The Librarians and the Crown of King Arthur

IMDB : aired December 7, 2014
John Rogers (executive producer) discusses episodes 1 and 2.
And then answers questions for episodes 1-3
index and explanation of these posts

The plot:

Flynn Carsen, The Librarian, discovers that someone is killing off other former candidates for the position. It’s up to Flynn and his new Guardian (Eve Baird) to figure out what’s going on, and save the three who are left. Oh, yes, and save the world. Again.

This (and the following episode) aired together as the pilot for the series. Like all pilots, there’s rather a lot of introducing people, the setting, the assumptions of the show.

Commentary:

Opening: We start in Berlin, with Eve coordinating a mission to retrieve a bomb in what seems like a large warehouse.

The Library: One thing that we talked about in library school is walking someone over to the thing they’re looking for (or person, in this case) rather than just pointing. Obviously, this varies depending on space, if you’re the only person at the desk and it’s busy, etc. but I loved seeing that touch here.

 Part of me really loves the library shelves being a maze (multicursal, I hope) and part of me wonders how you sort out getting to anything with any sort of speed. I suppose it helps if you aren’t training in new people shelving regularly (the library I work in has 7 staircases, none of which go to every floor, and every time a new student worker starts, I reassure them that I spent the first couple of months lost too.)

I love the office. I would love an office like that.

We have a bit of plot movement. One of the things I’m really liking about this show is that – as becomes much more obvious as you get into later episodes – they’re not just pushing one kind of intelligence. Book smarts are a lovely thing, but they’re not the only lovely thing out there, y’know?

Potential librarians: 

I really do like the different kinds of backgrounds here. (One of the things that always makes me blink is when people ask ‘what should I major in if I want to be a librarian?” Because really, there’s lots of things that are relevant.

My undergrad degree was a double major in Music and Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and while I use very little of the content knowledge most of the time at my work, I use the skills from it all sorts of places – and every so often, the content’s really handy too. Anyway. Some jobs do want specific content knowledge, but a lot of times, a broad range of knowledge and skills finding specifics do really well too.

Again with the loving the look on their faces when they see the library.

This is also where we start to see some of the mythos of the worldbuilding – reading through the John Rogers commentary, he makes the point that they’re playing with reality (and not just the obvious stuff, but which things from other fictional universes may or may not be true.) The Dracula bit is a good example of this, and rewatching it, I like how this provides incluing about how the world of the series works (and it definitely helps my own personal suspension of disbelief.)

Still want the office.

I sort of like that the tattoos for the Serpent Brotherhood are not consistent (they’re not in the first movie, either.) I like it when the opposition forces appear to have at least glanced at the Evil Overlord List and its offshoots.

The actual shelving here is … ow, it makes my head hurt. (With older or delicate volumes, you want to avoid putting uneven pressure on the spines. Here’s a nice summary form the National Library of Scotland about storing rare books.

Footnotes:

The Opal of Samarra: Samarra is a city in Iraq. The Teutonic Knights were a religious order (from what is now roughly Germany) somewhat similar to the Knights Templar that started to help provide aid to those going on pilgrimage to Jersualem, and eventually turned into a military order.  They have a website.

The Third Crusade ran from 1189-1192, roughly – this is the one with Richard the Lionheart, for all you fans of Robin Hood legend. (As a side note, if you like this time period, I recommend Alan Gordon’s Fool’s Guild series of historical mysteries to your attention.) Nazi occultism is a complicated topic, but the reality is almost certainly much more boring than the mythology.

Did you know the Franciscan Order was responsible for developing the Stations of the Cross? Fixing the number at 14 didn’t happen until 1731. The Latin Vulgate edition began in the 4th century CED and became the standard for the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. John, 19:17. The numbers for Luke make less sense, but are probably Luke 23: 26 based on context.

The library: 

I worked in Minneapolis for all 12 years I lived in Minnesota (and lived in the city for the last four) It does occasionally host library conferences, like most other major cities.

Z 662 (as seen on the elevator buttons) is the Library of Congress call number for  Libraries – Collections – General. A desvio deflects an attacking blow, and a molinello is a circular cut – both are Renaissance fencing terms. We’ve talked about Excalibur before.

Potential Librarians: 

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord, and as you can guess, is very Not Good. Psittacosis (also called Parrot Fever) has some similar symptoms.

