This review of The Magicians contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 5 Episode 9
Although this week’s episode of The Magicians was disjointed as hell with stories shooting off in completely different directions, each arc gave us plenty to sink our teeth into, and the news that season 5 would end the series added a certain amount of urgency to our enjoyment of this installment. We gathered each disparate thread and held it close, especially when nostalgic elements appeared like the multiple Chatwin connections, returning minor characters, and of course Margo’s glorious exorcising axes from last season’s musical episode. The desperation of several characters in “Cello Squirrel Daffodil” therefore became our own desperation as we witnessed this buildup to the show’s swan song.
By far the most satisfying storyline was the adventure of Penny and Plum, even though technically they didn’t really make much progress in investigating the mysterious signal. Plum has considered her Chatwin ancestry a curse, but her ability to Travel not only across space but time as well makes her a truly special Traveler. Even though Penny’s mentoring has a certain amount of charm to it, bringing in horndog Hyman from season 3 once again allowed Plum (and Penny) to learn about totems as she gained control over her powers.
Explaining Plum’s extended absence was simple once we learned about the mysterious room with no windows or doors. We’re still not entirely sure what’s at play, but the fact Plum and Penny were pulled to this place together at the end of the episode provides plenty of suspense and a bit of speculation about the strange objects and furniture lying around. Although their adventure doesn’t appear to be related to the other side plots yet, there’s little doubt that it will eventually tie into the larger missions, whether it be fixing Earth’s Circumstances or saving Fillory.
Perhaps it could be argued that Plum’s story along with the appearance of Christopher Plover and the reveal of the Dark King’s true identity as Rupert Chatwin acts as the common thread that ties the episode together. However, Seb’s story is more wrapped up in the dark side of mourning a lost love, making us feel like Eliot or Alice could have easily gone down this road with the loss of Quentin. The Dark King’s willingness to use Eliot to reassure Lance that he hadn’t forgotten him shows his disregard for others, but it doesn’t fully explain why the Takers and an eternal reign are necessary… or what “Wait by the door!” means.
We know that the surges from when magic came back are what awoke him, and Plover’s knowledge of his true identity led to the tongue twister curse that gives this episode of The Magicians its name. We won’t question the coincidence of Plover coming through the clock at the exact moment the secret needed to come out, but his appearance provided for some great comedy with Gordo the vet and Fen’s fascination with the Fillory and Further author’s storytelling. And as mentioned, ridding Plover of his infestation via Margo’s axes was a nice touch as was replacing the bugs as punishment.
The story that really felt out of place but still action-packed was that of Alice attempting to find out more about the Couple and why they want Quentin’s page. It was nice to get an update on Kady, the hedges, and the Library being rebuilt, but because the whole story was a Matrix-like simulation being run by “George” (who actually IS the Couple?) it’s hard to know if any of that cooperative spirit is actually happening in real life. But in the end, we have to admire the excruciatingly convincing manner in which Olivia Taylor Dudley portrayed Alice’s reaction to her fingers being cut off with pruning shears. Yikes!
But does she actually want to replace the moon with a more amenable satellite using the world seed spell? Is that now the plan, or was that supposed glance into a Poison Room spellbook just part of the deception that can’t be actualized? Alice’s story unfortunately created some confusion, and Earth’s issue with Circumstances definitely feels disconnected from Fillory’s Taker problem at this point. Add to that the seemingly unrelated mystery of Penny and Plum’s signal, and this episode of The Magicians ends up a bit of a mish-mash.
A fun mish-mash, to be sure, but a mish-mash nonetheless. And that’s not even taking into account other pending details, from things as minor as Margo “keeping an eye” on Josh to things as major as Julia’s accelerating pregnancy. We have no doubt that these peripheral elements will pay off, and the seemingly divided storylines will probably merge at some point — they always do in The Magicians. But that doesn’t change the feeling of discombobulation that leaves a sense of dissatisfaction.
Or maybe that’s just the cancelation…