Fairy tales are pretty cool. What’s not to like about magical beings, heroes who get the girl, and the usual dragon slaying plus a variety of lessons?
Well, until you realize the Grimm Brothers were hella misogynist, and fairy tales include a lot of death, dismemberment, comas and so much more. Of course, the Grimm Brothers were not the only people to collect or write fairy tales, and unlike a lot of the Disneyified tales, at least these versions usually had women with agency. Plus all the death, dismemberment, comas that made them so much more fun and interesting.
Unfortunately for the Librarians-in-Training, fairy tales are their newest issue because some are coming to life and attacking people in a quaint, little town named Bremen, Washington. A quaint town is, of course, perfect for this kind of problem since fairy tales—if they don’t involve traveling through various kingdoms or in the woods—take place in small villages.
A troll, which is not indigenous to the Pacific Northwest at least according to Jenkins, is attacking drivers at night. Fairy tales have a tendency to cross boundaries and mark borders though, so I bet that trolls are anywhere the right kind of bridge exists.
However, the troll isn’t the only fairy tale denizen to have shown up in Bremen because the Mayor is reenacting the Emperor’s New Clothes by running around in his “birthday suit” his wife got for him, i.e., he’s naked.
A girl went missing at a music festival although it’s not clear which fairy tale the writers are referencing because that’s all the line is.
And, there’s a barn where animals are talking ala The Bremen Town Musicians, which—look!—there’s the town name.
At least, local law enforcement is just going with the flow. Which is helpful when the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood shows up wearing Grandma’s bonnet and red eyes.
Jake throws an axe at the wolf (because he too is being affected by the magic), and Eve’s response is perfect: “Someone has weaponized fairy tales?”
Back at the Annex, Jenkins pinpoints that that the Libris Fabula (a Storybook with a capital S) brings any storybook to life after they autopsy the wolf and pull Little Red out of him.
(Little Red was swallowed for cutting out of work early and straying from the path which is a big don’t in the Grimm version of the story. Interestingly, in Charles Perrault version, the story actually ends after Red was swallowed. Again, not the Disney fairy tales we know. These are the actual, authentic terrible ones—or, at least, inasmuch how the writers chose to portray them.)
We learn that, as the Libris Fabula is read, it gains power and can rewrite reality, but it also needs a life source.
Luck, as always, is on Ezekiel’s side, and he follows a magical coin to a little girl named Jamie whose life force is being slowly sucked away at story time while Jake goes with Eve to hunt down the book in the town’s Library.
As someone who loves fairy tales and reinterpretations and anything else to do with the genre, this is quickly becoming my most favorite episode. A lot of it is because—although it’s because of magic—girls are hitting on Cassandra, which is great to watch.
I’m still disappointed that we won’t get an actual LGBTBQIA+ character until the finale, but John Rogers did mention that “coming out as gay was the actual, operative metaphor for the character arc” for Jake since “secretly gay and artistic seemed like both a stereotype and a hat-on-a-hat.” I understand where he and the other writers are coming from, and I’m glad they didn’t go the stereotypical route, but why not one of the other characters then?
Of course, part of the blame lies with TNT—especially since Rizzoli and Isles were not allowed be bi or lesbians canonically either, which is an essay for another day.
Unfortunately, the Libris Fabula is super-powerful, and everyone has become a fairytale character, and it gets worse for Ezekiel because, after talking to Jamie in the hospital, he finds out that her dad is the Sherriff, and he’s now the Big Bad Wolf who will huff and puff and blow everything down leaving everyone—including ordinary citizens—to run for safety. He’s also become the de facto leader of the town football team whose mascots are—wait for it—the wolves: reminding us that fairy tales are full of literal wolves as well as wolf-like characters.
And, the other Librarians-in-Training aren’t safe from these fairy tale-induced transformatnions: Jake becomes the huntsman; Eve becomes a princess, who’s most likely Rapunzel; and Cassandra becomes Prince Charming (which is wonderful).
And, Ezekiel is the Jack. The nimble rogue who—while a trickster and usually lazy—is clever enough to survive all the struggles that come with living in a fairy tale, which is going to be super-helpful because the town librarian is the one who has been draining everyone’s life force because he’s mad at being old.
Which I guess is a pretty good reason for being evil?
So, while Ezekiel tries to change the story, Prince Charming—er, I mean Cassandra—leads the charge against the Sherriff and the other wolves with Jake and Eve.
This episode is so ridiculously wonderful. Ezekiel is able to stop the librarian with the magic coin that led him to Jamie, and Jamie continues to finish the Libris Fabula—What a kickbutt little girl!—transforming Jake into a robot huntsman, Eve into a ninja princess, and Cassandra into Merlin—just long enough to scare the wolves away.
And, as Jamie finishes the Libris Fabula, the librarian is sucked into the book.
And, Ezekiel? Well, he’s the real hero just by being himself.
And, they lived happily ever after—well, until the next time.
So far, we’ve gotten to learn a little bit about each of the Librarians-in-Training—and Eve too—but I’m really glad we got two weeks where Ezekiel gets to show off his skills since he is, in fact, great just the way he is.
I mean, he probably needs to learn how to not make cops angry, but his belief in luck and fun is what gets him in and out of trouble. In this world then, Ezekiel is the most able to deal with the ridiculousness of their lives because he knows who he is and has no qualms about it.
I also very much appreciated Cassandra being Prince Charming. Even though the attention was surprising to her, it was obvious that Cassandra appreciated being appreciated especially because, while Jake likes her, he still doesn’t trust her, and she doesn’t like how that feels. That and after last week’s episode revealed that she’s felt used by others and that she’s felt that her potential was thwarted (by cancer or by someone), and I’m sure she was extra appreciative getting to be in charge, getting to feel like she had more agency over who and what she is.
If there’s a season two, it’ll be interesting to see what more we learn about her relationship with power.
While Jake’s fairy tale counterpart being the huntsman was expected—especially after the first axe throw—Eve as Rapunzel is more about her life as a NATO agent where she was constantly on the move as well as how she was always moved around as the kid because military family and how Eve continues to be emotionally isolated from others—if the long hair and two seconds of singing are a sufficient indication.
Would that make Flynn the prince? I don’t think he’d appreciate that very much.
Jenkins, too, had some great one-liners, and I do hope we’ll get more of an origin episode about him (and probably Dulaque). Even TVLine thought that the two may have been ~something~ more in the past. John Rogers has also said that the episodes are airing slightly out of order, so while this episode was meant to be a bit earlier in the season, it still works before the final four episodes which are airing as double-episodes.
Overall grade: A