(Incidentally, the US Migratory Bird Conservation Act has a lot to say about ownership of feathers or other parts of migratory birds. Not relevant to parrots in the US, but any time a plot point comes up around feathers, I think of it.)

Synesthesia is a real thing (I have friends who have it in varying less obvious forms) but of course Cassie’s manifestation of it is plot driven. Paul Dirac was a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, who predicted the existence of antimatter. Astronomical constants.

Photographic memory, not a thing. Eidetic memory, really interesting (I used to have something of one for things I read and grew out of it, though I still have an unusually good memory for particular kinds of data about where something is in a book.) Memory in general, also interesting, see Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer for a lot more about memory techniques.

Ninjas, again a thing where the myth is more interesting than the reality.

As noted in John Roger’s post about this episode, the dagger Ezekial stares at is the Dagger of Aqua’ba from the Leverage episode “The Rashomon Job“. Cairo Museum. Amenhotep is the name of a number of Egyptian pharaohs (and other nobles) – Amenhotep III is the father of Akhenaten, if you’re trying to place your names. Not clear whose jewels. Infrared sensors read temperature (and specifically changes in)

Mechanical bulls. Oklahoma has the second highest number of oil rigs in the US. “Aestus cruentus adventus est, ubique carmen pudicitae submerse est”  a Latin translation of William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming“, written in 1919. (Link has the full text: the poem is in English originally). The snake eating its tail – the ouroboros – has a long history.

Lamia. (John Rogers in the commentary posts mentions at one point that this is not the name her parents gave her.)

Intelligence tests are really problematic (but whatever scale you’re using, 190 is way off the charts). The Sorbonne and Cambridge are two venerable, and highly regarded universities.

The library again: 

Spear of Destiny (topic of the first movie). Arc of the Covenant, also referenced there. Dracula. Bigfoot.

Oligodendroglioma. (For all it’s described as a grape, one of the reasons they can’t easily be treated is that they’re a diffuse tumor, so you can’t just remove the tumor itself.)

Ley lines. (Again, long history, many theories. The term dates from 1921.)

Searching for the Crown: 

Crown of King Arthur (the historical object of that name.) There’s no museum by the name ‘Munich Museum for Art and History’. Stone’s comments on the fall of Camelot are, as often the case in this series, one possible version of events.

1146 is the time of the Second Crusade. Also a flood year (and a famine year) in much of Europe. 1546.

The statue in the fight scene is very similar to the Venus de Milo, which lives in the Louvre.  (It also appears to be the same painting from the background in the previous scene.)

Carmine is made from certain insects and snails from the Americas and so couldn’t turn up on a painting made in 1146 in Europe. (Book rec: if you’re interested in the history of colour, I highly recommend Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay.)

The frame being bolted does explain why the painting doesn’t fit the rest of the gallery, which appears to be rather jumbled anyway.

(I am not good enough at art history to pick out all the paintings on sight, but there’s a mix of everything from late medieval to 1800s or so, just from a quick view and without any apparent unity of subject or theme. The painting you see in the back to the left of the Arthur painting is a really classic Madonna headpose and colouring – the blue is usually lapis lazuli which was incredibly rare in Europe because it only comes from a few mines in what is now Afghanistan – but she’s not holding a child, which is odd.)

Binary code is what makes your computer run. Among other things.

Henge. (John Rogers notes there are actually a couple of henges in Germany, but they don’t look like that one. This is intentional on the production crew’s part.) 84.3N, 18.5E puts you in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, oops.

I may come back and annotate the astronomy further, but the Orionids are a late October meteor shower that derives from the tail of Halley’s Comet.

The captioning gives this as ‘Bachiani’ but I’m pretty sure Stone is referring to Boccioni, a 19th century painter who fits that description.

The proscuttio welding torch is actually feasible. John Rogers kindly provides a link to a video. Any video that includes the sentences “It turns out that ordinary American bacon does not have the structural integrity that’s necessary for this application, so I’m using an engineering grade of bacon which is known as proscuttio” is likely worth your time. I am not an engineer, and leave it to someone else to determine if Flynn’s comment that bacon (in the cucumber configuration used in the script, where structural integrity is not an issue) would be better.

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” is from the poem “Andrea del Sarto” by Robert Browning. (Jones quotes it.)

Wounds made by Excalibur cannot be healed.

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2 comments to The Librarians and the Crown of King Arthur

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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