This The Magicians review contains spoilers.
The Magicians Season 1 Episode 9
Everyone loves a good haunting tale! With Quentin and company turning towards Fillory and Julia breaking free from the safehouse magic life, some new exposition had to be laid down, which made this week’s episode of The Magicians a slower-paced offering. However, the slowdown actually befit the somber and tragic nature of both storylines. While clearly a set-up episode for conflicts to come, the new direction for the characters has left viewers scrambling to guess what will come next.
It’s especially unclear what Julia is up to this week, but her progress is nevertheless a welcome change for her character. Although Richard calls Julia’s encounter with the locked-in, self-taught magician, Kiera, “penance,” it’s also suggested that the spell that Julia helps her complete is something truly special. Julia’s confusion at Kiera’s desire to be killed was understandable, but Richard paints the existential picture in broad strokes: “What do you think redemption looks like, Julia? Being nice?” That’s the world The Magicians inhabits.
Oddly, the details of the spell Julia and Kiera completed seemed less important than Julia rediscovering her fondness for her childhood with Quentin. The voiceover email exchange between Quentin and Julia at the beginning of the episode loosely joined the disparate plotlines together for the first time in awhile, but Julia showing Kiera her fondest memory brought Fillory to the forefront for her as well. While examining the map under the table, Kiera brings it home by telling Julia, “Chase this. It’s the secret to how to be you.” Will viewers soon see Julia joining the Brakebills group in Fillory somehow?
Quentin implies that the reason to search for a way to Fillory is to confront the Beast on their own terms rather than waiting for him to come to them, and since Eliza told Quentin the importance of Fillory and Further Book 6, the path to the button was clearly laid out. Penny’s memory of the discarded manuscript was not only enough to give them the initial clues, it allowed Penny to provide once again a humorous contrast to Quentin’s obsession with the books. One favorite insult was when Quentin mouthed along to a beloved Plover quote; Penny’s conclusion: “You will never be a man.”
The ghostly glimpse into the past as a way to fill in the gaps of the historical narrative surrounding Plover and the Chatwin children may have seemed a bit convenient, even if Penny insists that a “timeslip” is commonplace for a haunting, but it was undeniably effective. The fact that the revered author’s death may have been faked to allay suspicions of his involvement in the children’s disappearances is made worse by the revelation that he was a child molester and his sister a complicit murderer. But does that mean Plover is the Beast? That he somehow made it to Fillory? Or that, as Penny suggests, he played with dangerous magic and blew himself up?
There are still too many questions to jump to conclusions, and some hanging threads elicit curiosity while others promote confusion. If young George went to his grave with the button undiscovered, then what happened to Martin? If the housekeeper’s children were the only ones who died at Prudence’s hand, where is the Chatwin brother, Rupert, mentioned during the house tour? And are we to believe that the tour guide, who was frightened by the magicians’ intrusion, had his throat cut by a ghost?
Despite the unclear elements of the haunting story, the end result is the all-important acquisition of the button. Thank goodness Eliot shut down any thoughts of helping the ghosts by reminding us of the nihilistic view many share in this show: “Thinking that you can change anything is such an act of monumental ego.” In fact, Penny’s illusion of control as he insists he won’t travel unless he wants to is dispelled in perfect fashion by his sudden disappearance at the end. Fillory, here we come!
The Magicians reminds its audience each week that these characters are dabbling with powers they’ve only begun to understand, and Fillory and the Beast make their spells look like child’s play. How odd, then, that the desire to see the fantastical land filled with talking animals seems, not childish and escapist like the stories about the Chatwins, but ominous and foreboding like the most adventurous suspense thrillers. The transition episode this week, while certainly not flawless, took things in the right direction while reinforcing the changes in the characters viewers have grown to love.
These last few episodes of the season should be quite a ride!