This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 2 Episode 11
The Magicians is rarely predictable, and “The Rattening” is the perfect example of the show’s ability to surprise viewers who think they’ve got it all figured out. The journey to the Underworld, the addition of Penny’s young companion, the self-realization of Senator Gaines, and the sudden fissure between Eliot and Margo all go in directions no one would expect. The stories aren’t remotely related this time around, but it doesn’t seem to matter at this point. We’re so invested in each different quest that the jump from one story to the next is more like a shifting embrace than a change of direction.
There were two worries going into the storyline surrounding Julia’s shade this week: would the dragon guarding the gates of the Underworld be lame, and would Julia be a hindrance or a help to Quentin? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No!” The Ancient One was more effectively depicted than anticipated, and the price it exacted, the Fillory button, has an as-yet unforeseen consequence, which is intriguing in and of itself. The answer to the second question is a little more problematic.
On the one hand, it didn’t make much sense that Julia, without the benefit of a shade, would discourage Quentin from giving up the Fillory button; her dispassionate nature would seem to preclude her from caring whether he went “home” or not. And seeing Richard and the rest of Free Trader Beowulf in the Underworld bowling alley shouldn’t have been so awkward for one without a shade. But then it became clear: she’s remembering how to act, even without the actual emotions. Then when confronted with her own shade, her tears begin to well up, almost as if proximity to her old self is enough to bridge the gap.
Of course, she still calmly confronts her realization that Persephone is Our Lady Underground by calling the goddess a “selfish bitch” and asserting that “we were stupid to love you.” But how else can we explain her sacrificing her own completeness in favor of Alice and by extension Quentin? Did her own shade convince her to help reunite Alice’s shade with the niffin that remains, presuming that’s what will happen? The possibilities are staggering, and it was a powerful episode for Julia.
Other revelations were less impactful but no less surprising. As cool as it was, for example, to see Senator Gaines learn about his mind control powers from his father, it was a path we might have predicted at first. His demigod charisma won him votes; this we know. But to realize that even his wife has been under his spell must have been too much to bear. Even so, Gaines’ appearance at the Physical Kids cottage to join Kady’s fight against Reynard was a real eye-opener. Since when do politicians reject the ability to influence people? Somehow it turns out that Gaines is a rare altruist and a benevolent deity.
One very welcome new addition to the Penny story is the immediately captivating Sylvia. Her irreverence and blithe disregard for the Order’s strict rules both sets her up as a foil for Penny and as a mirror to his own snarky sarcasm. It’s likely the “Meadow” nickname will stick, effectively keeping the juiciest detail about the young girl at the forefront: her “legitimate” businessman father having sent her to the Library to protect her. Do tell! As far as finding The Ars Deicidium, what better assistance than a teenage supervisor who doesn’t mind invading people’s privacy?
After delivering poignancy with the shades, righteous anger with the senator, and sneaky intrigue with the library, The Magicians hits us with tragedy: Margo’s imprisonment in the dungeon and Eliot’s banishment from Fillory. Josh, a more prevalent character in the Lev Grossman trilogy, is coming into his own lately, but his encouragement of democracy in suggesting the high king delegate to elected governors seems to have violated the magically hardwired monarchy code of Fillory. Anyone who says they saw that coming is a big fat liar!
And while viewers may have predicted a fall from grace for Margo once her deal with the fairies was exposed, being sent to the dungeon was not high on the list of “things Eliot might do when he finds out.” The heartbreak is heavier than it normally would be because of the bond these two share. Adding to the unease is the unknown nature of who or what caused the “rattening,” if the fairies’ denial is to be believed.
With new questions raised, The Magicians has once again upped its game. What happened to Hades and Persephone? Who gave the Fillory chickens laryngitis? How and why is Eliot suddenly back at Brakebills? Every time we think we have this show figured out, it tosses everything on its head. Whether weaving stories together or keeping them separate, The Magicians has engaged its audience consistently well this season, and the impending finale promises to leave viewers hungry for more.
Season 3 renewal, please?