This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 2 Episode 3
How did The Magicians manage to pack this many different types of stories into one episode? The morbid humor stemming from the cursed throne assassination attempts received as much attention as the frighteningly dangerous attempts to entrap Reynard and Martin, but by the end, “Divine Elimination” sent chills down everyone’s spines and broke a few hearts, capping off a nearly perfectly constructed narrative.
First, let’s talk about that episode title. How brilliant is it that “Divine Elimination” could refer to the royal rumble, the killing of gods, or Ember’s effluvium in equal parts? As clever titles go, this one pretty much takes the cake. An argument could even be made that Alice’s dwindling god-given powers could be an elimination of sorts. Points for the double (or triple) entendre!
The cursed thrones made for a light-hearted opening: surprising considering the friends were trying to kill each other. Penny’s discomfort and lines like, “You couldn’t hit a fat girl with a fat-girl-seeking arrow” made it hard not laugh, and Penny’s solution — killing everyone and resuscitating them to break the spell — was elegant in its own chaotic way. Honestly, though, the episode only got better from there, and the main takeaway from this first story was the fact that Quentin was the only one left with a “tramp stamp” demon.
It was much more intellectually rewarding to try and figure out each character’s motivation in Julia’s arc. Are Reynard and Marina right about each other? Is Marina’s cynicism a smokescreen for a real desire to summon the Mother? And is Reynard truly compensating for something as Marina suggests? For Marina, it doesn’t matter anymore, but it would be nice if Reynard’s sadistic nature were leading to something bigger.
Martin, for his part, does seem genuinely to want to help, despite his unrepentant insistence on involving Marina; after all, Julia was eventually complicit in endangering her fellow hedge witch. Who’s to say Julia wouldn’t have been successful in dispatching the fox god if Penny hadn’t teleported in and grabbed Martin? It was almost a shame to lose the Beast under such circumstances.
And is he truly gone? Thank goodness the Rhinemann Ultra (a truly impressive spell despite its unfortunate name) was at least partially effective. The combination of the fouled Wellspring and Alice’s sacrifice made Martin’s defeat much more authentic; it wouldn’t have been believable without hardship. But oh, what exquisite tragedy! Alice going “full Harry Potter part 7 slash 8” was truly magnificent in its heartbreak.
Even without Quentin’s quintessentially awkward attempt to earn Alice back during their carriage ride, it would have been a painful loss. After all, Alice could only emotionally handle the thought of an ice cream sundae, and yet the audience is expected to absorb the fact that Quentin’s cacodemon blasted Alice… what, to death? Surely not! A niffin cannot be snuffed out so easily, right? RIGHT??
Those who have read the Lev Grossman novels have likely drawn their own conclusions about Alice’s fate and are excited to see this element of the trilogy play out, but those who haven’t had the pleasure should definitely keep an eye on young Benedict, the cartographer whom Eliot asked to bring him a stiletto. Whether this was a wink-and-nod cameo like the Josh character last season or a full-blown intro to the important character from the book series, his inclusion was much appreciated.
When The Magicians is good, it’s really good, and that’s why reviews here are sometimes critical when the show falls short of the high bar it has set for itself. This episode was successful on many levels, from the toilet humor to the heart-wrenching despair, and if the rest of season 2 even approaches this level of storytelling, we might all be as happy as the horses to whom Margo promised sexual favors.