This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 2 Episode 9
It was a week of self-realization for several characters in this week’s episode of The Magicians, and there was a sense of discovery as personality shortcomings came to light and introduced new conflicts to come. Alas, some narrative flaws left the story feeling a bit slapdash, but as is usual with episodes like this, the push forward for the central story arc overrides any misgivings arising from the weaker aspects. Whether absorbing Alice’s newfound freedom, Margo’s ill-advised bargain, or Julia’s dangerous selfishness, viewers are no doubt pleased to see these complex women really ramp up the overall peril of the season as it nears its end.
Quentin was no slouch, though, and his surprising but understandable imprisonment can’t be blamed for the rather lame werewolf joke that went nowhere. The real question is whether he released Alice out of self preservation since continued containment of a niffin would be fatal or he truly was persuaded by her promise to live like Friar Joseph, pursuing pure magic and harming no one. Regardless, his time in the cage gave us a great conversation between Alice (during her hour in charge of his body) and Julia that included acknowledgement of the clear parallel between the niffin and the shadeless witch: “We both know life isn’t clouded with regret, need, sadness. We both know life is crystalline clear, cold, sharp.” If only it were so…
Julia, of course, proves in spectacular fashion what can happen when regret is removed from the equation. Thankfully, the disregard for life she displayed last week wasn’t ignored even as Penny and Kady rescued her from Fillory prison to go after Senator John Gaines. By advocating the killing of the demigod to use his power to kill Reynard and by pushing Quentin to use Alice to vanquish the fox god, she has sealed her fate. While her emotionless turn post-abortion does have its troubling implications, hopefully the clean room imprisonment will provide more of a solution than the Fillory dungeon did.
Margo and Eliot were clearly too busy to notice her absence, and their short-sightedness really gets the better of them both this week. Eliot thinks single combat is an easy way out of war that will also give him good PR, and Margo recklessly agrees to bargain with the fairies to clean the Wellspring. While both schemes end up accomplishing the stated goals, the consequences seem obvious but at the same time unavoidable. Should Eliot have let thousands die in war? Should Margo have sacrificed Eliot to save his child? Either way, Fen’s magic sword actually made her more of a hero than the Earth-born royals.
And that brings us to the Les Mis musical number. Surely many fans of The Magicians eat this stuff up, but in this writer’s opinion, it was charmingly awkward at best. The rallying song was meant to bolster Eliot’s confidence and dishearten the enemy, but the participation of Fen and the other advisors not only seemed out of character; it also highlighted the low-budget nature of the encounter in which the Lorians were far from intimidated. Prince Ess even played Javert, for pete’s sake!
At least Eliot found a diplomatic solution that involved landing himself a hunky husband in King Idri. Unfortunately, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Margo since, although she definitely shouldn’t have had to be forced into marriage with Ess, she did declare war in the first place, and in retrospect, she could’ve avoided the fairy entanglements if she had simply waited for events to play out. Not that she could have known, but like Eliot said, “Sometimes you have to sacrifice for diplomacy.” Ignoring the pain of that double entendre, someone should have mentioned the “one of each” royal marriage clause before.
So Julia is contained and war has been averted, but with Alice shooting up into the sky, Reynard absconding with Senator Gaines, and the fairies ready to take Eliot’s firstborn, safety has not been achieved. Keeping the conflict alive is the lifeblood of The Magicians, and there’s plenty of juicy pain to keep things interesting despite the questionable comedic choices the show sometimes makes. As unpredictable as ever, this series looks to be gearing up for a season ender no one will expect.