Review: The Librarians

I’m continuing my review of inspirations for my new Mage: the Awakening game. This week I look at the TV series The Librarians.

The Librarians

This TNT show follows the tightly scripted adventures about a magical library and the team of librarians who protect it and the world from dangerous magic. Each episode they retrieve artifacts, face off against magical threats, and occasionally save the world. Developed by John Rogers, the mind behind Leverage, the series is now in 4th season.

My wife pointed the series out to me, explicitly saying it made her think of Mage: the Awakening. Since I plan to run a new Chronicle soon, I decided to see what made the series interesting.

The seasons are short, 10 episodes each, which means that there is little spare plot. Everything matters in the episodes. Even if it looks like a monster of the week story, eventually some item or lesson will prove crucial for the season climax.

The wirters have done a great job with the characters. The actors portray them well. Colonel Eve Baird (played by Rebecca Romijn), a former soldier, is the guardian and default leader to the new batch of librarians. She is our straight man, reacting to the constant weirdness with a mix of disbelief and tactical competence.

There three librarians recruited at the beginning of the series. Ezekiel Jones (played by John Harlan Kim) is a master thief and egotistical rogue. The rest of the team, especially Stone, regularly calls him the worst least trustworthy librarian. Jacob Stone (played by Christian Kane) represents the real person behind the five of the world’s leading historians and art experts (who exist as pseudonyms to protect his anonymity). He’s also a barroom brawler. Cassandra Cillian (played by Lindy Booth) is a mathematical prodigy who suffers from a brain tumor that will kill her someday. She is the one who dabbles the most in real magic.

Finally Jenkins (played by John Larroquette) is a stodgy old man who is conducting research at the library. As the series progresses we learn he is much more than he seems and much much older. Rounding out the cast is the flighty and often absent Flynn Carsen (played by Noah Wyle) who was the sole librarian before the rest of the team showed up.

I’ve seen three seasons thus far.

Season 1 focuses on the characters coming together and becoming a team. They must rescue the library from an interdimensional void and stop the Serpent Brotherhood from returning magic to the world. Arthurian myth plays a big part and the season villain has grand plans to return to his old home.

Season 2 brings in fictionals, characters summoned from books. The team must also deal with more fallout from the release of magic in Season 1. The characters all experience some personal growth as they evolve as librarians. Again the season villain has grand plans to remake the world and has a secret twist that even I didn’t see until the final episode.

Season 3 is a battle between good (the library) and evil (Apep, Egyptian god of Chaos). Thrown into this mix is the somewhat out of their depth U.S. government’s Department of of Statistical Anomolies. I may have to steal that name for my game. Unfortunately the villian doesn’t get as much characterization as previous years. While the season has some amazing episodes, the overall plot could have used some better pacing.

There’s a lot of ideas here to mine for story seeds from Minotaurs in the cubicles to a writer being possessed by one of his own creations. Even if you are not running modern fantasy I’m sure you could adapt several of these scenarios to some of fantasy game.

The series is really good. It feels much like the result of a well crafted roleplaying game. Especially if the game master aimed for a very serious tone with a typical batch of players. Which basically means that while the subject matter is well thought out and the story is exciting and interesting, the characters’ reactions and the joking between them lightens the mood to the level of somewhat goofy. Now all it needs is a GUMSHOE adaption.