I am a sucker for stories. As a writer, it is difficult not to be. The thing is, I’m not just obsessed with fictional stories, or the worlds creators create. What makes stories so significant, and a vital part of human culture across the board, is the simple fact that we are living stories. That is why the art of storytelling has always been so important. It is the way we learn lessons, pass on wisdom, and entertain ourselves. Stories are such a vital part of culture because they’re a vital part of our very being. Our well developed brains allow us to see beyond the day to day and recognize that we each have a running story line that follows us through our lives.
The thing I love about The Librarians is that it is a show which brings a story every week. It is the equivalent to sitting down with my mom when I was little, listening to her tell me a story before I drifted off to sleep. I tune in because there’s a comfort in the way the show tells its stories, and this past week The Librarians told its best story yet. Why? Because it was a story about our stories, and there is nothing better than coming away from an episode of a television show thinking ‘damn, that’s one hell of a lesson.’
The Librarians and the Happily Ever Afters took place in an alternate storyline. After the villain of the season, Prospero, cast a spell on the Librarians, each of them got a chance to live the story of their dreams. They had the chance to actually exist within the imaginative stories they probably fall asleep thinking about at night. Each of them received a story line which came directly from their own desires. Jake Stone got the chance to be the teacher-learner to the nth degree. Ezekiel got to be the good guy while still bending all the rules and using that sharp brain of his. Cassandra got the chance to live a life free of her brain tumor, left to pursue all of her wildest passions, and even go to the moon. Eve got the chance to live the small town life she quietly craved, and never received while she was in the military.
Even Flynn, as the audience found later, got the life of solitude where he was able to solve puzzles and save the day all by himself.
Each of the characters was offered a story as a distraction, but also as an option. It seemed especially appropriate, given the whole point of Prospero’s role as a villain this season has been all about the chance to rewrite his story. If all he wanted was a chance to pen his own conclusion, instead of bending to his author’s will, why not extend the same courtesy to the Librarians at the behest of Moriarty? That way everyone would receive their happy ending and could live out the rest of their lives with every desire of their heart being met.
Except here’s the thing: that’s not what life is.
Maybe they were all “happy,” but happiness is not the end goal. Similar to the lesson taught in Pixar’s Inside Out, this episode of The Librarians fought very hard to prove that the easy, happy life, is not always the most fulfilling. The things that soothe us as individuals may be nice in the short run but, in the long run, it will never fulfill us. Why? Because the very point this show has hit home from day one is the vital importance of relationships. Specifically, genuine relationships. Relationships wherein all parties are who they are, open and honest with themselves and others.
From the very beginning, each of our heroes has struggled with baggage. Cassandra with her tumor, and the way people treated her all her life and how she always viewed her disease as a burden instead of a gift. Ezekiel, who hid his compassion and refused to show he cared underneath layers of haughty arrogance because that’s the only way he could survive. Jake, carrying the burden of hiding his interests from his family, never allowed to just be himself around anyone he loved lest they disapprove of his choices. Then there was Eve, with a tough exterior and a heightened sense of responsibility for everything and everyone around her, who struggled every step of the way to protect everyone.
They hid their genuine selves because that is what worked for them, it is what kept them safe, kept them functioning, kept them moving forward in life toward some semblance of success. Yet like good therapy, as the episodes ticked forward, their walls were carefully torn down and rebuilt in different ways. They began to engage in relationships with each other, and each of their individual, unique, and wonderful stories crashed together and created a team that could combine their strengths and weaknesses to take on the world.
It all came back down to stories, and in this episode they eventually had to make a choice: own their stories, imperfections and all, and engage genuinely with the world, or give it all up for idealized lives that would ultimately mean nothing. The lives Prospero offered them were superficial and promoted happiness over joy. And what is joy, exactly? Eve Baird summed it up when she turned down Moriarty’s offer to stay and said, “That’s not real love. Real love is hard, risky, sometimes it breaks your heart, but you have to take that chance because that’s what real.” She wasn’t talking solely about romantic love, either. No, she was talking about the love of friends, too, and in the end each of the Librarians chose their friends and genuine relationships over the flimsy and fake lives that Prospero offered.
Flynn, too, finally chose a life with people over a life of lonely puzzle solving, which was the conclusion to a theme that followed him all season.
So this episode delivered exactly what the cast and creator promised at New York Comic Con: family. Not the kind you are born into, but the kind you choose. It didn’t just speak to the lessons of fictional characters, but to the audience, too. You see, the beautiful thing about The Librarians is that it strives to positively influence the audience. This episode did just that, by showing the importance of owning our own true, genuine stories. As someone heavily involved in social work, I get the chance to learn people’s stories every day. I get to see people when they are at their most raw, and in their honest expression of who they are, there’s power.
The power of our individual stories is superseded only by the power of our stories when they come together to push forward humanity’s narrative. We are all characters in one big story, and the easiest way to find joy in our individual stories is to share them openly and honestly with the people around us. The Librarians and the Happily Ever Afters, led by this simple lesson, has become one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever witnessed and definitely the best episode of The Librarians to date.