TNT has resurrected The Library and Librarian Flynn Carsen. Thankfully, the two-hour series premiere – The Librarians and The Crown of King Arthur/The Librarians and The Sword in the Stone –hew closer to the delightfully odd first TNT movie, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear than its sequels in terms of quality. If the first two episodes are a fair sampling, then The Librarians (TNT, Sundays, 8/7C) is deliciously sly and deliriously fun.
Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) is the Librarian – keeper/finder of magical artifacts for The Library, a secret establishment far below the Metropolitan Public Library in New York City. He’s been at the job longer than any previous Librarian and has outlived a few Guardians – enough that he prefers to work alone.
Col. Eve Baird (Rebecca Romjin) is a NATO counterterrorism specialist whom we meet in a tense prologue as she seeks to prevent a nuclear event in Berlin – beneath a building into which Carsen suddenly appears looking for a particular artifact. Between the two of them disaster is averted – but Baird finds herself on an enforced one-month leave following her report on those events.
At home – an apartment with no furniture and an empty refrigerator – a white envelope is slid under her door bearing an invitation to apply for a position with the Metropolitan Public Library. Curious, she checks it out.
She arrives just after a man is murdered on the library steps by a mysterious man in black (Matt Frewer). Library accountant Charlene (Jane Curtain) ushers her in to meet Carsen – who has just discovered that the murdered man, with whom he been speaking on the phone at the time of his death, had been a potential Librarian. A quick check shows that of the dozen or so potential Librarians, all but three had died within the last month.
The first, Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth), lives in New York. They find her working as a janitor in a hospital – where she saves an emergency patient with exotic knowledge and reveals herself to be a synesthete (experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations as she thinks – seeing colors for numbers, hearing musical notes for science and doing math presents as smells).
To save time, they split up – Carsen heads off to Geneva to find Ezekiel Jones (John Kim) while Baird and Cassandra head off to Oklahoma to find Jacob Stone (Christian Kane). Carsen interrupts a robbery going bad and a murder attempt, while Baird and Cillian arrive just in time to save Stone from… ninjas?
When they all reconvene in the Library, Stone expertise in art history enables Carsen to discover what the Brotherhood of the Serpent (the potentials’ would-be killers) is up to – they want to recover Excalibur and the Crown of King Arthur to bring magic back to the world (but not in a good way).
The two-part premiere was written by John Rogers and directed by Dean Devlin – the minds behind the original movies and the caper series Leverage – so you might assume that The Librarians would be smart, clever, witty and fast-paced. You would be right.
Bearing in mind that the Librarian movies preceded Warehouse 13 – with its collecting and secreting away of magical artifacts – The Librarians might well replace that series in the hearts and minds of Warehouse 13 fans. It has a similar sensibility and a similar sense of wonder – Not to mention sense of pure fun.
Because Carsen has been The Librarian for a while, the new Librarians in Training and the new Guardian are our entryway into a world in which magic exists. Their awe when entering the Library for the first time – seeing Carsen sparring with Excalibur (or should I say Carsen vs. Excalibur?) or discovering secret passages in Buckingham Palace – is our awe. When there is damage done, they are affected just as we would be.
The Librarians and The Crown of Arthur/The Sword in the Stone does a good job of setting up the series; taking the potential Librarians on their first adventure, and preparing us for the absence of Carsen. Wyle will appear periodically, but the newbies will carry the show under the watchful eye of Jenkins (John Larrocquette). In a way – and I’m sure this is not a coincidence – the Librarians are a lot like the Leverage team only with even more brain power. There’s the brains (Jenkins, Cillian), a thief/tech wizard (Jones), an engineer/art historian (Stone) and the muscle (Baird) – a collection of individually talented people who fit together to make a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Plus magic.
Wyle, naturally, is a standout – working Carsen’s eccentricities and fighting the inevitable with swashbuckling charm; Romjin has both the chops and physical presence to pull off being a Guardian (not unlike Sonya Walger in Quest for the Spear); Kim is perfect as the wily and easily amused Jones; Kane brings his off-hand good ole boy charm-belying-unusual-expertise to Stone without feeling too much like Leverage’s Eliot, and Booth is utterly adorable as Cillian (even when she messes up).
Larrocquette could play the curmudgeonly Jenkins in his sleep, but there’s a twinkle in his eye that tells us he’s having way more fun than we can possibly imagine. Cameos by Bob Newhart as Judson (sort of) and Jane Curtain as Charlene contribute to the feeling that there has been a real continuity to the world we are visiting here.
If the premiere gets a bit maudlin toward the end, there’s good reason to expect that it won’t be A Thing. Which is good – the rest of the two hours is great fun.
Grade: The Librarians and The Crown of Arthur – A
Grade: The Librarians and The Sword in the Stone – B+
Final Grade: A-