This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 1 Episode 7
Why can’t all of the professors in The Magicians be like Mayakovsky? If the Trials of last week’s episode led to the students transforming into geese and flying to Antarctica to get some real learning done, it would be one of the most significant turning points in Brakebills’ graduate program. The training sequences were not without their narrative hiccups, but together with the turning point in the Eliot-Margo relationship and the family details for Julia, there was definite forward progress in the overall story.
What an enjoyable curmudgeon Mayakovsky is! Forcing the students to perform what presumably is a simple spell designed to keep a nail straight without the benefit of their voices posed an appropriately frustrating challenge. The students always seemed to know too much unearned magic anyway, and it’s nice to see them humbled in this way. It felt right that Alice would be the first to even partially penetrate the wood, and her simultaneous success with Quentin had a great impact of relief.
This relieved tension made it understandable and expected that Quentin and Alice would give in to their pent up passions. Their discussions about the joy of flight as geese was mirrored nicely in their choice of transforming into foxes to survive what presumably was another test as they were sent naked into the cold. Although, to be honest, this section of the episode was a bit confusing with the purpose of the mind control test and the fox discussion being slightly muddled.
Much more preferable was Mayakovsky’s interaction with Penny and Kady. The cranky old professor showed surprising compassion when confronting Kady about her thefts on behalf of Marina, and his encouragement of Penny to use his traveling skills and remove the tattoo which hobbles his gift was downright fatherly. As for Margo’s sudden departure, viewers can only hope it will lead to her redemption. Hey, if Penny can forgive her…
And they’re not the only ones experiencing a shift in relationship dynamics! Eliot and Margo certainly do not end the episode where they began as their preparations for another debaucherous magical outing took an unexpected turn. Margo is simply delightful as a falsely indulgent bitch who doesn’t want to include anyone in the trip to Ibiza for the “Encanto Oculto,” which she describes to the unfortunate Todd as “a solid week of sun, drugs, and magical art.”
Margo’s reluctance to share Eliot is what makes the addition of a love interest the perfect shake-up for the upperclassmen. Not only does Mike have a curiously strong effect on Eliot right from the start, but their lack of assistance with the “magical gin” project seems a fitting punishment for Margo’s superficiality. And as if Mike’s derailing of the Ibiza trip isn’t bad enough, his apparent allegiance to moth-man is even more disturbing. On the bright side, having a djinn might come in handy.
Julia usually has the more interesting plot, but this week she takes a back seat to the Brakebills contingent. However, there are some subtle but intriguing details given about her family that make her brief screen time worth it. Her sister, Mackenzie, gives the audience another outside view of Julia’s deteriorating “normal” life that’s been neglected due to her obsession with magic. The mention of a controlling mother who put their father in a mental institution creates suspicions of hereditary magic that could cause trouble for Julia. It should be interesting to see what Mackenzie has in mind for her sister.
The fact that all of the characters experienced some sort of change this week was very refreshing, and hopefully the shift marks a run up to an exciting finale. The large ensemble cast of genuinely interesting people with varied motivations has become one of the greatest strengths of The Magicians, and as the mysteries pile up, the world takes on more and more depth as a backdrop for their personalities, whether sympathetic or unlikable – both bring viewers back for more.