This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 5 Episode 10
As a clearer picture starts to form of Fillory’s plight and how the Dark King’s obsession ties into it, The Magicians takes on a sense of urgency appropriate for both the end of the season and the series. Bringing in the mourning of a god also related nicely to the themes that season 5 has been exploring all along with the death of Quentin. In fact, “Purgatory” felt like a series of stories of people trapped in limbo, whether it was Penny and Plum in their room out of time, Josh in the Underworld, or Julia and Eliot in prison. It’s exactly that kind of narrative unity that has been the hallmark of this great series, and it’s nice to see this close to the finale.
This is true even if we don’t yet know how Plum’s time travel ability — what’s left of it — will come into play in the final moments of The Magicians or whether it will relate to the troubles in Fillory at all. Oddly, it wasn’t difficult to sympathize with Eliphus who sought to protect the timeline from changes to history at Plum’s and Penny’s expense. Eli’s assertion that Plum had to give up her ability of her own free will was without a doubt disingenuous since he trapped her in this box of boredom, but his experience with other meddlers seemed like a valid concern. But it was still nice to see Penny stand up for Plum given he lost his own abilities, and presumably the trade they made to escape the room with at least a little bit of time travel mojo will come in handy.
The Magicians is good at foreshadowing in this manner: witness the fact that Margo gave her fairy eye to Josh last week giving us an immediate payoff this week. And Josh’s journey through Taker-land gave us more insight into the Dark King’s motives than we’ve received so far even though it was a thousand times more subtle than previous reveals. There’s no explicit mention of Seb trying to empty the guardian realm of its zombie-like Takers nor a clear indication of what the blood-marked medallion was supposed to do, but we can infer that it’s all geared towards clearing a path to allow Lance, who, remember, is supposed to “wait by the door,” to come back from the dead.
All throughout Josh’s journey were moments of poignancy, from the fact that he tragically didn’t know his use of the fairy eye was hurting Margo to the hug he received from the justifiably skeptical young girl Ash. And for some reason, even though we’ve been enjoying Arjun Gupta’s portrayal of Penny 23 this season, seeing Penny 40 again in the Library’s Underworld branch was like being reunited with an old friend. Even the reappearance of Fillory cartographer Benedict, especially now that Harvey Guillén is on the wonderful What We Do in the Shadows, was a welcome callback.
It’s interesting that The Magicians chose to table Alice’s world seed plot for the moment and instead bring Kady and Fen in with her to help solve Margo’s eye problem, but it’s good that things went this way. Alice was uniquely suited to understand what Hades was going through, even though a god losing someone he considered to be immortal is arguably worse than the loss of Quentin, but Kady has a relevant perspective on Our Lady Underground as well having been “best bitches” with Julia during her pursuit of the goddess in season 2. The fact that they learned about the dangers of opening the Taker realm from Hades was almost bonus material at that point.
But the best dialogue of the episode is that between Eliot and Julia as they try to navigate their way out of a magic-proof prison cell with a rapidly accelerating pregnancy and all of the hormones that go along with it. Make no mistake: Julia is not, as she puts it, “a maiden with the vapors,” and although Eliot’s attempts at comfort and protection are misguided at best and condescending at worst, it was still loads of fun to watch her dress him down. He got his revenge with the illusory water-breaking spell, but at that point, we were understandably more focused on the fact that the baby was able to pass on Penny’s psychic abilities so that Julia could hear Charlton as well as the Traveling skill that allowed them to escape.
That means the big reveals are that Penny now knows he’s going to be a father and that Josh and Ash have returned to a Fillory littered with dying Takers. The latter fact seems to indicate that the Dark King has almost fully broken through to the realm of the dead to rescue his lost love, meaning The Magicians is getting closer to the apocalyptic scenario for Fillory and apparently for all other worlds besides. But even without that buildup, “Purgatory” gave us some wonderful callbacks and an almost literary attention to the theme illustrated by the episode’s title. Now that we know the show is ending, viewers are no doubt hoping all of the remaining episodes will be this good.