This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 4 Episode 11
It’s somehow comforting that The Magicians can settle into its pattern of revealing unexpected similarities between its disparate storylines, reassuring fans that it knows exactly what it’s doing even when it leaves certain threads dangling. “The 4-1-1” started connecting the dots between the Monster, the Library, and perhaps even Fillory’s dilemma in this second-to-last episode of the season and combined it with a great trip down memory lane for Alice and Quentin. And after allowing Margo to go on Janet’s desert journey from the Lev Grossman novels last week, the timing for giving Quentin his long sought discipline was perfectly suited to the moment.
Let’s tackle the speculation first. Presumably the tale told by the Binder is exactly the kind of hubris Everett is about to exhibit in hoarding magic to become a god, and the next logical leap is that the reservoir of magic under Castle Whitespire is where he’s hiding his stash. If that’s the case, all of the various threads are starting to converge, which is exactly the kind of narrative wizardry viewers expect of The Magicians at this point. Things still got a bit convoluted with the pursuit of the incorporate bond to bind the Monster to Margo’s demon bottles, but because it took us on such an enjoyable journey to the past, all is forgiven.
The consciousness swap for Q not only supplied the perfect workaround for Mayakovsky having been turned into a bear, it also gave The Magicians a great excuse to hit us with season 1 nostalgia and remind us how badly the relationship between Alice and Quentin has deteriorated since then. Perhaps Quentin’s reluctance to forgive was softened a bit by his visit to the past, but even more important than his retrieval of the incorporate bond spell was the identification of his discipline: the repair of small objects. Alice’s recognition that his gift helped the broken mug “wake up and remember what it was before” is a poignant metaphor for the healing that hopefully will take place for this central couple. Do hearts count as small objects?
The most frustrating (but completely justifiably so) subplot involves Kady and Zelda visiting the Poison Room to peek at Everett’s book. As traumatic as it may have been for Kady to revisit the place that killed Penny, it is terrifying to us, no matter how calm Zelda may seem, to see them locked in, the mint taste of the expiring protective bugs rising in Kady’s throat. Although it was certainly helpful for them to confirm Everett’s power hungry motives, the cruel cliffhanger and the fact that Everett’s book predicted his success in becoming a god leaves us with nothing but fear and trepidation… and a sense that Kady would make a mighty fine Librarian. Bonus points to Rick Worthy for his perfectly deadpan answering of Kady’s banana phone call.
The Fillory story arc similarly left us hanging, but in a less foreboding manner. Although the “bearskip” routine was a little confusing, it provided a fun way to communicate the legend of Broderick, the “thirsty thirteenth” ruler of Fillory who built a cistern beneath the royal palace. Maybe it’s a bit of a leap to ascribe the hidden stores of magic to Everett’s hoarding, but it would go a long way to explain the mute animals and the strange dreams everyone’s been having. Viewers might still be wondering why Margo’s abdication was necessary in this scenario, but with all of these storylines starting to merge, details like that are minor, and our faith in a satisfying resolution is rock solid.
As for the Binder’s story, who better to speak in third person about how the Monster came to be than genre television royalty, Matt Frewer? His emergence from the book and his tale of how he came to be trapped in the mirror world smoothed over a multitude of sins with Julia’s arc. The fact that Bacchus, Iris, Heka, and Aengus were actually Librarians who became gods with the Binder’s help creates that subtle link between the Monster’s story and that of Everett, and the irony that Julia’s invulnerability makes her vulnerable to the Monster was a nice twist. It seems likely that Julia will give up her godhood as the Binder suggests, especially if it means saving her from the Monster’s attempt to imbue her with his sister’s essence, but who knows? The uncertainty is definitely enticing.
Mileage may vary on the chemistry between Julia and Penny, but the insight that consummate shipper Hyman Cooper provided when he told Penny, “You both sacrifice your own joy to help others,” was spot on. It was nice to see the meta-observant ghost from season 3 once more, and his attempts at forced romance were charming if misguided. The fact that Margo was able to see him with her fairy eye was also a welcome occurrence of this under-utilized gift from the Faerie Queen. Although Margo didn’t have as much to do this week, her insistence that Quentin “grow a pair of tits” before his mission to Brakebills South was a reminder that the queen (king?) of sass is still in this thing, and it’s good to see her concentrating on saving Eliot.
So The Magicians is back on track leading into the all-important penultimate episode of the season, which tends to create the most excitement before the finale delivers its annual game changer. What twist will the show deliver beyond the presumed defeat of Everett and the Monster? Are we leading up to a great civil war between hedges and magicians in season 5, or does the show have some completely new trick up its sleeve? “The 4-1-1” (a clever name for season 4 episode 11) definitely delivered the goods, and the stage is set for a massive finish.
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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.