This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
After the tragic events of last week’s episode of The Magicians, it’s apparent that many of the characters have some growing up to do albeit in ways viewers might not expect. Remarkably, the conflict doesn’t seem all that lessened by the defeat of the Beast, and that’s a credit to the burgeoning complexity of the situation in Fillory. While Julia’s story arc continues admirably on its way with the pursuit of Reynard, the awakenings of everyone else were a refreshing course change, even if some of them went in directions we wish they hadn’t.
While Quentin’s initial awakening was initially quite literal, his journey with the unlikely companionship of Penny was a pleasure to watch unfold. With Quentin’s wooden arm and Penny’s hacked off (again) hands, their quest to find the White Lady to somehow complete themselves took on layers of meaning. The reminder of Penny’s psychic skills, newly strengthened by the Beast’s absence, was a good way to accentuate the acute pain of Quentin’s loss. The fact that Alice’s locket broke the stoned loop they were following while in The Flying Forest is a wonderful symbol of the broken pattern this episode represents.
However, any joy we might have felt at the granting of Penny’s wish for new hands was dashed as Quentin asks to be sent home. It definitely seemed as if the White Lady (the fabulously envisioned faun played by Emma Dumont) wanted Quentin to find her, and her curiosity about his wooden arm posed an interesting question moving forward: “How much do you have to lose before you’re no longer yourself?” Is she talking about his arm or perhaps something deeper? In any case, the idea that Quentin would willingly banish himself from the world of magic, if that is indeed what he has asked for, feels more tragic than one might think possible. What will it take to bring him (or Alice for that matter) back?
Changes of another sort are being made in the party world of Margo and Eliot. Although Eliot understandably wants nothing to do with the politics of Fillory, Margo almost seems ready to earn her royal epithet, “the Destroyer,” by snuffing out dissension as the power vacuum resulting from Martin’s death expands. Erecting a statue to Alice may seem overly sentimental for Eliot, but Margo’s assertion that “Alice was a package deal; she came with Quentin,” seems equally as over-the-top in the other direction. Fortunately, they both experience real growth in this episode.
For Eliot, it took a return to Brakebills and the Physical Kids’ cottage to realize he was straddling two worlds, and not just in his sex life (but wow regardless). After all they’ve been through, his immediately enflamed rivalry with Todd seemed downright childish, a former life to be discarded. The trick with the golem to get around the rule about not leaving Fillory may be useful again in the future, but for now it served to bring him to Dean Fogg who gave him his new thesis project: “How to save an entire god-damn world.”
Margo’s journey of self-reflection was equally satisfying, mainly due to the eye-opening insult battle with Julia. After Margo told Eliot Alice wasn’t their friend, Julia’s assertion rang all the more true: “You don’t have friends; you have people that are so afraid of you, they’d rather be on your side.” It may be unfair to say Margo only cares about what affects her hair or her social life, but the fact that she wants to use her magic to help build a statue to Alice after all shows she’s willing to change. Baby steps…
Julia herself might still be single-minded and unchanged from last season’s finale, but at least she has her new “best bitch” along for the ride. We missed Kady, and her rescue from the heroin den is a happy occasion on several levels. Her conflicting emotions in helping to resurrect Marina were a nice reminder of the dead hedge witch’s former cruelty, but whatever horror they brought Marina back from came across beautifully in Kacey Rohl’s acting. The small detail of a girl 40 years ago who banished Reynard from Earth is a great introduction to what’s next for Julia and Kady.
The Magicians has officially shifted gears for season 2, and the more mature feel to the missions to come is a welcome change. Hopefully, the show can move past the college “rager” (as Todd puts it) and move onto the grander party in Fillory befitting their new royal status. Although Quentin’s chosen path is troubling to say the least, the pivotal decisions other characters have made in the course of this episode bring a sense of hope along with whatever unanticipated dangers await in the adventure to come.