Robert Langdon could be the patron saint of anyone who’s ever tackled a crossword, a sudoku or just a bewildering set of Ikea instructions.
He’s a puzzle-solver, one who ponders ancient riddles. He’s fictional, residing in Dan Brown novels … in three Tom Hanks movies … and in “The Lost Symbol” (shown here), a prequel series that shows how this began. Viewers can catch it:
– At the start. The first episode reruns at 10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 8) on NBC.
– At the end of the first season. The ninth and final episode streams Thursday on Peacock.
– The others in-between. They’re available now on Peacock.
At the core are stories – some true, some mere myth – about secret organizations. Ashley Zukerman, who stars in the series, told the Television Critics Association about a book he read: “Its thesis is that there was a secret society at the center of every major change that’s happened through history.”
Some, like the Masons, evolved into a benign image; others, like the Knights Templar, flexed military and economic power. “I think everyone finds secret organizations – organizations that control the world – compelling,” Brian Grazer said.”They exceed the force of gravity.”
He and Ron Howard run Imagine Entertainment. They produced (and Howard directed) the three films with Hanks as Langdon – “Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” and “Inferno.”
They also tried to do a “Lost Symbol” movie, with Emmy-winner Danny Strong (“Game Change”) doing the script. “He did as good a job as you could do,” Grazer said. But the story didn’t quite fit a movie, it “has more propulsion in a serialized form as a series.”
The series starts with Langdon (Zukerman) teaching a Harvard class about symbols and codes. Then someone kidnaps his mentor (Eddie Izzard), who’s the father of his love interest, Katherine.
Trying to catch him, Langdon dives into mysteries … something that affects the actor playing him.
“That is something I enjoy anyway,” Zukerman said, but now the role “has escalated how much time I’ve spent doing puzzles and playing chess …. You start to think differently.”
He’s good at them, his colleagues agree. So is Sumalee Montano, who plays a CIA agent
The others don’t share that skill. “I don’t like chess,” Izzard said. “And I don’t like crosswords, because I can’t do them.”
Fortunately, Langdon can. In the series, he and Katherine dive into the secret, the symbolic and the supernatural. They bring opposite perspecttives, said Dan Dworkin, who co-created the series – “he being a skeptic; she is kind of being a quasi-believer.”
We’ve been there before, on “X-Files,” except then the woman was the skeptic and the man was the believer. Either way, it’s hard to be doubter while eluding a demonic force.