Thursday, September 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Lost Symbol' - Robert Langdon Gets Pulled Into a Mysterious Search for His Mentor in 'As Above, So Below'

Peacock's The Lost Symbol - Episode 1.01 "As Above, So Below"

Promising young Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself pulled into a complex mystery when his former mentor, Peter Solomon, is kidnapped. Armed with knowledge of history, symbols and dead languages, Langdon must work together with Peter's daughter and other allies to find the Lost Symbol... or lose the man they both see as a father.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Peacock's The Lost Symbol.

"As Above, So Below" was written by Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie and directed by Dan Trachtenberg

A fascinating conversation can be had about the power of symbols. People ascribe meaning to them. Sometimes they are frivolous. Sometimes they are unifying. Sometimes they are divisive. They can also change over the years. That's increasingly common in the modern era as well. Social media has allowed conversations to flow and symbols to be appropriated. All of this is detailed in the lecture Robert Langdon gives his students at the top of this premiere. Of course, that's mostly just an introduction to this character and what is important to him. The rest of the time is just him squinting at objects and then offering plenty of exposition about what it all means. Yes, a serialized story is introduced here that has personal resonance for Langdon. His mentor has been kidnapped. This person provided a sense of family to him. He found a place to belong where he was accepted and welcomed. He was allowed to move on to a much greater life as a result of Peter Solomon bringing him into his world. And now, the time has come for Langdon to essentially repay him. But again, it's all down at the expense of some vast conspiracy. A madman has become obsessed with symbols to the point where they have completely tattooed over his body. That's a visceral image. It's also completely insane and unhinged. The show wants to derive power from all of this. It's not always easy for the audience to feel invested in it all though. Every beat of progress made in this investigation mostly comes from some piece of expertise one character has that they can share with the other people involved. Yes, that's typical of most procedurals. However, every version of this story has to elevate it all to ensure it offers something more to the audience. We need to feel like a part of it too. That's what builds personal investment. Here, it's clearly evident that Langdon tells a lot of information. It's a vital service. It doesn't create a fascinating protagonist. In fact, it may actually make him annoying. Now, there are certainly ways to make that character function in a series like this. The lead character doesn't have to be likable. In fact, it's better for everyone if the complexities drive him forward. But this premiere barely has any interest in offering much dimension for any of these characters. Langdon states over and over again how important Peter is. The audience is asked to care mostly because Eddie Izzard is playing the role. That's not enough unfortunately. The story also connects back to the death of his son in Turkey several years ago. That's barely mentioned at all. Meanwhile, Peter's daughter Kat presents with a clue that she proclaims is more important than his life. That provides her with a way into this world. Everything is connected. But it's mostly just done out of convenience. Langdon is told that he must walk this path alone. He complies because he sees just how lethal these people are capable of being. Everyone is desperately trying to solve these clues before more lives are lost. They aren't that effective in the end. But they still have to be involved somehow. Sato and Nunez are basically just along for the ride. They are the people Langdon gets to explain all of this to in the early going. Moving forward, Kat will serve that role. She decides to follow him instead of trusting law enforcement for what's going on with her father. They have a past. It's complicated. But again, she just delivers a message. He dismisses her chosen profession. That's about it. Nothing in the style or execution of this premiere suggests something noteworthy or distinguished. It's not bad. It's just not compulsive enough to recommend to see how all of this turns out. It's a solid attempt at brand integration and expansion. The brand at large just has to ensure the stories being told are as captivating as they can possible be and as quickly as possible too. Part of that may come from the struggle of trying to adapt the Dan Brown novel into television. But it may also just be the source material and its own limitations. It works in one medium. It has moved to the big screen as well. It's trying out television now. The cast is certainly capable of what could be demanded of them. It's just not gripping right away which may provide everyone with an easy out.