This Sunday saw the return of TNT’s The Librarians, a show that I love but borders on a guilty pleasure for me. The show is fun and light it is a spin off from the made-for-TV trilogy starring Noah Wylie in the early 2000s. The story revolves around The Metropolitan Public Library and its librarian Flynn Carsen, a 31-year-old professional student with 12 Bachelors, 6 Masters, and 4 Ph.D. degrees and who would have continued his education had his college not decided to kick him out and insist he join the real world. Flynn is soon hired at the Metropolitan Public Library and tasked with collecting and protecting magical artifacts from history and housing them in the library. If that premise sounds familiar you may also be a fan of Syfy’s wonderful Warehouse 13, which was almost the very same plot. Also like Warehouse 13, The Librarians is full of fun and whimsy – something that has become increasingly rare in sci-fi/fantasy shows nowadays.
This kind of low stakes fun is actually a lot of the draw for me. The story is entertaining and the actors and writers are talented but unconcerned with making the dark thriller type of stories that are so popular now. My favorite shows that really helped me to identify as a sci-fi fan were these lighthearted shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka, they were fun and likable and not nearly so tense and dramatic. While Doctor Who really introduced me to the genre on television it has gotten increasingly darker and more serious in tone. The light fun episodes of Doctor Who are now seen as breaths of fresh air and not the norm. The opposite is true in shows like The Librarians. The first season of The Librarians saw the library compromised by a mysterious evil organization, The Serpent Brotherhood, and as a security measure it disappeared into time and space, leaving only the annex behind. Consequently, we were introduced to three “potential librarians” who were saved from the Brotherhood and thrust into the action while Flynn was off searching for the rest of the library. At the opening of this new season, the three new librarians have split up and are no longer working together as a team.
Jacob Stone, is a laborer from Oklahoma who is extremely knowledgeable in Art History and Architecture, yet publishes under a pseudonym in order to hide his intellect from his family and be treated like every other laborer in OK (think Good Will Hunting). Cassandra Cillian is a mathematician who has a brain tumor that causes hallucinations when she is thinking too hard about problems. While the tumor is slowly killing her, Jacob helps her figure out a way to manage the pain. Ezekiel Jones is my favorite librarian. A technological genius, he is also a thief and has hacked numerous international governments and law enforcement agencies. Ezekiel is nonchalant, quick-witted and seemingly selfish, which can be frustrating to the other librarians, but he usually makes the best decision for the team in the end. Along with the librarians, there is Eve Baird, a former NATO agent and current Guardian of the library. Eve tends to be the leader of the team and while not as smart as the librarians she likes to have a plan and approach the missions tactically since she is tasked to be the protector of the group. There is also Jenkins, the caretaker of the Library and extremely knowledgeable of history and ancient lore. This is understandable as it is revealed at the end of the first season that he is the immortal former knight of King Arthur’s Sir Galahad.
After the defeat of the main antagonist last season, The Serpent Brotherhood, the team has come back together to face down a new big bad, Shakespeare creation and “Fictional” Prospero. A Fictional is a character that, if well-written and beloved enough, can come to life and live among us. The Librarians take this premise and commits wholeheartedly to it, which allows the viewer to commit as well. However, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and remains focused on having fun with these characters and this magical fantasy world it has created.
In preparation for the second season, TNT re-aired The Librarian trilogy of movies and I was struck with how much more I like the dynamic of the TV show as compared to Flynn the lone librarian going off on these adventures. While the movies feel more like a low-budget Indiana Jones knock-off, the series takes the best elements of the movies, the magic and fantasy, and adds a team of people to care about. Flynn can be self-important and overly pleased with his accomplishments. While the movies set him up as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and The Doctor, all powerful and knowing, they don’t tend to give him a partner like Watson or a companion that is not a romantic interest. This isn’t the case with the show as the four main characters act as a team with unique strengths and weaknesses; they are more humanized and, therefore, more fun. While Flynn shows up occasionally through the first season and is featured in the two-hour second season premiere, the best episodes are when he is not involved and overshadowing the rest of the team. I’m excited that this show has returned and look forward to the rest of this season especially since at the end of the episode Flynn has gone off on his own again leaving Eve and the remaining three librarians to resume working together as a team. It’s true in real life and apparently remains true in fantasy when it comes to librarians you won’t find a cooler group of people.