The Lost Symbol Episode 7 Review: Noogenesis
The Lost Symbol takes a step back to explore Mal’akh’s origins.
Predictably, The Lost Symbol took a step back to explore Zachary’s transformation into Mal’akh’s during prison, with some strong support from Mark Gibbon’s Samyaza. I say predictably because it’s something I guessed last episode; I just didn’t realize that Dan Brown’s series will pull off a Walking Dead and devote the entire episode to fill us in on the backstory. Naturally, little progression happens in the present time but even so, a pivotal development occurs.
As much as Samyaza enlightened Zachary and helped him see and evolve into the higher form of intelligence (thereby justifying the title), it really is Zachary’s sense of feeling isolated, disconnected and betrayed from his father Peter that fuels his transformation. Sure, Samyaza provides the tools but ultimately it’s Peter Solomon’s uncaring attitude towards his son and, more importantly, Zachary’s perception that Peter doesn’t care for him, that pushes him to the path of the tattooed monster. Zachary comes to believe that the only affection that Peter has for him is as a student, curious to learn the mysteries of history as well as the Freemasons, a society Peter was inducted into. His only ocnnect to his family is through Katherine, who he probably loves at some deep, intrinsic level.
The tricky part is that throughout the series, the writers have done little to paint a strong picture to convince us that Peter doesn’t care for Zachary. Part of it maybe intentional: when viewed from Zachary’s perspective, Peter appears cold. But looking at the other side, Peter is concerned about the larger picture more than simply trying to desperately break Zachary out. He cares in his own way, as much as a father of his nature can care about his son. Be it his reaction to realizing Mal’akh is Zachary in the previous episode or his dread on hearing about Zachary’s fate in the past, Eddie Izzard certainly tries to sell the notion that Zachary is a concern. I guess a few strong scenes between father and son would have hammered home that dynamic a lot more easily, as opposed to opening with an architectural lesson that the father gives to a disinterested son, who really only wants to be considered as a son.
The rest of the pieces are filled in and we get a firsthand glimpse of just what kind of power can be harnessed by the Masons in using vibrations from chants to quite literally, heal the body. Zachary learns this power and applies it and becomes capable of doing things such as hiding objects inside his body and summoning them through his skin at will, whether it’s dislodging a bullet or a wire. This at least helps the abstract concept of Mason power into a practical visual and the moment has the same impact as the film footage of an unknown man commanding a flock of birds had.
But the episode’s climactic moment suggested something about which I’ve had a nagging feeling for a long, long time. The fact that, spoiler alert, Zachary kills Sato, makes it abundantly clear that the novel has been altered drastically for this TV Show adaptation. In the book, Sato is eventually revealed as the director of the CIA, which made her and her squad’s incompetence in the earlier episodes all the more baffling. That, coupled with how the events are playing out makes it clear that the showrunners have kept the spirit of the books as well as the key plot beats while upgrading the plot for today’s times. It should probably make for some unpredictable endings, that has piqued my curiosity on Mal’akh’s defeat.
The conversation between Zachary and Sato is wonderfully executed, because it relies so much on the actor’s performances as opposed to dialogue, to convey a strong sense of emotion. Having narrated his story to Sato, Sato instantly and genuinely feels for Zachary and sees a sliver of him alive somewhere in Mal’akh. Her trying to reach out to Zachary and Mal’akh, for the first time in a while, realizing that someone truly cares for Zachary and his release despite all that he has done in the past wells him up from the inside. Those are powerful tears and kudos to director Boris Morjovski for handling it with reverence. It’s unfortunate that Mal’akh so quickly goes on to betray Sato; it does make for a shocking conclusion but betrays some of our respect and pathos that Zachary earned in the moment.
We also learn quite a bit of backstory about Langdon’s and Katherine’s relationship. Katherine in particular was probably the most seriously affected by the imprisonment of her brother. The event and Zachary’s subsequent “death” take a huge toll on Katherine who decides to call off her relationship with Langdon. Langdon on his part seemed fairly committed to Katherine but the poor chap ends up getting the short end of the shrift as he’s pulled into the Solomon family’s troubles and loses his girlfriend for no real fault of his. Understandably, Katherine needed time to avoid plunging in this relationship and really needed to turn inward as opposed to being someone who rushes to her father or Langdon for help; this likely influenced her decision to further immerse herself in the field of noetic science, a field that relies on tapping your innermost instincts.
Overall, this is a beautifully shot episode that, while certainly not at the level of something like Westworld‘s Kiksuya, is a good standalone episode that details how the Mal’akh we know came to be. Writer Lauren Conn also bakes in a surgery explanation to justify the change of actors, which was necessary to conceal the reveal for a few episdoes. That said, Morjovski’s choice of letting scenes play out leisurely could make this a bit tedious and boring for some viewers who may find themselves twiddling their thumbs waiting for the major reveals to play out. Regardless, a good, quality episode I’d say.