The Magicians: Remedial Battle Magic Review

A nearly flawless episode brings both gruesome hopelessness and welcome humor to a story that’s moving ahead nicely.

This The Magicians review contains spoilers.

The Magicians Season 1, Episode 11

Several recent episodes of The Magicians have somehow managed to cram in a ton of plot without bogging down the overall story. “Remedial Battle Magic” gave viewers a seemingly impossible quest for a blade, a reunion of sorts with Kady, a new connection for Julia, a painful intrusion into Penny’s mind, more evidence of Eliot’s deterioration, and the beginnings of some really cool offensive spell training. The episode could easily have gotten confusing with its alternately disturbing and humorous explorations of what’s in store, but instead it nailed all the salient points of the story so far and skillfully moved them forward.

The Beast’s renewed assault on Travelers who could potentially gain access to Fillory brought viewers the first round of gruesome fallout from Penny’s recent journey to the Neitherlands. No longer content to rely on his minions around the fountains, the Beast has forced not only “Joe,” who was just introduced last week, but also Penny’s original tutor and presumably other Travelers to kill themselves in despair. Professor Sunderland’s painful, temporary solution is only slightly encouraging and is sure to cause Penny problems very soon.

And this is on top of the problem he already has learning battle magic along with the other Brakebills students. It was interesting that only Penny and Quentin originally wanted to pursue the blade talked about in the documents Penny brought home from the Neitherlands library, but the necessity of learning battle magic and making an assault became clear through the wonderfully terrifying probability scenarios which left them all dead in any attempt to bargain with the Beast. Perfectly executed motivation!

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Not so perfectly executed (and understandably so) were the offensive magic spells themselves, which required total emotional detachment. In one of the most humorous scenes of the series so far, Quentin likens the removal of their troublesome feelings as akin to the Vulcan ritual of Kolinahr, followed immediately by Penny dispassionately complimenting his sweater. Eliot is the only one who doesn’t seem significantly affected by the re-introduction of the bottled emotions, but he’s clearly had practice hiding some real problems. His well-being becomes more worrisome each week.

Julia, on the other hand, appears to have rebounded well, and the continuing quest to summon a god has now become pleasantly centered on her encounter with the fertility goddess. The underlying mythology of The Magicians has really deepened with the addition of mystical creatures abandoned by the gods, and they exhibit the same hopelessness as others in the series. But Julia’s prayer does elicit hope, and it’s possible that Free Trader Beowulf – or at least Julia herself – is onto something big.

The tie between the two plotlines was Kady, who apparently has learned a lot about battle magic and shares what she knows with the Brakebills contingent. Penny is notably absent, but Quentin’s advice was admirably sage as he counseled Kady to allow for forgiveness from the man who loves her. Perhaps she could help Penny shield his mind from the Beast! Thankfully, Penny and Alice appear to be trying a less artificial way to detach their emotions to cast their offensive spells, which allows Penny to concentrate on his bigger problem.

Speaking of bigger problems, Quentin has got a lot of explaining to do with his drunken stupor bringing him into an unexpected amorous encounter with BFFs, Eliot and Margo! Granted, they were hopped up on reintegrated emotions but obviously this will not sit well with Alice. It is a bit fishy, though – how much of it was calculated? Margo is certainly capable of entrapment of this sort!

Although the supernatural creatures angle was a bit rushed, it was a welcome added ingredient, and the episode overall was expertly written and executed. All characters received their due attention, and the story progressed nicely towards whatever’s in store for the finale. The students of magic still seem woefully under-prepared for the conflict ahead, but what makes The Magicians great are the outrageously high stakes and the near certainty of defeat that defies viewers to even hope for success.

And yet they still do…

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4.5 out of 5