The Magicians Season 3 Episode 1 Review: The Tales of the Seven Keys

With some of the tightest writing we’ve ever seen in any episode of The Magicians, season three’s epic quest may be the best story yet.

This The Magicians review contains spoilers.

The Magicians Season 3 Episode 1

The Magicians is not messing around, and season three is off to an amazing start with “The Tales of the Seven Keys.” Not only are we presented with an impending “epic quest,” but there are also several foreshadowed confrontations in the mix as well as lessons to be learned from enemies of the past. Add in one of the most enjoyable pop culture laden conversations ever between Eliot and Margo, and the result is a season premiere that bodes well for an exciting set of stories to come.

It’s surprising, in fact, that a world without magic could present such earnest intrigue in a series that would seem to depend on the usefulness of spells as much as Brakebills does. Julia, the one human with a spark of magic still left inside her, has reverted to her pre-Brakebills temperament and offers a wonderful new direction for Quentin to investigate, especially given he’s the one responsible for the blackout. The weird tenth grade dance that gains them admittance to Bacchus’ party adorably reminded us of how close these friends were in the series premiere, and the chemistry shows.

And speaking of the party, the plot that unfolds there is indicative of how expertly The Magicians doles out small details that will undoubtedly become important later. Bacchus is neither helpful nor dismissive of Quentin’s request to turn magic back on, but he does share that Prometheus knows of a possible “back door” that will certainly be explored later. And Julia’s ability to replace Josh’s despondence over the loss of his magical culinary skills with hope by blowing some decorative smoke rings was suggestive of similar inspirational storylines in the future.

Ad – content continues below

Even one of the smallest story arcs — that of Penny, dying from magical radiation, and Kady, who seeks to help him — practically quivers with narrative possibilities. Not only is there the suggestion that Mayakovsky might have manipulated the events that led to the magic outage so that he could break the incorporate bond holding him at Brakebills South; there’s also the return of Marlee Matlin as Harriet who starts Kady on a new mission (ostensibly to save magic but really to get Penny back on track to being her Library mole) just by giving her a book. Simple, subtle, and the perfect hook for a premiere.

The fact that, in essence, they’re all on the same mission to bring magic back is what so admirably unifies the stories. Although the quest that Eliot receives from the Great Cock (The Magicians loves a good cock joke) is arguably the most epic, the fact that he brings Quentin in on it by sending messenger bunnies to tell him to find “The Tales of the Seven Keys” from a New Jersey library is a great way to communicate across worlds and between divided storylines. It shows cohesive writing, and a tightly woven tale has the strongest pull.

But there’s also the draw of some incredible humor from Eliot and Margo, and this premiere pulled out all the stops on their familiar pop culture banter. There was a reference for every kind of fandom, from Gossip Girl to Battlestar Galactica, and just when it seemed they couldn’t top those, they threw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Hush” is the best, it’s true) and Game of Thrones. What a clever way to get around the Fairy Queen’s spying!

It’s a lot to fit into one episode, and The Magicians did it extremely well, which is important for a premiere so that it can create excitement for the season. To fit in the scene in which Dean Fogg is given the ultimatum to fix magic or close Brakebills as well as the vignette where Alice is seeking an early warning system against the lamprey was no small feat! It all serves to foreshadow the season to come, tie in the conflicts that came before, and bring the audience back in right where they left off last year with no loss of excitement or time wasted on catch-up exposition.

If the rest of the season is like this, The Magicians season 3 is set to be the best one yet!


5 out of 5