This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 5 Episode 1
The Brakebills graduates have been separated at the start of other seasons of The Magicians, but it feels more pronounced and somehow more appropriate than usual that each character has their own shit to work out this time around. As Alice’s mom tells her, “No one gets to tell you how to grieve… you’re on this journey by yourself,” and with Quentin gone from their lives, they’re all going to have to “do something crazy to get through it,” whether it has to do with mourning their friend’s loss or not. As such, the season 5 premiere does what this show has consistently done well for years: introduce several different threads at once and somehow make it flow.
Julia’s impending story appears to have the most to do with honoring Q, at least at first. Despite the magical surges wreaking havoc on Penny’s meteoric romantic gesture, Julia remains dedicated to the idea of using the magic she regained via Quentin’s sacrifice for the betterment of the world. That determination bears fruit through a visit from Sir Effingham the porcine quest giver (f*ing ham?), whose misogynistic ways work because Julia’s incredulity pushes her to prove the chauvinist pig wrong and take on a new sense of purpose. Plus the pig’s old-fashioned British vernacular lends the scene a trademark Fillory humor even as his mention of Quentin’s name twists the knife of our pain and Julia’s.
Eliot, on the other hand, seems to be deferring his grief, and this appears to frustrate Margo as much as it will likely anger The Magicians’ audience. However, quick judgment about this regression to his Brakebills drinking personality should be reserved until we see how this plays out. Perhaps he will “grow a clit” as Margo urges.
The writers are clearly setting up this arc to be fairly isolated considering Margo’s mention of avoiding visits from or to Earth until they figure out the “time shit,” and that decision as it applies to Fillory has historically been problematic for The Magicians, but there’s something very intriguing about the idea that they could “Endgame” a rescue for the long-dead Josh and Fen. We should all both dread and eagerly anticipate Margo’s inevitable meeting with the Dark King who took the Fillory throne.
Will the separate quests of Julia and Margo relate in some way to Penny’s professorship, Kady’s hedge advocacy, or Alice’s library shenanigans? Previous experience would say yes, at least in part. Penny’s new position at Brakebills, for example, may have sprung from the influx of new Travelers in this era of increased magic, but his journey towards acceptance did culminate in a moment that makes his arc appear likely to cross over with another at some point. After some encouragement and blackmail from a newly sober Dean Fogg, Penny eventually connects with his students, one of whom hears a “signal” that very curiously overwhelms Penny when he lowers his mental wards. The possibilities, including crossover potential, seem endless!
The same may be true for Kady’s mysterious missing depository and Alice’s stolen book since they both seem Library related; we’ll see. Kady enjoyed a fairly separate storyline last season as well, and The Magicians has used her personal history with hedge witches to great effect. The fact that the consequences of The Serpent and the “protective” marks are still in play may at first seem like a dangling thread from season four used to give Kady something to do, but by all appearances her search for a special book that could help the hedges regain their powers might put the witches in play for a larger conflict yet unknown.
The fact that the dear, departed Everett didn’t remove the marks as he promised may be less about a continuing Library conspiracy and more about his death and the resulting disorder within the Order, as it were. The idea that Phyllis (a role thankfully reprised by Jewel Staite) would ask Alice for help in fixing a blank branch index under the old regime would be unthinkable. But the carelessness and disrepair in the Neitherlands allows Alice to take advantage by stealing a book. Presumably the golem she is creating (now we know where Brakebills’ living clay went) is part of her “do something crazy” grieving process, and viewers are no doubt dying to see how that turns out.
Meanwhile, we can’t help but wonder: where are Zelda and Sheila? Can Josh and Fen be saved? Is the predicted apocalypse related to Fillory, Earth, or both? The Magicians introduced plenty of questions in this stellar premiere, and each one of them is as enticing as the next. It’s difficult not to take for granted the brilliant storytelling this series has consistently delivered, and even when there’s no clear indication how the many plot threads will merge (if they ever do), the proven record of the show gives us a level of trust that there will be that much more adventure to enjoy in the season to come.
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