This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 2 Episode 1
The Magicians has found its home in Fillory. Looking back on season 1, which had mixed reviews here on Den of Geek, a narrative preamble begins to take shape for the true story, which begins in earnest here in “Knight of Crowns.” The show has firmly established its unique mix of snarky, self-referential humor and brooding, existential despair, and with the much-anticipated return for season 2, The Magicians is like everyone’s sarcastic goth friend who just took a little time to get used to but now is an indispensable companion without whom life would be dull.
Was the recovery from the Beast’s deadly conquest in the season 1 finale a bit too easy? Perhaps, but Alice’s god mojo was an established boon that can’t be brushed aside, especially since she was unable to use it to wield the moonstone blade to defeat Martin. Plus, the lingering prospect of the group’s massacre allowed Quentin to introduce the apparently dangerous idea of asking help from Fillory natives, which not only cost him a vial of blood (and that’s undoubtedly coming back to haunt him) but may also end up determining the fate of Penny for the rest of the season.
And it’s not as if Penny got off scot-free to begin with. Eliot, Margo, and Alice may have essentially returned from the dead, but Penny’s hands did have to be re-attached. After pissing off the man who sewed them back on, he may now be on a path that will not only affect his ability to Travel; it may actively work against his ability to cast magic in general. Since he is not among the newly-crowned kings and queens of Fillory, it will be interesting to see where this side plot leads, especially since it may include a lesson for the always hilariously abrasive Penny from the man who jinxed his hands: “Actions have consequences, Penny, even glib words spoken in casual arrogance.” Does this mean an end to him teasing Quentin? Hopefully not!
At least Margo is still on her game, after presenting the overriding worry of all fans of The Magicians, saying, “…we’re stuck in some epic fantasy that likes to behead its heroes halfway through season 1 — if we even are heroes; we might be comic relief.” And there are some great comic moments in this episode, especially with the titular Knight of Crowns, who quizzes the royal aspirants like Monty Python’s Tim the Enchanter, only with 90’s pop trivia. And anyone who says they weren’t impressed by Eliot’s reenactment of the scene from Dirty Dancing is, quite frankly, kidding themselves.
And so High King Eliot the Spectacular, High Queen Margo the Destroyer, Queen Alice the Wise, and King Quentin the Moderately Socially Maladjusted must search for whatever spells in the Castle Whitespire Armory Rupert Chatwin used to influence the Allied victory at the Battle of the Bulge — a nice historical touch! The introduction to this quest provided a magnificent way for the group to set up a return to Brakebills while re-emphasizing the frightening prospect of Eliot never being able to go back, perhaps even offsetting his timeline with that of his friends by months or years. Even the “Queliot” hug — wonderful as it was — was not enough to offset this worry completely.
It’s gratifying to note that Julia, although still seen as a betrayer by some, got some defense of her extenuating circumstances from Quentin without completely excusing her. Her willingness to work with Martin creates an intriguing uneasiness for the viewer. While everyone hopes for a defeat for Reynard, at what cost might it come? What are we to make of Martin’s careful respect of Julia’s wishes with regard to the extraction of her “shade”? And is Julia’s distraction essential to this 40th cycle being successful in defeating the Beast? Perhaps in the 39 earlier loops, the kings and queens were never crowned! That would explain the Knight of Crown’s death decades before.
All of these intricacies serve to create an admirably complex narrative, making the addition of Fillory a welcome change for The Magicians in season 2. The interplay between the decisions each character makes with the consequences and moral dilemmas they confront in a setting that’s appropriate for the epic nature of their mission is a wonderful way to weave a tale that will engage the audience right away. To hope for Eliot’s happiness as he finds his place, to ache for the easing of Julia’s pain, to understand why Alice tells Quentin, “We’re not getting back together” even as reconciliations are made; these feelings all stem from a deep investment in the characters and their lives that’s essential to the success of any show.