This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 2 Episode 13
Introducing a paradigm shift into a show like The Magicians in its season finale is a bold move that will no doubt pay off in season 3 the way that the introduction of Fillory shook up the current season, making the shenanigans at Brakebills seem like child’s play. But with the introduction of gods and now even older gods that can turn off the flow of magic, are things moving too fast? It’s an exciting twist, to be sure, but behind all the fireworks was a somewhat pat resolution hinging on convenient happenstance. It doesn’t detract significantly from the amazing spectacle, though, and the set-up for season 3 promises more greatness to come.
What it comes down to is that the takedown of Ember and Umber wasn’t entirely earned, which is a shame because the juicy explanations that came from Ember’s opening voiceover were a wellspring (pun intended) of information. The god is revealed to have manipulated the Addict, the Victim, the Bitch, the Scowl, and the Martyr like cards in a Tarot deck. He even supposedly stole from the River Watcher who cursed Penny and made Fen ovulate at the right time — intriguing! Viewers will likely have to file away until next season the detail that the candy witch still has Quentin’s blood. That’s something we can sink our teeth into!
Another wonderful shakeup occurs when Eliot becomes the voice of wisdom for once. He appeals to Julia’s desire to make a difference despite her suffering from the return of her shade and all of her regrets and trauma in such a brilliant way: “The way you’re relating to that couch is not unknown to me… want to put some pants on and help me save all of magic?” He recruits Quentin in a similar fashion, telling him he needs someone who speaks fluent fanboy while admitting, “Screwing up is inevitable, and there are some fuckups you can never un-fuck.” Vintage Eliot!
He even forgives Margo and keeps her from feeling sorry for herself because of her missing eye, the price exacted for her return from the faerie realm. Leave it to the Faerie Queen to outmaneuver Queen Bitch! It was so nice to hear Margo acknowledge that she and Eliot tend to blow past tragedy and banter instead, but on the flip side, how cool was it for the High King to bring the High Queen into the plan by encouraging her to do what they do best: party like the world depends on it?
That part was cool. The “little cake” callback to season 1, Josh over-explaining the way the realms overlap, the Faerie Queen seeking to placate Ember so he won’t destroy Fillory; it all led viewers to believe the Earth rulers would grovel before Ember. However, it also makes perfect sense that Eliot would put all this into motion based on Penny’s advice; both of Eliot’s books in the Library end after the plan to woo Ember, so he needs to do anything else other than that. Eliot’s foresight in involving Umber is the perfect “anything else.” But that’s where the plan loses cohesion.
Are we to believe that Quentin knew that Umber would invite him into the world formerly known as Cuba? The whole plan hinges on that! The visit was certainly edifying in characterizing Umber’s penchant for order over his brother’s chaotic preferences, and it gave Quentin a chance to advocate for life needing to be messy: “People like the unexpected.” And Julia was at the ready to take the snow globe through the grandfather clock to Fillory where she could force a reckoning between the two gods? Awfully convenient.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a nice use of The Ars Deicidium spell, an element that never got its full play with the bullet meant for Reynard. But Eliot, Quentin, and the others would have to know that Ember would feel betrayed enough to kill his brother so that Julia could put his power into the god-killing sword. That’s a lot to take on faith! Was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it believable? Well, still yes — this is The Magicians after all — but a stretch to be sure.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, though. The old gods turning off the flow of magic, skillfully foreshadowed by the bacon-eating Alice and brilliantly imagined as a plumber flipping the switch in a breaker box, was an appropriate punishment that couldn’t possibly have been anticipated. Flashing forward two months was also a highlight of the episode, showing Fogg teaching spell gestures at Brakebills just in case magic returns. If it weren’t for the too-easy killing of the Fillory gods (especially when compared to confrontations with the Beast or Reynard), the consequences of such a bold plan would have been the perfect cherry atop a stellar season.
So until season 3 of The Magicians arrives, we have the extra enticement of the lamprey that Joseph said will be seeking revenge against Alice and, of course, the tantalizing glimpse at an unknown source of magic from Julia. A better ending couldn’t be conceived! Not quite a cliffhanger but instead just the right balancing note to the upending of everything the show and the magicians themselves have built their world around: doing some goddamn magic!