This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 1 Episode 6
Things are really starting to pick up in The Magicians, and although it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which direction the show will go next, this unpredictability makes for undeniably enjoyable viewing. In some ways, the story is quite chaotic with the unknowns piling up and few answers in sight, but the characters continue to be fleshed out in a satisfying manner. In fact, the character building was expertly done this week through the use of magical tests that revealed many hidden motivations.
The nature of the tests was worrisome at first. They almost seemed like some sort of hazing ritual a fraternity might put its potential pledges through. Allowing Eliot and Margo to administer the Trials certainly made things fun, especially with Margo’s unique brand of manipulative charm, but it did seem odd that they’d be in charge considering it wasn’t only the Physical Kids being tested. As upperclassmen, Eliot and Margo inhabit their own sphere in this show, and it can be jarring at times; this week, thankfully, it works.
Quentin, on the other hand, makes for an interesting hero since he isn’t always the one saving the day. However, his realization that his team (hilariously named the Horny Chupacabras) has been “Kobayashi Maru’ed” in the written portion of the exam had him taking the lead in solving the problem. The encouragement to cheat not only fits with the warped Hogwarts world the show inhabits; the fact that Penny uses astral projection to copy from Alice also nicely foreshadows her barely contained power and genius, which she admits to having at the end of the episode.
While the second trial is more of a traditional team-building, no-magic exercise, the idea of having the wrong tools for the job is strangely familiar in the sink-or-swim, dangerous world of magic. And this time, the working-together aspect of cutting down a tree, catching a fish, sets up a closeness that at first glance seems to transition nicely into the final test, which requires the ultimate amount of intimacy. The friends literally must bare their bodies and their true motivations. Surely the group will emerge even closer than before!
But Quentin’s self-hatred in the final scene comes almost as an afterthought, and Alice’s magical restraint creates distance rather than closeness. And Penny’s professing of love comes opposite Kady’s confession that she used him to do Marina’s dirty work. The resulting transformation into geese becomes a wonderfully absurd exclamation mark on the whole revealing, unexpectedly divisive scene.
Kady’s admission is well placed, of course, given what’s revealed about her troubled relationship with her mother, Hannah. It’s still not entirely clear how Hannah’s earlier mistakes, which got two hedge witches killed during a heist, led to Kady’s obligation to spy on and steal from Brakebills on Marina’s behalf, but that will undoubtedly be made clear in time. Far more interesting is the reluctant cooperation between Hannah and Julia, the latter of whom continues to hunger for magic in a way that portends great power to come.
The establishment of a new safehouse and the theft of some of Marina’s file cabinets full of spells was a story well told, and the magic was some of the most believable and impressive in the series to date. The sheer unexpectedness of Julia’s success was outdone only by the unbelievable brutality of Marina’s revenge. It wasn’t enough to have the pages be blank; Hannah had to bleed violently from every orifice and perish in the most gruesome fashion imaginable! Quite a shock – but what an impact!
So why is Kady beholden to Marina? And why doesn’t Penny want anything to do with Fillory or the voice that he still hears? There are so many mysteries still out there, each more intriguing than the last. What about the missing third year class or the quiet talk among Brakebills teachers about Quentin and his friends being “ready” for something? And, of course, the moth-man is still at large.
Each unresolved element The Magicians adds to the story brings tension and depth to the overall conflict, making the series pleasantly complex. This wasn’t always the case with earlier episodes, but now that the halfway mark has been reached, perhaps the show will pick up speed on the downhill slope. It wouldn’t take much considering the breakneck pace the last couple of episodes have fortunately achieved.