The TV spin-off series The Librarians finished up last week on TNT, with 10 episodes rounding out its first season. I’d earlier reviewed the premiere (the first two episodes), as seen here in this post. As I mentioned then:
I have a soft spot for “The Librarian” TV movies, which are admittedly cheesy, corny, and nerdy. They’re also fun. And that irrepressible, playful spirit all through the TV movies — lifelong learning is THE BEST, y’all! — also inhabits the spin-off series.
After watching the entire first season, I still stand by that first impression. Not every episode was great; in fact, the series as a whole was a little uneven in tone and focus. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and I looked forward to each new episode each week.
What I loved:
- The glimpses into the past of Jenkins, who manages the library annex. At first, the character seemed one-dimensional and stereotypical to me, but each episode provided a little more depth and gravitas to Jenkins, who continues to be a mysterious figure. Also, it helps that John Larroquette is so skilled at delivering wry line readings and throwing sideways shade.
- The structure of the series and the links back to events and character traits throughout the series. Even the premiere harkened back to the original TV movies. The finale episode really paid off by referencing every episode before it. I love a series that rewards the fans who have paid attention throughout the season!
- Variety and diversity of myths and legendary figures and artistic works
- The chemistry of the lead cast, who all seemed comfortable with each other — there’s a sense of security for viewers to witness that kind of easy camaraderie
- Great casting of guest actors, including Alicia Witt, Bruce Campbell, and Rene Auberjonois
What could use improvement:
- The main villains, who still came across as quite thin and uninteresting. Criminal waste of actor Matt Frewer (who played “Max Headroom”).
- Uneven pace and a few plots that seemingly went nowhere
- Diversity of sets (Is that Slovakia? Looks like another Oregon forest to me! ;) ) and a special effects upgrade
- Weak use of great guest actors
- More use of Noah Wyle and library mainstays Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart
Rating each episode:
Here are the 10 episodes, in order of my personal favorites:
- TIE: The premiere, “And the Crown of King Arthur,” (1.1) and the finale, “And the Loom of Fate” (1.10). Each was strengthened by the other. The finale referenced the premiere and the entire series, which provided more gravitas (to both the plot and the characters), while the premiere episode gained points in setting the tone and overall structure, which were reinforced by the finale. Bonus points for Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart reprising their roles in the premiere!
- “And the Heart of Darkness” (1.8). An episode set in a haunted house. Sounds stereotypical, but the tone and storyline of the haunted house was truly chilling — and original! Loved the scene in which Jenkins ran through the cataloged list of haunted houses. The series excelled at little throwaway moments like that.
- “And the Fables of Doom” (1.6). An absolute delight of an episode, which involved fairy tale characters coming to life in a small town — and going on attack! Such clever twists on traditional fairy tales. Bonus points for featuring another major librarian character, played by Rene Auberjonois, plus the climax is set in the town’s public library.
- “And the City of Light” (1.9). Another episode that seemed to start out as one thing but ended up in a highly original place — involving the legacy of Nikola Tesla, no less! Touching emotional connection between series regular Christian Kane and guest actor Haley Webb, who functions as the town’s archivist.
- “And the Sword in the Stone” (1.2). The second episode and one that cemented the structure of the librarians-in-training. Expect tears for the “sword in the stone” of the title.
- “And the Apple of Discord” (1.5). Flynn returns in this episode that features dragons who have been awoken and start wreaking havoc around the world. (As dragons are wont to do.) Eye-rolling special effects — or lack thereof. The highlight is the scene demonstrating just how dangerous Cassandra’s skills can be.
- “And the Horns of a Dilemma” (1.3). Standard episode that provided a twist on the labyrinth and the Minotaur myth. It earned points for how it updated the concept of the labyrinth, but lost points for its cheesy portrayal of the Minotaur in various guises.
- “And Santa’s Midnight Run” (1.4). I soooooo wanted to love this Christmas-themed episode — Santa gets kidnapped! — and Bruce Campbell as Santa is an absolute hoot. However, the pace really lagged in the second half of the episode, and the ending was particularly cringe-worthy.
- “And the Rule of Three” (1.7). An episode set at a science fair and a mash-up of science and magic. Brilliant casting of Alicia Witt, but once again, they didn’t know how to make the best use of what they had. Lame story and confusing ending.
Last but not least, my favorite line from the series, which was cleverly remixed in the finale:
I’m offering you a life of mystery and adventure. More than that, I’m offering you an opportunity to make a difference. Save the world every week.
Until next week, then… :)