This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 3 Episode 5
What show other than The Magicians could get away with showing an entire lifetime of existence catering to a specific “ship” in its fandom while still beautifully serving the overall story? The aptly named “A Life in the Day” not only lends the perfect amount of gravitas to the acquisition of the third key in the quest; it also manages to add depth to the ongoing evolution of its many and varied female characters while continuing to make good use of callbacks to successful elements from previous seasons.
The most troubling character change comes for Kady, whose reunion with Penny goes badly: a surprising development perhaps until we realize how scared Kady must be about how she almost died and how much of her own fragile state is tied into trying to save Penny. Of course she doesn’t want to jump right back into worrying about his astral plane problem! Not now, when the most important thing is figuring herself out. Sadly, the doctors’ belief that her supposed hallucinations necessitate her being committed for further treatment take Kady down a dangerous path that is both intriguing and worrying.
Perhaps equally dangerous but rife with possibilities are the discoveries Julia and Alice, two unlikely companions, make about themselves. It’s curious that the mysterious voice directs Julia to “help Alice,” when at first it appears that Alice is helping Julia discover the source of her magic. We might have predicted that remnants of Reynard would somehow be responsible for her lingering powers, but Our Lady Underground’s revelation that it was a gift bestowed upon Julia for showing mercy to her attacker was as surprising for viewers as it was for Julia. Her revulsion was understandable as was OLU’s insistence that the chosen very often don’t actually want to be chosen.
On the other hand, Alice seems more than willing to take on the burden of divine power. Obviously, her experience as a niffin would have prepared her for such mysterious magic, but does she have an ulterior motive? She left Quentin because she wants to figure out where she should go from here given what happened with the lamprey, and the idea of helping Julia while Julia helps her (as directed by the voice) seems like just the ticket. This episode does a wonderful job of leaving the question open-ended about whether the transfer of power is possible and whether they should even try.
But the real success of “A Life in the Day” lies with the journey of Quentin and Eliot, who must be applauded for their commitment to the quest, even once they realized it would take years. Eliot in particular was uncharacteristically strong in his conviction that they should keep trying to solve the mosaic even as Quentin despaired. The irony of them being in Fillory’s past with magic all around them and not being able to use it to solve the puzzle was one of the many perfect touches in the ensuing montage of a lifetime spent working on the problem.
Beginning with an impulsive kiss that no doubt sent “Queliot” shippers into apoplexy, the formation of a family, with all of the love, loss, and sacrifice that decades of companionship would inevitably contain, was the “beauty of all life” that the mosaic was meant to portray. That’s why the final solution was the golden tile Quentin discovers while digging Eliot’s grave, not the assembly of colors in different combinations. Their life together was the mosaic! Genius! What a wonderful, heart-breaking, inspirational message.
And the involvement of Jane Chatwin, who needs the key to become the Watcherwoman and start the whole quest that The Magicians begins with in season one, was another great callback and the perfect way to accentuate Quentin’s sacrifice while at the same time bringing Margo into the mix with Jane’s future Clock Barrens self. Margo has her own issues dealing with a royal marriage, a murderous brother, a Fairy Queen with mysterious motives, and more, but she still makes a grand entrance with, “You bitches looking for these?” holding up the keys and heading off Quentin and Eliot before they enter the clock.
Thank god Q and El somehow remember their time together; for it never to have happened would be too tragic. The new bond between these two characters moving forward enriches The Magicians just as much if not more than forming new relationships such as that between Alice and Julia. “A Life in the Day” may pose a lot of unanswered questions about divine power, forced marriages, and involuntary psychiatric commitment, but the lifetime of experience between Eliot and Quentin is a crowning achievement of the series not likely to be equaled anytime soon.