This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 3 Episode 11
This week’s The Magicians may have melted a few brains with its multiple timelines, but in placing just the right set of difficulties in front of Julia, the god-touched hedge witch has taken center stage in a big way. In the most unexpected turn of events, characters like Marina, Penny, and Josh were resurrected, transformed, and given completely new conflicts to deal with while at the same time the search for the keys continued in a way that almost indicates that magic wants the quest to be completed. The brief glimpse at what might have been in “Twenty-Three” was sometimes chilling, sometimes confusing, but inevitably entertaining.
The fact that Quentin and Alice are on Tick’s wanted posters is a nice contrivance to get Josh together with Julia, but their initial awkwardness is an effective way to acknowledge the odd pairing. Following that up with the sudden appearance of a Tesla Flexion from timeline 23 was both a pleasant twist and another in season three’s long line of successful callbacks to earlier seasons. Additionally, the Josh-on-Josh nerd references such as Mothra (Godzilla) and “You’re our only hope” (Star Wars), lightened the mood in a way that only Eliot and Margo with their pop culture nods have been able to do previously.
In fact, as Josh’s star begins to rise along with Julia’s, introducing a new mysterious conflict in the form of something called “the Quickening” raises the stakes so that he’s not just comic relief. Likewise, the differing personalities between Josh 40 and Josh 23 poses an interesting question about what would have happened if he had never been rescued from the Neitherlands. The Lasik surgery and cool jacket are only superficial manifestations of a Josh living in a world destroyed by the Beast, but hey, that’s the kind of guy he is.
Marina, on the other hand, seems to be a self-centered mean girl in any timeline, but it was still nice to see the hedge witch bitch brought back for this storyline. The irony was palpable both in her willingness to turn Julia over to the Beast to save herself and her proposal that they use Alice as bait once she realizes Julia can wield the moonstone dagger. It may have taken some viewers a moment to remember that Julia did the exact same thing in season two to Marina, which resulted in her death, but once Julia confessed to Marina what happened in her timeline, it hit like a ton of bricks. It should be interesting to have Marina in timeline 40 moving forward.
And of course a new Penny will be joining them as well, one who considers Julia his soulmate. That was a surprise! Not only does this seem to be a nail in the coffin for our Penny, who we saw eating a symbolically binding cupcake in the Underworld last week; it also introduces an unforeseen potential emotional conflict for Kady, who will undoubtedly see Penny 23 as an imposter of sorts. At least Julia appears to have cured this Penny’s group traveling problem, which could come in handy.
The idea that Quentin could become the Beast after having his shade destroyed by Martin Chatwin was well handled, especially in how it tied in with the Tesla Flexion that gave Alice 23 hope back in season 2, which led to her bringing a much different Quentin back from the Underworld. The Fillory and Further museum in Castle Whitespire was a brilliant atmospheric touch, and Julia giving her childhood friend her shade was both beautifully sacrificial and oddly strategic as it forced Quentin to use the moonstone blade on himself, ending his reign and freeing the seventh key (presumably it’s the sixth that’s in the Fairy realm).
There were plenty of little touches that made the episode that much sweeter as well, like the comparison of Julia to Hermione and the return of the coolest spell ever, the Rhinemann Ultra. It was also notable that in timeline 40 (the one that really matters here), Julia was able to replace the wards around Brakebills and possibly give Dean Fogg a reason to stay sober; his timeline 23 self showed us what he could otherwise become. Similarly, we saw a return of alcoholic Eliot as his ghost drama with Margo played out with grim humor in lines like, “Don’t cock out on me!”
As for our living Margo and Eliot, let’s hope they return to glory (the “fuck her right in the egg mcmuffin” was a nice start) as the group goes after the last key in the final two episodes. Whether the Quickening, Alice’s deal with the Library, Tick’s rule over Fillory, or other factors come into play is anyone’s guess, but the stage has been set for a truly compelling season three finale for The Magicians. Cliffhanger or no, season four is assured, so anything goes!