shy away form complexity. I embrace it, and am usually clever enough to figure things out. However, "figuring something out" isn't just blind guess work, it requires analysis of data. In the absence of data, you cannot make any determination. It's like being asked to produce a sum without being told what the initial numbers are. Or, disguising the numbers so you can't tell what they are. The only way the end result is going to make sense is blind dumb luck. Thus is the problem with the finale. I watched it, but I didn't understand it.

There was a lot going on; too much for it seemed even the writer to keep track of. Flynn, for instance, isn't travelling through the various timelines with Eve, he is quite obviously from the first alternate timeline (which did provide the show with it's biggest laugh, being Eve's reaction to Stone's kiss). But the episode wouldn't have lasted quite as long if the fully informed Flynn had been along for the ride, and there wasn't much point in getting Noah Wyle back for the finale if he wasn't going to be in the bulk of the episode. More and more, it got bogged down in the lack of details it was able to come up with to describe what was happening. I'm still not entirely certain what Dulaque's plan was. He cut the thread, which ended time at Camelot (which it didn't, at all), but to what end. So that he could be young again? Or, immortal? Or rewrite history from the time of Camelot using his future knowledge? And what happened to him? Shouldn't reweaving the fabric simply have put things and persons back to the condition they were in when Dulaque cut the thread to begin with? Also, it was pretty obvious that the writers weren't entirely certain how a loom worked.

I was also clearly over thinking the mystery behind Dulaque and Jenkins. Dulaque was quite obviously Lancelot, and Jenkins was revealed to be Galahad, though in name only, because neither conformed to any version of those characters, in Le Morte D'Arthur or any adaptation since. And there lacked anything resembling a payoff of all the subtle emotions exposed at the end of Apple of Discord. A half-hearted sword fight on a bridge does not a resolution make. Though, John Laroquette does deserve praise for his performance all through this season. Perhaps not the usual role for a man who had to remove himself from Emmy contention because he was winning too much, but he wasn't taking the opportunity to put in half the effort. It is nice when you can rely on the reliable.

Perhaps the weaknesses of the finale was due to the desire to wrap everything up. Because as it stands, that serves as a series finale to the premise introduced only ten episodes ago. No cliffhangers, no unresolved issues. Everything was tied up in clumsy little bows and the adventure continues, in theory if not in practice. I would welcome a second season, because this one was charming and harmless and just the right amount of fun, and I enjoyed watching all of these actors week to week (some more than others, and some more weeks than others). As it stands, I feel it is a fine drink with a twinge-inducing aftertaste. Because they opted not to pile on too much throughout, to make the series as viewer friendly and fairly rearrangeable, the finale suffered from having to do the work of two or maybe even three episodes. And that, after a ride I'd gladly pay to take again, was disappointing.
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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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