This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 4 Episode 4
This week’s The Magicians wasn’t only a standalone episode which addressed a long-standing dangling thread from Josh’s earlier history, it also was an exercise in testing the audience’s acceptance of weird pairings now that we’ve known these characters for several seasons. But more than that, the show is doing one of the things it does best: subtly reminding its audience that although it’s not shy about reversing expectations about the power dynamics between men and women, it’s also not going to hit us over the head with social commentary. In all respects, “Marry Fuck Kill” succeed in these missions, leaving only a slight feeling of disconnectedness with Alice’s story – a minor quibble.
One could argue that Alice’s interaction with Christopher Plover deals with forgiveness and the ability for a criminal to reform in the same way that Margo’s involvement in Josh’s story is about consent, but it’s not exactly in the same realm. Plover seems less concerned about being absolved of his past wrongdoing than he is about Alice letting herself off the hook for her own bad decisions, specifically for melting the keys in last season’s finale. Whether his advice of “If you want to survive, stop torturing yourself” takes hold remains to be seen since Alice switched tack by retrieving her friends’ life books only to find that Quentin’s ends next week. An abrupt but exciting turn of events for this isolated storyline.
The strength of the episode lies elsewhere, although there was some trepidation upon realizing that we would be dealing with Josh’s lycanthropy rather than the main conflict of the season, but even the Monster’s story had a nice tie-in that made it feel okay to take the detour. After giving Quentin the chance to mourn his father, it was pleasantly unexpected to see the Monster give his “friend” actual good advice by giving him permission to smash the model planes, breaking down his mother’s preconceptions by playing directly into them. What a strange feeling it was to feel that catharsis along with Quentin only to have the Monster deliver the news that Eliot was permanently gone.
Of course, the final scene shows that he’s not really permanently erased, but to have that shocking news come just after Margo and Josh are discussing the possibility that Eliot won’t be coming back brings a nice cohesion to those two storylines. Margo’s vulnerability with regard to Eliot is a wonderful counterpoint to her undeniably regal bearing this season in which she’s making all the tough decisions. Everything from her pep talk (“So you’re going to let this shit happen to you? This ain’t prom night!”) to her ineffectual but impressive komodo dragon heart ritual oozed conviction. But it was with phrases like, “Screw your noble sacrifice! What is it with you boys?” and “I can’t make you kill someone, but I can consent” that she cemented her position as the true king of women everywhere.
But the beauty of her demeanor is that it isn’t explicitly about empowerment or taking out toxic masculinity; Josh doesn’t have a toxic bone in his body. After all, he got the information that he needed about the Quickening from the cryptozoology professor that infected him — without consent, mind you — during her own Quickening. He also informed the Uber passenger that Isaac inadvertently infected about her condition, although he was obviously too late to save her first victim. But there’s only so much tree-fucking and offering guns with silver bullets that he can do. Margo consented and reminded him that P-in-V sex wasn’t his only outlet, consequences bedamned, so no matter the dissonance that Margo having sex with Josh may have elicited for viewers, the deed is done and the story felt complete.
Perhaps there was a bit more chemistry between Julia and Penny, but their awkwardness was just as delightful regardless. And it’s not as though Penny 23’s devotion to Julia came out of the blue nor did his presence come across as contrived since Julia needed Traveler transport to Fillory. Using the now aimless maenads to figure out why Julia is invulnerable without any other semblance of power also provided one of The Magicians’ trademark no-plotline-wasted moves that’s now becoming admirably familiar. And with Shoshana now being a devotee of Goddess Julia, an exciting reprise of one of last season’s most successful story arcs has truly begun.
But even with the boob touching and the foot washing, The Magicians managed to squeeze in another naturally occurring reminder that women are not simply naked for the purpose of audience titillation — not in this show. While Julia clearly wants Penny 23, now an admitted worshipper of sorts, to feel comfortable completing the diagnostic ritual, we have to admire her gentle rebuke to his bashfulness by saying, “This isn’t really about you, so maybe you could just get over yourself.” As appealing as the idea of Stella Maeve’s oiled breasts may be, Julia’s reminder is as good for the audience as it is for Penny. Julia has come a long way down a road of redemption as a character these past few years, so it’s great to be able to anticipate the reveal of her new latent powers, whatever form they may take.
The fact that The Magicians is able to pull off all of this thematic wizardry while still allowing for Netflix jokes and repeated variances of “Jesus’ tits” and “Jesus R. R. Christ” and the like is a testament to its solid foundation as a series that can do it all with style. Even nitpicking Alice’s somewhat disconnected scenes is just helping to vary the unmitigated praise being heaped on this series lately, deserving though it may be. The show has set an even higher standard for itself than in previous seasons, but by now we know that The Magicians is equal to the task.