This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 4 Episode 2
No show does disconnected storylines like The Magicians. Despite the fact that this episode had to tell the stories of Margo in Fillory, Alice in the Library, Fogg and Julia at Brakebills, and Elliot and Quentin in Greece, each arc is tied together by the eventual removal of the students’ false identities. Although some plotlines are still works in progress with no real resolution in this episode, the forward progress that was made in each case was effective and appreciated. There were even some enticing new mysteries, such as the Monster’s missing “part” and Margo’s birthright box, to add to the mix.
Alice’s story stood out as a favorite, even though her involvement in the episode was quite brief. Nick’s trick of reaching into the pneumatic tubes to get a small amount of magic was a pleasantly unexpected way for Alice to take advantage of the cockroach she acquired in the infirmary, not to mention a clever nod to the fact that Alice was reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis earlier. The graceful simplicity of the scene as Alice incepted the cockroach to spy out a new advantage was emphasized amusingly by Nick’s plaintive appeal, “C’mon now, a little narration!” All that’s left to wonder, in the best way possible, is what plan Alice has for Nick and Zelda’s chimney.
It was surprising how sympathetic Dean Fogg became in this episode. The automated message that was activated when Marina tried to remove the enchantments surrounding Kady, Penny, and Josh kind of gave away Fogg’s identity as the originator of the spell and also gave Marina a clue as to who was hiding behind the unfamiliar faces, but that was the perfect way to move the story along. Marina’s blackmail of Fogg clearly didn’t work, as he quickly made the decision to allow his own identity to be erased rather than reveal the counterspell, but his journey with Todd around campus getting closure with his bookies and drinking companions was oddly as poignant as it was humorous.
Perhaps his friend the tailor was right about his fancy suits being his armor so that no one could see his true heart. By the time Dean Fogg becomes Marina’s homeless father, we’re actually really feeling sorry for the guy. But because Fogg let his guard down with Julia by telling her about his many regrets, mostly about his students, just as Julia is at the pinnacle of her doubts about why she’s at Brakebills at all, she is able to make the leap of logic that she herself is one of the students he’s talking about. What a masterful interplay of motivations and plot development!
Sure, Julia’s discovery of the perpetual battery in Fogg’s office may have been a bit too easy, but the overloading of its magic to remove the enchantments was not only a great workaround; it also reminded us of Julia’s divine nature, despite Todd quickly becoming blasé about her repeated deaths and resurrections. As Julia is able to deduce once she sees Fogg repeatedly defusing the safeguards in her presence, the battery idea kind of flies in the face of the magical rationing, but the fact that she was able to drain it anyway implies that the supply wasn’t limitless. It also reinforces, along with Fogg’s sacrifice, the importance of keeping these identities in place for the students’ own protection.
Not that the Monster seems in all that much of a hurry to track down Quentin’s friends. In fact, he seems pretty focused on summoning Enyalius to get whatever he and all the other gods took from him, which he doesn’t even appear to know the nature of. It isn’t until Brian is erased and Quentin returns that Eliot even cares about his friend’s involvement as anything other than a pig-catcher, and even then the other Brakebills students only enter the picture when Quentin expresses a desire to return to them.
Margo’s reunion with the others may take a more circuitous route, however. We certainly are curious about the birthright box held by Lord Fresh, not only because it was dictated by her absence but also that it predicts her “lonely rule,” a foreboding prospect despite Margo’s insistence that, “Alone’s my jam, grenouille.” The chase across Fillory’s party scene to find Ember may have proven fruitless, but it told us two things: that even dead gods tend to stay dead and that the opium-laced air is unsurprisingly Bacchus’ fault. Whether this is the problem Margo is supposed to solve remains to be seen, but assuming the god sent her back to Earth, this story must wait for a reconciliation of the newly revived Brakebills students and whatever new mission they come up with.
Whatever the new goal may be, whether it involves surviving the Monster’s scrutiny, fixing things in Fillory, or escaping the Library’s prison, we’re totally on board. Hopefully Fogg’s brief stint as a homeless man will wake him up to the situation enough to fight back against the Library’s rule, perhaps with the students’ help. The Magicians could go in any number of directions, each one as equally enticing as the other. For the series to have us this engaged so early in the season is quite remarkable.
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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.