The third season of The Librarians television series begins on TNT on Sunday, November 20th. “But wait,” you say, “I want to check out season three, but I haven’t got my Library card yet. What episodes should I watch to bring myself up to speed?”
The good news is that the basic premise of the series is easy to catch onto. There’s this mystical Library that’s been around for ages, storing ancient magical knowledge and relics, and a crack team of expert Librarians (and their appointed Guardian) who strive to protect the world from whatever supernatural menaces aren’t securely shelved in the Library yet. That’s all you really need to know, but if you want a crash course in Library studies, these five episodes can serve as your card catalog.
The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004)
This is where it all began. Before the current television series, there were three TV movies starring Noah Wylie as Flynn Carsen, the Librarian. This, the first movie, introduces Flynn as well as the Library itself and sets the stage for everything to come. There’s also plenty of globe-trotting adventure, humor, and a touch of romance. Two sequels followed, and they’re a lot of fun, with pirates and vampires and King Solomon’s Mines, but let’s skip ahead to…
“The Librarians and the Crown of King Arthur”/“And the Sword in the Stone”
This two-parter originally aired as a special movie-length series premiere so I’m going to cheat and count it as one episode. Picking up several years after the original movie trilogy, the first episode of the TV series has the Library recruiting three new Librarians—science whiz Cassandra Cillian (played by Lindy Booth), art history expert Jacob Stone (Christian Kane), and master thief/lovable scoundrel Ezekiel Jones (John Kim)—along with a kick-ass new Guardian, Colonel Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), a former UN counter-terrorism operative. Along the way, the Librarians shift their base of operations from New York City (as in the movies) to Portland, Oregon, where they meet Jenkins, the Library’s somewhat acerbic new Caretaker (John Larroquette, picking up from the movies’ much gentler Bob Newhart). Flynn is still around, by the way, and remains a recurring character on the TV series, dashing in and out of the plot as required, while trying to get used to the fact that that he’s no longer the only Librarian.
“And the Drowned Book”
The season two premiere reunites the Librarians, after they kind of went their separate ways at the end of Season One, and introduces the intriguing concept of Fictionals: classic literary characters who manage to escape their own stories to exist in the real world. Combining forces for the first time in months, the Librarians run afoul of both Prospero (from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, of course) and Professor Moriarty (please tell me I don’t need to cite his origins), setting up an arc that spans the rest of the season, while the Librarians deal with various standalone “case-of-the-week” type missions as well. And speaking of which…
“And the Cost of Education”
“And the Cost of Education” is mostly a standalone in which the Librarians have to deal with a Lovecraftian tentacle monster who is wreaking havoc on the very college campus that supposedly inspired HPL’s infamous Miskatonic University, but it makes the list because (1) it’s one of my very favorite episodes and (2) amidst all the interdimensional hijinks, which include a lovable pet gargoyle named Stumpy who won a special place in the hearts of all Librarians fans, seeds are planted for future episodes, such as the first appearance of the enigmatic Ladies of the Lake (yes, plural), who will be showing their watery faces again. This episode also raises the troubling question of whether the Library’s age-old policy of locking magic away from the world, and covering up its existence whenever possible, is still working in the 21st century, which remains unresolved even after the college is saved from unspeakable eldritch horror. (Stick around for the poignant final exchange between Cassandra and Jenkins.)
“And the Final Curtain”
Finally, prepare yourself for the new season by watching last season’s finale, which wraps up the Prospero arc in an ingenious fashion, adds time-travel to The Librarians’ bag of tricks, and leaves our intrepid bibliophiles (including Flynn) poised to cope with whatever season three throws at them. And did I mention that William Shakespeare himself shows up, and is nearly assassinated by a time-traveling Moriarty? Or that Flynn helps himself to a rat-on-a-stick?
Postscript: By necessity, this list leans heavily toward premieres, finales, and the more arc-centric episodes, but many of my favorite episodes, with the best bits and character moments, involve standalone cases of the week. They may not advance any arcs or contain any stunning new revelations, but they’re fun and thoroughly entertaining in their own right. So, with that in mind, let me give a shout-out to such classic Librarians eps as “And Santa’s Midnight Run” (Bruce Campbell as Santa Claus, need I say more?), “And the Infernal Contract” (John DeLancie as the Devil, ditto) and “And the Fables of Doom” (fairy tales gone wild). That last one, by the way, was the primary inspiration for my second Librarians novel, The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase, coming out next out year.
There are plenty of other stories waiting in the Library’s crowded stacks, of course, but these should get you started—and you don’t even need to worry about overdue fines.
Greg Cox is the author of The Librarians and the Lost Lamp, a copy of which is actually shelved in the Library. Really.