“Charlotte” plays on the franchise’s own history to pleasing effect for probably the best episode yet, even if it has several of the same problems as prior entries.
This recap of National Treasure: Edge of History season 1 episode 4, “Charlotte”, contains spoilers.
I don’t like the term “Mary Sue”, since its original definition has long since been contorted to mean, essentially, “a woman is the protagonist and I don’t like it”, but I think it’s fair to say that Jess has had the whole puzzle-solving thing pretty unrealistically sewn up in the first few episodes of National Treasure: Edge of History. “Charlotte”, then, starts quite refreshingly by having her not be able to solve the clue that Elvis Presley snuck into a vinyl record hidden in a secret room in Graceland, that the kids spent the entirety of Episode 3 retrieving.
National Treasure: Edge of History season 1 episode 4 recap
Such a riddle requires specialist services, for which the show suddenly introduces — or reintroduces, I suppose — Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), co-star of the two movies and now the host of a popular treasure-hunting podcast who was name-checked last week. Thus far Edge of History has been only tangentially related to those films, with the odd character cameo and oblique reference reminding us that we’re technically in the same universe. But Riley’s presence provides a more explicit connection. In his introductory scene, he mentions that Benjamin Franklin Gates — Nicolas Cage‘s character — will be the first guest on his new streaming show.
Riley is in town for Sadusky’s wake, which Liam invites Jess, Tasha, and Oren to so that he doesn’t have to listen to a bunch of his grandpa’s old friends tell stories about the good old days (though it’s obviously an excuse to spend more time with Jess).
Elsewhere, we get a little bit more backstory on Billie, who is working for a coterie of the usual erudite art dealer types — all white dudes in suits sitting around a boardroom table — but also seems to have a personal connection to the Pan-American treasure, having lost a brother in the search for it. When one of the men, Charlie, tries to stage a hostile takeover in the parking lot, Kacey whoops his goons without much fuss and it almost seems like the show is suddenly trying to depict Billie as something other than a straight-up villain. Like, we’re supposed to root against the old white dudes, right? That’s how this kind of show works these days.
Naturally, Billie is keeping an eye on Sadusky’s wake in the form of that dude who sped past the kids in the previous episode (and whose driving and appearance couldn’t exactly be described as inconspicuous). Everyone is there, from Riley and Hendricks to Sadusky’s live-in carer Myles and Agent Ross, who has obviously shown up to continue her own private investigation, though Hendricks has figured out what she’s up to and is in full support of her now.
Jess, Tasha, and Liam try to enlist Riley’s help in solving the Elvis puzzle but realize quite quickly that he’s utterly useless. As if to prove the point, he goes to poke around in Sadusky’s office, accidentally discovers his clue room thanks to his own vanity (French copies of his books comprise the locking mechanism), and then traps himself and Jess — who is looking for Liam to tell him that Ethan spotted Billie’s spy — inside by messing around with Benjamin Franklin’s multicolored ocular device.
Of course, Sadusky’s security system seals the room, so Jess and Riley are forced to figure out the passcode to open the door before the oxygen in the room dwindles away to nothing. This is weirdly juxtaposed with people giving speeches at the wake, and what’s intended to be a big emotional moment, when Liam decides to speak after being told by Myles that his grandfather really loved his music and turns up with his guitar — does he just carry it everywhere? — to perform grandpa’s favorite of his songs. I have no idea why this is edited in this way. Cutting back to Riley collapsing from oxygen deprivation really takes away any potential emotional power this rendition might have had.
At least Jess and Riley’s plight inadvertently helps Jess solve the Elvis clue, which ties into the episode’s title, “Charlotte”, a reference to Ben Gates figuring out “the secret lies with Charlotte” in the original movie. Suddenly realizing that a word can mean two different things, Jess figures out that the “twin-tongued serpent” doesn’t actually refer to Malinche but to Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis and Clark took a particular breed of dog on their expedition, the Newfoundland. Sacagawea hid a secret to the treasure in one of the expedition’s journals, the one dedicated to Meriwether Lewis’s dog, which is currently on display in the governor’s mansion in Louisiana. I guess we know where we’re going next week.
Oh, and Jess and Riley are eventually able to get out of the clue room using Jess’s expertise, and Riley makes sure to explicitly compare her and her way of thinking to Ben Gates, just in case it wasn’t obvious. All the excitement compels Liam to plant a big kiss on Jess, which is tempered by the fact that Riley calls her with some bad news. According to Ben’s mother, someone else (Billie) knows about the Elvis clue. And if that’s the case, it means one of Jess’s friends, in Riley’s words, may not be her friend. Since it was only Jess and Liam who listened to the recording, he immediately becomes the number one suspect.
You can stream National Treasure: Edge of History season 1 episode 4, “Charlotte”, exclusively on Disney+.