• Tandem Productions GmbH & Film Afrika Worldwide
  • Vanessa Kirby as Alice Tanner

Did you read that the CW was airing a Labyrinth miniseries, and then assume that it was a TV adaptation of the 1986 Jim Henson film of the same name? You know, the David Bowie-fueled vehicle that helped launch Jennifer Connelly’s career? Well, it’s actually an adaptation of the 2005 award-winning bestseller by Kate Mosse, a 700-page work of commercial and historical fiction masquerading as a Holy Grail story. And neither the miniseries nor the source material gets that right.

Labyrinth—which originally aired in Canada, Sweden, Korea, Portugal, and Poland in 2012, and the UK in 2013; it aired here last Thursday and Friday on the CW—features two heroines, Alaïs Pelletier du Mas (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Alice Tanner (Vanessa Kirby), who are separated by about 800 years but are connected by geography, history, and maybe something else. In 1209, Alaïs lives in Carcassone, a city of the Languedoc province; in 2005, Alice helps excavate the former site of Carcassone. She finds two skeletons, one of which bears a golden ring with an intricate design—the titular labyrinth. I think. We are alternately in medieval and contemporary Carcassone, and the heroines are alternately in danger as they pursue and protect the Holy Grail.

Yes, Labyrinth is, ostensibly, a story of the Holy Grail. The Grail’s protectors (Alaïs, Alice, and John Hurt’s character, Audric Baillard) are known as “navigators.” However, all we actually see them protecting/hiding are three books which contain instructions on how to locate the Grail. In 1209, Alaïs’s sister, Oriane (Katie McGrath), wants the books and Grail, and convinces her Catholic husband (Curran) to help her get them. In 2005, a renegade priest and a woman who (mistakenly, as it turns out) believes herself to be a navigator are trying to hunt down the relics.

The medieval setting is the more perilous of the two, despite the semi-automatic weapons in 2005. I’m going to be upfront about my ignorance of medieval French history. I was able to glean that French Catholics were attempting a siege of Carcassone in an effort to wipe out the Cathars, who were a Christian sect denounced by the Catholic Church as a “Church of Satan” (true story, sadly). In 1209, the Grail represents a turning point in this battle; in 2005, it’s just part of a conspiracy that’s never fully revealed. Just like the labyrinth (forget the ring) and, as it turns out, the Holy Grail.

Yes, the relic everyone’s searching for isn’t a physical thing, but some kind of tradition or love that’s passed on between generations, which is represented as a glowing chest cavity of the character to whom it’s passed. And it was inside Alaïs and Alice all along. And Audric. I think.

The ending makes so little sense that I’m just going to forget about it (the way the writers seemed to) and tell you that the cast is a veritable who’s who of British film and television: Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey); John Hurt (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a couple of Harry Potter movies); Tony Curran (X-Men: First Class, Doctor Who); and Tom Felton (all of the Harry Potter movies and, um, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), among others. They’re all players in the medieval plot, though, so all I’m really left to wonder is if the ending would have benefited from their appearance.