What We’re Watching: ‘The Librarians’ and an Adventure Canceled Too Soon

All the main characters from "The Librarians."
Electric Entertainment

Every so often, a made-for-TV movie comes along that’s just good enough to get a sequel or two. And on rare occasions, it will return with an excellent TV series. Come, join The Librarians, a show that pulls you into a life of mystery and misery—loneliness and adventure. You’ll have the pleasure of watching a small group of misfits make a difference and save the world every week, twice before Friday.

Before we get into the series, you should know The Librarians kicks off after three movies about the eponymous Librarian. But you don’t need to watch them first to enjoy the show. The TV series does an excellent job of assuming you haven’t seen what came before and introduces you to concepts, characters, and mythology slowly.

The Librarian’s job is to find magical relics of untold power and secure them in the Library for safekeeping. Relics like the Spear of Destiny, Pan’s Flute, Da Vinci’s Diary, and Blackbeard’s Chest. The Library itself is a massive (as large as it needs to be), possibly sentient, building held in a pocket dimension and tethered to the physical world at the Metropolitan Public Library.

We start the series 10 years into Flynn Carsen’s (masterfully played by Noah Wyle) tenure as the Librarian. That’s longer than any Librarian has served before. If you are familiar with the movies, you’ll see right away that he’s a little older, a little more jaded, and a lot more eccentric.

Now, if you’re a fan of the SyFy channel, you might be calling foul and yelling, “This is a rip-off of Warehouse 13!” at the top of your lungs. But let me stop you there; The Librarian came first. And the shows are massively different, despite their shared concepts. But if you like Warehouse 13, sci-fi, fantasy, and some comedy in general, there’s a good chance you’ll like The Librarians. So, don’t write it off just yet. 

An Untethered Beginning

When we begin the series, The Library sends an invitation to Eve Baird, played by Rebecca Romijn of X-Men fame, to be the new Guardian. It’s the Guardian’s job to protect the physical and mental well-being of the Librarian. Flynn has been without a Guardian since the first movie.

Her first day doesn’t go well, as they discover a plot to kill anyone who received an invitation to apply for the Librarian position 10 years ago. The only applicants left are three people who didn’t show up.

First up is Jacob Stone (played by Christian Kane), a genius in hiding. He speaks many languages and holds degrees in architecture, art history, Native American Culture, and more. But he hides behind a pseudonym and works as an oil rigger. He didn’t show up for his interview because he feared being outed as a genius would cost him his family.

Right behind him is Cassandra Cillian (played by Lindy Booth). Cassandra is a mathematician with synesthesia. She can use auditorial and visual hallucinations to pull up “holographic simulations” to solve problems normal humans can’t. But she didn’t show up for her interview because she has a terminal brain tumor, and she was in the hospital.

And hidden in the corner is Ezekiel Jones (played by John Harlan Kim). He’s a low-down incorrigible master thief who uses an incredible understanding of technology to further his exploits. In Ezekiel’s mind, he is the most awesome man in the world. He didn’t show up for his interview because he’s a low-down incorrigible master thief.

Rounding out the cast is Jenkins, expertly played by John Larroquette. Jenkins is the caretaker of the Library, and for much of his tenure, he worked in secret. Even Flynn was unaware of his presence until recently. It’s implied in early episodes that Jenkins is far older than he looks.

Just as the group comes together, the Library gets attacked by an evil group known as the Serpent Brotherhood. The group manages to disconnect the pocket dimension the Library exists in from the physical plane, cutting off all access to it.

A Show of Mystery and Adventure

Noah Wile in the role of Flynn Carsen
Ten years in, this Librarian is showing his age and loneliness. Electric Entertainment

If you are a fan of Warehouse 13, you might be asking where’s the differences I promised. Much like the SyFy show, each episode focuses on recovering a magical relic and storing it away in the Library. At the start of the series, though, the Library is cut from the world, and Flynn’s best friend, Excalibur (yes, actually the sword of Arthurian Legend), is killed.

The Librarians retreat to an Annex and split into two teams. Flynn leaves (which allows Noah Wild to show up for episodes occasionally) to find a way back to the Library. Eve, Jacob, Cassandra, and Ezekiel take over his duties of protecting the world from magic.

Yes, magic is very real, which is one distinguishing characteristic from Warehouse 13, but the other is tone. The Librarians is a lighthearted good-natured show that never takes itself too seriously. 

It’s ready to sneak a Tardis from Doctor Who or a DeLorean from Back to the Future into an episode about time travel. It’s willing to turn its main characters into literal storybook fantasy figures, like Prince Charming, because of plot. The show has adventure, charm, and dozens of laughs.

That isn’t to say it can’t be serious, but those moments sneak up on you. It’ll often happen at the end of an episode to make a lasting point or teach a wise lesson.

A Show from Yesterday for Today

The main characters from The Librarians, one holding a 'Ghostbusters' style handscanner.
That’s totally not a P.K.E. Meter from ‘Ghosbusters’ in her hands. Surrrrreee. Electric Entertainment

I love The Librarians because it reminds me of the TV I watched when I was young. The show even titles episodes like yesteryear shows, from The Librarians And Santa’s Midnight Run to The Librarians And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (and now you see what I did with this headline title).

You get a little bit of adventure, a little bit of romance, plot twists, and wise lessons—often from sarcastic Jenkins who also serves as the show’s elder mentor. Seasons tie together as the team races to get a step ahead of the big bad enemy, and the quiet moments you paid attention to reward you for your patience.

The Librarians is a show where the good guys always win the war, and the bad guys always lose. Sure, the bad buys look like they’re sometimes winning, and they even get the best of the good guys in a battle, but at the end of the season, the good guys win. That’s not a given in a television series anymore, so it gives The Librarians show a nostalgic feel. Best of all, the good guys earn their win, and they win by doing what’s right—not what’s easy. Sometimes, it’s just nice to watch good guys win and bad guys lose.

Each season the characters grow, and you understand why every person present, even Ezekiel, is necessary. The Library made no mistakes in who it chose to protect the world. Everyone has doubts about why they belong, or even if they do belong, at the Library. But the group works together to grow, learn, and win as a team.

Canceled Too Soon

Unfortunately, for all its greatness, The Librarians was canceled after four seasons. That could be a blessing in a way; it didn’t outlive its stay like some shows. (I’m looking at you How I Met Your Mother.) But it didn’t get to end on its own terms (like The Good Place), so I’m left wanting one more season. Despite its short tenure, you should give it a watch if you enjoy swashbuckling adventure and good versus evil. The Librarians is the rare show that stayed true to its heart from beginning to end, and that makes it worth watching.

You can watch all four seasons of The Librarians on Hulu. And if you’re interested, you can watch the original three movies for free on Vudu with ads.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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