Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol premieres Thursday, Sept. 16 on Peacock.
The premiere of The Lost Symbol, based on the third book in Dan Brown’s best-selling Robert Langdon symbologist series, is an earnest but half-cooked puzzler featuring capable, amiable leads and a clunky clockwork plot that offers few surprises.
After ABC’s Lost went off the air in 2010, networks scrambled to find the next supernatural mystery box series. Given how many Lost clones we suffered in the wake of that show’s conclusion, it’s actually surprising it took this long to get a Dan Brown book adapted for the small screen. Of course, it might be because his books were big screen Tom Hanks projects for a full decade, but Langdon’s adventures feel tailor-made for an episodic format. And that may very well be the case for The Lost Symbol, but the pilot episode — “As Above, So Below” — doesn’t exactly kick off this caper in crackerjack fashion. It’s very much an average, by-the-numbers scavenger hunt.
Fear Street’s Ashley Zukerman plays Harvard University professor Robert Langdon, a boastful brainiac of all things religious iconology and symbology. Zukerman is pleasant and punchy in the role, giving us a detective who’s awkward enough to be endearing and driven enough to be obnoxious. It’s sort of the sweet spot for TV snoops, that balance between perceptive and pesky. You want this type of character to be both out of their depth and in their element at the same time, and in this way, Zukerman is a solid, satisfying Langdon.
The mystery Langdon gets embroiled in this time around, involving the disappearance of his mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard, once again in Hannibal-style danger), isn’t an instantly captivating corker. Reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s a loved one that prods Langdon into action, forcing him to uncover a rumored ancient portal that leads to unlimited knowledge and power.
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Keeping things more Washington D.C. focused instead of some of Brown’s more globe-trotting treks, The Lost Symbol is a dive into Masonic mumbo-jumbo in which everyone will learn a valuable lesson about tinkering with the unknown and probing the past. In this regard, it’s satisfying popcorn content, but not much more.
“As Above, So Below,” directed by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Dan Trachtenberg, features gruesome tableaus, hidden catacombs, booby traps, trademark Dan Brown secret society mercenaries, and — of course — Langdon’s signature luscious head of hair (which Hanks was lightly roasted for lacking). This introductory chapter moves well, fills in crucial character blanks via flashbacks, and spotlights Langdon as he quickly solves clues left behind by a villain named Mal’akh. It’s junior league mystery stuff that more or less disguises its ordinary nature by having everyone become fast-talking Wiki pages.
Langdon’s think tank team on this ride includes Peter’s daughter, and Langdon’s former flame, Katherine, (The Tick’s Valorie Curry), CIA investigator Sato (Sumalee Montano), and astute Capital policeman Nunez (Rick Gonzalez). Izzard provides key emotional stakes here (as well as a very distracting academia ponytail) while Langdon’s crusade is peppered with light bickering between him and Katherine because, well, he’s kind of s***ty about her field of Noetic science. That’s a science which, by the way, is portrayed as vastly more interesting than Langdon’s particular arena, which just seems like flashy infographic stuff (he’s literally teaching a Harvard class about how “some symbols now mean bad things”).
Nothing in The Lost Symbol is meant to crack molds or rattle cages, but if you’re looking to turn off your brain for a bit while a few “smart” characters spout off smart things, it’s fine entry-level intrigue.