The Magicians: Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting Review

The dangers of magic and the impetuousness of youth are highlighted as the darker elements of the show take center stage.

This The Magicians review contains spoilers.

The Magicians Season 1 Episode 3

At one point in the most recent episode of The Magicians, Dean Fogg tells Penny, “You’ve been a thin layer of insouciance over an open pit of self-pity your entire life,” perfectly capturing the mood of almost every magic user in the show and quite possibly the wannabes in the audience as well. In “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting,” viewers can feel the hunger for meaning and the addictiveness of magic to the point where it no longer matters how dangerous Alice, Quentin, or Julia are being, as long as they’re learning a new spell. Although some flaws remain, this series is hitting its stride.

Chief among the unique aspects of the show at large is the central idea of this single episode: magic is dangerous. Casting spells indiscriminately with inadequate training can have unforeseen consequences. Alice, for example, seems like a skilled magician, having grown up in a family of casters, yet her sense of caution has not increased with the recent summoning gone wrong. She barely waits a full minute before turning away from her Breakfast Club song-spell at the fountain; perhaps embarrassment overrode patience.

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What comes across is how young and inexperienced these damaged recruits are, both among the hedge witches and at Brakebills, and that’s how it should be in the opening episodes of a series. There’s definitely room for growth. It is somewhat troubling that the graduate school characters are never shown learning magic, only studying and researching it, which made Julia’s receiving assistance in levitating the stack of coins an important moment. Are the hedge witches like junkies doing parlor tricks as Quentin indicates, or are they more supportive than the institutionalized instruction? How fun that the audience gets to decide!

Brakebills had its moments, too, though. Penny being classified as a psychic and Alice being described as a brilliant phosphoromancer reminded viewers of the best moments at Hogwarts with the sorting hat. It was particularly interesting that, although Quentin was appropriately unclassifiable as the main character of the show, it was Penny that ended up with the rare gift of bring a Traveler. Thank goodness, too, since the irritable mind-reader (Taylor Swift? Really?) seemed completely out of place in the new age home of his fellow mentalists.

Meanwhile, the Physical Kids have welcomed Alice and Kady – the latter was a surprise – as well as Quentin simply because there was room. But Eliot and especially Margo have become the perfect models of the self-absorption of youth. Alice is clearly right not to trust Margo, but Summer Bashil is doing a wonderful job of making her character’s false kindness subtle but still noticeable. Quentin is right: Margo’s discipline could just as easily be gossip rather than physical magic.

The only thing that felt a little off about this week’s episode were Dean Fogg’s prosthetic eyes. Repeated references to his blindness and not being able to see his students’ reactions seemed a bit overstated, especially combined with his injured hands. The aforementioned lack of visible magic instruction as well as the students’ disregard for rules, including the prohibition against approaching the bottomless fountain, make the adults seem excessively powerless. That’s par for the course with a story containing young adult protagonists, but it seems out of place in this dangerous world.

The episode did succeed in communicating the danger of magic, though, and it should be interesting to see what the novices get involved in once Alice’s quest to rescue her brother is replaced with another goal that encompasses a greater number of characters. A common objective could be just what The Magicians needs to bring its disparate characters, young and old, into a bigger picture that takes advantage of the rich mythology potential this show has.


3.5 out of 5