By Ella Smith
Based on the popular “National Treasure” movies of the 2000s, “National Treasure: Edge of History” is built from the classic treasure-hunting movies with a modern take on technology. Set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the series focuses on a different era of history than prior movies. While the movies generally centered around more recent American history like the Revolutionary War with ties into more ancient history, the series focused more on the ancient time periods as well as focusing less on U.S. history and more on the history of the Americas as a whole.
“National Treasure: Edge of History” kept the familiar dynamic of a treasure-hunting movie with a core cast of a few friends. However, it boasted a larger ensemble cast and a few unique dynamics between characters. The main character, Jess, played by Lisette Olivera, was notable for her ability to crack puzzles and her parents’ ties to treasure hunting. This commonality was shared with Liam, another important character, giving them grounds for romantic interest and inciting the hunt for the treasure. Liam also tied the series back to the movies by being the grandson of FBI Agent Sadusky, a side character in the original films.
Other notable characters include Jess’ three childhood friends Tasha, Oren and Ethan. Those three seemed to encompass several familiar tropes such as the tech-savvy hacker, the lovable but perpetually confused jock and the always polite boy next door. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more character development with many of the characters. Jess in particular didn’t seem to change much over the course of the show which left you feeling dissatisfied with the ending.
Another area I think the show could have improved on is its villain. Billie remained the central villain throughout the show but until almost halfway through the show we never saw her do anything particularly heinous. Overall, she lacked the motivation to make her a compelling villain. That being said, there were some surprising twists involving antagonists that were built up relatively well.
One character that surprised me was FBI Agent Ross. Her character was a refreshing twist from many familiar law enforcement tropes in treasure-hunting films. I was surprised at how important of a character she became and at the development put into her character. Agent Ross had some of the most entertaining subplots in the show and was a highlight throughout the episodes.
The plot started off hesitantly in the first few episodes. At first, it was a touch stagnant in places and you were left wondering when the action would take place. However, it did steadily build to an action-packed and puzzle-filled conclusion. There were some intriguing subplots that kept you interested from one scene to the next. Some parts were a bit too cliched and some of the plot twists were downright predictable. There were still a few surprises though and the way the characters interacted carried some areas where a lot was lacking.
The tone and setting of “National Treasure: Edge of History” was a new take on familiar tropes and grabbed your attention. I thought the way they melded social media and technology into the classic hacking and researching scenes was fascinating. It gave it a more modern feel and I think it sets it apart from the older treasure-hunting shows. I did feel the puzzles could have been a little more in-depth and interesting. Some were creative but many were overly predictable and lacked the connection to history that makes the clues unique and interesting.
In all, “National Treasure: Edge of History” was entertaining and fun but lacked some elements that would have allowed it to stand on its own. I think it needed more originality and a better-developed plot and characters to become its own show without relying on previous installments. However, it was still an enjoyable and delightful time if you want a classic treasure hunt with a modern twist.
“National Treasure: Edge of History” is available on Disney+ now.
Ella Smith is a freshmen Professional Writing and Informational Design student as well as a writer for Cedars. She enjoys a stack of good books, leatherbound journals and a cup of tea (with lots of honey.)
Images courtesy of Disney+.