This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 5 Episode 11
“Doesn’t this feel like the part of the story where the good guys are just wrong?” says Hyman to Fen at one point in this week’s The Magicians, outsider to outsider. That basically describes what it feels like to be a viewer at this point as well. As much as we want these final few episodes to give us a proper ending for the series, this already doesn’t seem like the right direction. The sidekicks were infinitely more relatable in this story where plans were made to evacuate Fillory and build a new world for them, and besides worrying about Julia’s psychic trauma from mothering a Traveler, it’s difficult to get invested in the impending heist even though heist episodes in this show are usually loads of fun.
We already have proof from the first half of The Magicians season 5 that Fen is correct in saying, “If this were Earth, you would try a lot harder to find some other way.” Even though the Ember emanation appealed to all of the living High Kings of Fillory, Fen is by far the most qualified to speak on behalf of the land itself now that Quentin is gone, and it goes beyond just the knowledge of mythology and scripture. When she looked fondly upon the checkerboard fields of her homeland in a print on Umber’s wall only to be dismissed by Margo, it really brought home the fact that Fen doesn’t get the respect that she deserves.
When confronted with the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade choice of snow globes, the fun of the pop culture reference to “choose wisely” contrasted nicely with Fen’s unwillingness to help, and it was almost refreshing to hear her say, “Figure it out yourself.” But what really made Fen shine in this story arc was her understanding that, as Eliot put it, you can still love something after it’s gone. The visual metaphor of the prayers to the long gone Umber dropping into the bowl are just as effective as the reminder that Eliot has come a long way in his acceptance of Quentin’s death. While Fen losing her entire world might be a bit different, she saves the day by reaching for the seahorse snow globe and becoming the hero of the episode.
The same can’t be said of the much maligned Hyman, who has nevertheless always been good for a bit of meta-humor. With Plum presumably not skilled enough in Traveling to take the group to Vancouver, Penny’s decision to return the pervert ghost to his body provided an enjoyable exploration of the ups and downs of corporeal existence, and the group’s exploitation of his powers effectively mirrors Fen’s secondary status. However, in this case, Penny’s advice to “make connections” feels incredibly simplistic compared to the meeting of minds Eliot and Fen had, especially since Hyman is seriously hindered by his desensitization to privacy. By the time he makes the pivotal error of releasing Pyscho Fogg, thus losing the circumstance control panel, the storyline has lost all sympathy.
Probably the strongest subplot of this week’s The Magicians is the one involving Julia and her unborn child. In the wake of her escape from prison via her baby’s skills, it was quite a shock to realize that the psychic trauma of the pregnancy outweighed the benefits of being able to tap into the latent Traveling abilities. We’re used to seeing Julia stand up for herself, and Sir Effingham’s return to finally bestow the quest she was already undertaking was a reminder of her individualism. But when she scorned Penny’s protectiveness only to realize he was worried by virtue of his own mother’s insanity (and Hyman’s, too, apparently) after bearing a Traveler, the resulting reconciliation was truly touching.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Alice’s and Kady’s quest to find the world seed, which was difficult to engage with given the extreme nature of their solution to the Dark King problem. As wonderful as it was to see Marina again, it’s hard to believe anyone enjoyed seeing Alice and Kady compromise their principles more than once to accomplish their goals. It was one thing to threaten Gavin, the Library’s Traveler whose skills Marina employed; it was quite another to leave Anna with a Marina restored to her deceptive self simply to gain the heist book which contains a long shot solution at best.
Obviously, The Magicians is aware of the flaws in this plan, but it’s still difficult to get excited for the final two episodes when the main characters aren’t quite acting like themselves. We’re fully prepared to be wowed by an end-of-series heist for the ages, but the setup lacked luster for sure. The Couple hasn’t really been fleshed out as a villain, and the rush to destroy Fillory as a solution to the Taker problem feels as misguided to us as it does to Fen. Perhaps the show will upend our expectations and go in a completely different direction in the finale, but whatever happens, hopes remain high for a satisfying ending to this great series.