Unlike recent three-parters, "The Labyrinth" took me to another place. The initial criticism might be that it seemed too disconnected from the rest of Adventures in Odyssey; I almost wondered whether I accidentally turned on Radio Theatre. However, the different music, accents, and subject matter were also the highlight of the show, painting a fresh new painting for, euh...my ears. From the get-go, the episode smartly stuffs the listener inside a cramped van with two unfamiliar agents. Who are they? Where are they? What's happening? I immediately wanted to know more. I just loved "The Labyrinth"'s tone, style, and overall energy.
What I didn't love, however, was the script. Although the acting and casting were top-notch, the written material seemed sub-par. The opening scene between Agent Billings and Agent Florin peaked my interest, but why did it sound so scripted? It was three-minutes of exposition. Agent Florin, especially, was a purposeless character, asking a dozen questions about why she was in the van. Agent Billings, echoing our impatience, asks, "Didn't you read the dossier?". "Of course", she replies, then proceeds to ask a dozen questions more. I understand that the audience needed to get caught up with what was happening, but I'm not sure how having a scene explaining Jason's every step prior to the episode was the best idea. I would have preferred if the information had been provided less generously and more subtly.
Another disappointment was that there was a lot of build-up, but little pay-off. For two episodes we're lead to believe that the deadly chemicals are going to be released inside the British Museum, killing everyone. We naturally expected a climactic scene featuring Jason running through the Museum, diving between the U.S President and the British Prime Minister, finding the chemicals moments before it's too late.
Although I liked that we had a somewhat unpredictable ending instead (Billings forcing Grote into the coffin), the solution to the show's biggest problem was resolved much too easily. For such a huge, over-dramatic threat, we needed a huge, over-dramatic solution. The solution, here, was merely a guilt-stricken henchman who gives Jason a cell-phone. Imagine if we were listening to "The Final Conflict" and Jason simply decided to call the police to seal off the tunnel before Dr. Blackguard got to it.
And at what point in Adventures in Odyssey history did the show become a comedy? At what point was it necessary to throw in a snarky remark every second line? In previous mystery/intrigue/action episodes such as "The Mysterious Stranger", "The Perfect Witness", and "The Search for Whit", snarky remarks were kept at a respectful minimum. They had light-hearted moments, sure, but we don't need every scene to end with a dramatic, clichéd line. It's okay to parody James Bond, but when the protagonist becomes a James Bond parody himself, we have a problem.
Speaking of the protagonist, many of you know by now that I've been concerned about Jason's character for the past few years (mind you, I haven't lost any sleep over it)...as you may have in read about in my review for the "The Green Ring Conspiracy":
Firstly, although I adored Jason's return, I wonder how consistent the writers have been with his character. Up until "Exit", Jason was a missionary. Ever since then, he's been a "one-two-three": i.e: a one note character, a two-dimensional super hero that shows up whenever the story needs someone to do a fancy cartwheel, and a third-wheel for nearly every other character. It’s a shame. As most fans may remember, what made Jason Whittaker such a strong, memorable character wasn't his run-ins with villains, or his Indiana Jones-like persona, but his need to suppress his inner recklessness. [...] we see how Jason's inability to see straight when his own emotions got in the way made him such a fascinating character. Whatever happened to his missionary gig? Why has Jason returned to being Agent Ethan Hunt in "No Way Out", "The Top Floor", and the atrocious "Accidental Dilemma"? More importantly, whatever happened to the conflicted Jason who once had to wrestle with his inner demons?
I didn't know whether this was a side of Jason that McCusker was referring to in the show's final scene. In it, Whit cautions his son not to "get lost in the labyrinth". I wish Whit had said more to his son, asking him, "What are you doing with your life?", "When are you going to settle?", "How is your relationship with God?". Although a long heart to heart talk between Whit and Jason might have disrupted the show's momentum--the story needed to come to a timely end, after all-- I would have preferred that the characters vocalized some of these biblical themes instead of having Chris try to awkwardly tack stuff on at the end of the episode. I am not suggesting the characters weren't spiritual enough, but presenting more spiritual discussions could have developed some of the show’s overall themes, and its characters, further. It would have been nice for some of these characters to talk more, and therefore, to grow.I was looking forward to "The Labyrinth" because I expected the episode to finally explore Jason on a more intimate level than it had in the past 10 years since "Shining Armor" or "Sheep's Clothing". Once again, however, Jason's personal story arc wasn't touched upon in any way until the end of the episode once Agent Billings forces Grote inside the coffin and Jason is forced to talk with Dale about what happened. Up till this point in the episode, he's really just your one-dimensional action hero.
Let it be known that I thought the show's two final scenes were excellent; Billings forcing Grote inside the coffin was terrifically eerie, while Phil Lollar absolutely earned Dale a spot on the show again with his one-to-one heartfelt moment with Jason-recalling some of his best moments in "The Fundamentals" and "The Second Coming". However, I wonder whether the episodes built up to them, or explored them, in the best way possible. When Dale asks Jason whether he still prayed, Jason answers "no"; however, at the beginning of the episode, Jason asks Sue whether she ever prayed-this particular conversation makes it sound like Jason hadn't gotten lost in the Labyrinth throughout the adventure. Though had he? Essentially, I never got to familiarize myself Jason on a personal or spiritual level to tell if he had. On the other hand, in an episode like "Shining Armor", I could really tell what Jason's struggles were, how he was struggling, and I could easily follow throughout the course of the episode why he ultimately decided to turn back to God. Jason's personal struggles, here, felt like an afterthought.
After reading these paragraphs, you might think I thought it was the most despicable episode in Adventures in Odyssey history. The truth is, despite a few annoyances, I actually thought this was a very fun, involving, and exciting episode; it's certainly better than the previous suspenseful three-parters like "The Top Floor" and "The Other Side of the Glass". Everyone was superbly cast; Sue, in particular, is a great character, and letting Dale and Ann Jacobs come back on Adventures in Odyssey is yet another wish I can cross of the list. Dale, in particular, is one of the few remaining characters whose voice carries me right back to those golden days of Adventures in Odyssey.
Though, I'm left asking a few important questions. What will Jason do once he returns to Odyssey? Is he there to stay? Furthermore, what's up with the new company that bought The Odyssey Times? Is this significant? Will the Jacobs make another appearance on the show any time soon? Is this really the last time we hear from Mr. Grote? And, more importantly of all, what's going to happen to the Reggie Fingers Fish and Chips franchise?
In the end what I liked most about "The Labyrinth" is that it dared to be different. We're in England. We got Dale back. And Jason, once again, is searching for deadly chemicals. We love Adventures in Odyssey because we love hearing from our quiet little town. And I'm sure I speak for everyone that we love it when it's nowhere to be found.