6 Jan 2015

[Review] - The Librarians, Season 1 Episodes 5 And 6, "And the Apple of Discord/And the Fables of Doom"

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
Half way through the season, and Flynn returned to check in on the condition of the Library, while providing no actual progress on his own mission to re-anchor the full Library to reality. And while he did that, he provided an important piece of illumination: the show is better without him. No disrespect to Noah Wyle, who clearly has a blast playing Flynn, but in only a few short episodes this series has established a nice repertoire between it's regulars. And Flynn doesn't fit organically into that arrangement. He sticks out, disrupts things, and doesn't really offer anything that can't be fulfilled by one of the five stars.

Which, as crazy and ridiculous as the show is, as episode six clearly illustrated, is also a credit to the folks both behind and in front of the camera. In six episodes, The Librarians is far more successful than Agents of SHIELD at establishing a team dynamic. Hell, in six episodes, The Librarians is far more successful than Agents of SHIELD at a lot of things, including being consistently enjoyable to watch. And that isn't good for Marvel, consider how very different these shows are from one another. It is however, very good news for the Librarians.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are having a really good hair day.

These episodes cement the idea that, there really isn't anything this series won't tackle. If Bruce Campbell as Santa wasn't evidence enough, a duo of episodes featuring a supernatural peace summit and a town being transformed into a Germanic fairy tale by a dying child should probably should reduce any notion that there is nothing on the "too crazy" part of the writer's room idea board. I'm not complaining, as the series sells it's crazy like moonshine in a dry county. It's just that, your average television viewer isn't expecting a troll to pick a truck off a bridge. We've become too complacent in our apathy, is clearly the lesson here.

Episode six did strain the bonds of credulity somewhat, if only because the CG was so obvious and so obviously terrible. I complimented the series on avoiding such budget shortfalls in the first handful of episodes, but the troll's hand and the "giant wolf" really were bad. Like, Syfy original film, bad. On a show about magic, such occurrences are bound to be unavoidable, and I'm sure it could have been considerably worse. They could have lingered on these effects for longer, and that's wouldn't have helped anything. And I suppose I rather have Christian Kane throw an ax out of frame and have a group reaction shot than to see the result poorly rendered.

Sometimes, when you are watching an ensemble show, it becomes obvious that a particular character has become a favourite in the writer's room. And on this show, I think it's obvious that the writer's are far more interested in Cassie than in any of the rest of the cast. That's not to say that the rest aren't being given things to do, but all the most interesting developments, and all the best fun, are being directed at Cassie. Part of this might have to do with Lindy Booth - scratch that, I suspect it entirely has to do with Lindy Booth and the bubbly enthusiasm she's bringing to the role. If they weren't having her become a Kill Bill-esque megalomaniac or a swashbuckling chick magnet, the audience would be asking themselves "why aren't the writers having more fun with the repressed cutie?" It's the same basic reason why The Lego Movie's Unikitty was also a psychopath: nothing is more fun than watching something adorable snap.

That being said, she isn't just getting the most interesting things to do, they also seem to be laying the most ground work for major character renovations later on down the line. In the pilot, I mentioned that her betrayal happened too early on, without any establishment of motivation. By using that betrayal as her backstory, they're moving in new and far more interesting directions. The undercurrent of hostile over-achievement is good, but not entirely original. The implied lesbianism and newly acquired magical ability offer something new to the mousiest of the Librarians. Continuing to develop her relationship with Stone is also wise, as that is as close as this show has gotten to a complex relationship between characters. Stone's utter unwillingness to trust her will undoubtedly be put to the test by season's end, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how that plays out. If her Merlinism remains, I suspect it will factor.

More layers were applied to the Dulaque mystery in episode five, which also built up more of the backstory of this world. Fairies, dragons, genies and pretty much every other magical creature exists in a delicate and diplomatic equilibrium, and Dulaque sought to destabilize that for the chase of discrediting and destroying the Library's influence. In the process, Jenkins revealed more of himself than we've gotten thus far. His admission that he has, for potentially hundreds of years, "chosen wrong," is almost as interesting as the very intimate conversation with Dulaque at the end. I stand by my previous theory that Dulaque is Merlin (which would make Cassie's being imbued with Merlinic powers interesting...), but the nature of his and Jenkin's relationship is fascinating. I'm tempted to say former lovers, considering how much subtext there was in their interaction. And frankly, anything else just doesn't seem as interesting. Certainly not something as over done as siblings.

These episodes were also notable for their development of Ezekiel, or rather, their insistence that he be the one character on the show immune from development. Despite setting him up at the supernatural conference as having hidden depths of cooperation, what it actually revealed is that the character is already the worst possible version of himself, and that he's perfectly ok with that. He's not resistant to change, he's just not interested in it. He's fine with being pretty terrible. And in the face of deadly fairy tales, his maliciousness is what makes him immune to the effects of the curse. This suggests that the writers aren't interested in moving the character forward, but are acknowledging that fact with these very blatant explanations as to why. Which, at least they are aware of what they're doing.

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