If you turned into the first night of the CW's Labyrinth ready to begin a spectacular four hour reboot of the 1986 David Bowie fantasy film of the same name, then you might have been just as confused as I was when this title card came up.
There was a legit record scratch in my living room when this shit popped up, but there's no such thing as a punch I can't roll with and what better way for CW to appease jonesing Reign fans like myself then slip-slapping a period drama into the Thursday time slot the week after Reign's finale? Don't make me live in the present. This Labyrinth may have substantially fewer Goblin Kings with nut-hugging leggings turning the world upside down for 15-year-old girls, but it does have THIS guy:
Considering Labyrinth was filmed in 2012, I'm tempted to say the recent turn of Sebastian Stan in Captain America: Has Heavy Romantic Subtext With the Winter Soldier had everything to do with this airing now. Which hey, savvy! Sebastian Stan is as talented as he is handsome.
Labyrinth is also based on the novel by Kate Mosse (note the last "e") with this snazzy cover:
I guessed this before I knew it because frankly Labyrinth feels very much like watching a novel. There's the wish-fulfillment proxy, spritely blonde Brit Alice Turner, who's been hooked up with an archaeological digging gig by her archaeologist friend (wish #1) days away from inheriting a beautiful house in Carcassone (wish #2) and then stumbles on a pair of embracing skeletons and a series of twinkly trinkets (wish #3– the trinkets, I mean) during the dig that give her visions of mysterious medieval woman Alais and ultimately compels her to cross paths with Sebastian Stan while he lays out in his pool (wish #4).
Alais is Alice's way-back olden-times ancestor, and Alais really slayed the game when it came to being a virtuous 13th century daughter. She was up at the crack of dawn to apprentice with an herbalist, and then she'd go clean the rotting bodies out of the river etc.etc. Because of her non-stop 24-hour, 365-days a week lifestyle of 100% righteousness, her dad entrusted her with a batshit crazy secret. You ready for this? You're not but here it is anyway:
What if the Holy Grail was not a sacred goblet but a symbol of all the wisdom of the ancients? (Like I guess pyramids.) Now what if that precious wisdom had been divided into three books? And those books entrusted to three guardians who all happen to live within about four blocks of each other in Carcassonne? And what if those guardians were getting pretty concerned about a band of Catholic Crusaders about to march through Carcassonne raining death, destruction and religious intolerance? Are you asleep yet?
Yes. Labyrinth is about the Holy Grail re-framed as a quintessence of ancient wisdom (how to make bronze/Pythagorean theorum) that must be protected at all costs, and now Alais has been inducted into the Illuminati, basically, and must help hide the Grail. Also the Crusading Catholics want to kill all the Cathars, an apparently extremely chill people, and the Viscount of Carcassonne, Draco Malfoy is like "Nuh uh, not in my religiously tolerant and extremely fertile area of Southern France, oh no you don't!"
Plotty, yes, things are plotty! And as if this wasn't enough plot for all of us, Alais has a sister Oriane with a toxic waste dump for a heart, all humping Alais's husband every time Alais goes down to the river, and Oriane's pissed off her dad gave Alais the sacred unpaid Grail internship instead of her. Oriane will catch them all, those Grail books, just to show him!
(BTW, how "novel names" are Oriane and Alais? These are just not names designed to be spoken often out loud on camera.)
The final shocking twist that you probably guessed from the title card: maybe, just maybe, Alice is a reincarnated version of Alais, because she sort of has an idea where one of the Grail books might be. But in this world there's a big bad as well, a mean pharmaceutical executive who ceremonially slit a guy's throat last episode like it was NBD and is, I'm assuming, the reincarnated mean older sister.
So yeah, plotty, and a kind of dry story, yeah. HOWEVER. This series is extremely refreshing to the eyeballs. A lot of it is filmed on location in France, there's shots of what I'm pretty sure is a bonafide castle, there's actual French accents, I mean it's a Francophile's dream. It is so French someone gets tortured with a créme brûlée torch, that's how French it is.
Also there's John Effing Hurt putting in what looks like four hours of filming but making them count, like he does.
Our first night has left off with Alice and Sebastian Stan partnering together to investigate evil pharmaceutical lady, and the infamous siege of Carcassonne about to get underway in the past. If you're still not sure if you should watch it, feel free to take this brief quiz:
1. Do you like castles?
2. Do you enjoy fan fiction based on or about the Bible?
3. Do you believe in past lives?
4. Do your past lives believe in you?
5. Have you ever said or do you own a mug that says "Je T'<3ime [Eiffel Tower figure]"?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions then catch up on this shit and join me Friday for the second half of Labyrinth, minus of course Sir Didymus and David Bowie's prominent, throbbing manhood.
[Image via CW]
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