As Above, So Below
Episode 1 of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol begins with a grammatical error. That’s a shame because what follows is actually a pretty compelling opening chapter.
Anyway, according to the opening scroll of text, in 1991 a document was locked in the safe of the Director of the CIA. This cryptic text depicts references to an ancient portal and an unknown location. However, it also includes the words “It’s buried out there somewhere.”
We begin our tale 3 years back in a Turkish prison. A young man sits cross-legged on the floor atop a strange symbol. While this seems random, it makes a lot more sense with context for what follows.
Fast forward to Harvard University, present day, and we get our first look at a young Robert Langdon. Much like in Da Vinci Code, he’s teaching a class about symbols and – more specifically – showing off how symbols have been distorted and changed over time.
Peter Solomon’s assistant rings though, interrupting him. There’s an emergency and Langdon needs to make it across the country for a Gala.
The security there is pretty lax though, with the guard, Nunez, failing to check a guy’s hat or his broken arm – despite the scanner beeping when he steps through.
Langdon shows up next though and learns there’s no big event there. When Peter’s assistant rings again, he gives Langdon a game – and an ominous message to end things on: “As above, so below.”
In the middle of this, Langdon finds Peter’s severed hand, sticking up in the middle of the gallery. Langdon is determined to try and figure out what this means, but it falls to CIA agent Inuoune Sato to handle this kidnapping case from now on.
As she questions Langdon and Nunez, she deduces what the hand means. It turns out it’s the “Hand of the mysteries”; a secretive invitation that allows one to seek out a body of ancient knowledge.
Now, it seems like whoever this guy is, he’s playing by a specific set of rules. Underneath the hand, on the wooden box, are a set of symbols which is interpreted as ‘Subbasement. Room 13.’
So off they go. Our dysfunctional trio head to the basement where Langdon drinks in his surroundings. Thanks to his innate knowledge, he manages to find a way into Peter’s secret office. Or, as Langdon realizes, his Masonic Chamber of Reflection. This is a place to reflect on your own mortality and life.
Thanks to Nunez’s clumsiness (honestly, how is this guy a security officer?) he takes out the key and inadvertently gives the guys all a time limit to try and solve the anachronym on the wall. Thankfully they do, uncovering a granite pyramid covered in symbols.
With the wall closing in and Langdon afraid of tight spaces, he’s saved from certain doom at the last second. Phew! Unfortunately Langdon is not out of the woods yet.
Peter’s kidnapper rings and learns he has the pyramid in his possession. He helps guide Robert onto the next leg of his journey, pointing out a capstone he needs to find.
Langdon is forced to sit this one out though, with Sato off recovering this herself. With Sato leading the charge, she finds Solomon’s phone at the foot of a statue. While the actual statue is not important, the inscription certainly is. “Mundus vult decipi ergo decipiatur.” Or, in English, “The world wants to be deceived so let it be deceived.”
Well, it turns out Sato is the one being deceived here as this wild goose chase was just one big distraction. With thin security detail around the gallery, a gunman shows up and shoots Nunez. He hands over a burner to Langdon next, telling him that Ma’lakh needs him free from this place.
Hurrying outside, Langdon runs into Kat, Peter’s daughter. She’s going to team up with Langdon and get to the bottom of what’s happening. However, they need to be quick given Peter’s life is hanging in the balance.
This grudge that Ma’lakh holds goes back three years though, to that original scene we saw at the start involving the Turkish prison. It turns out Peter’s son Zachary was there and Ma’lakh is responsible for killing him. But what drove this man to kill Zachary? And why is Peter being held captive?
The Episode Review
I must confess, I read The Da Vinci Code across two nights working in the cloakroom at a quiet nightclub years ago. I also watched the film adaptation too but beyond that, I don’t have extensive knowledge of Dan Brown’s novels. Unfortunately I can’t say whether this accurately depicts the novel of the same name, but it certainly translates well to the small screen.
Landon himself is somewhat of a disappointment though, with a nervous edge that doesn’t really feel like the character. Then again, this could all be a ploy to actually turn him into a courageous and more self-assured player by the end, so we shall see.
The actual mystery is good though and the spine of these cat and mouse chases continue to weave historical symbology in a decent way. It’s just a pity that the episode starts with a grammatical error. I know it sounds petty but given how many people would have watched and test-screened this, it’s remarkable that no one picked it up.
The Lost Symbol won’t be for everyone but personally, there’s enough here for mystery fans to enjoy.
Expect a full season write-up when this season concludes!