The Magicians: Thirty-Nine Graves Review

A winding narrative leads to revelations of mysteries established in the season opener, but fortunately all roads lead to Fillory.

This The Magicians review contains spoilers.

The Magicians Season 1 Episode 12

For the arrival in Fillory to have happened in the penultimate episode of season one is not all that surprising, but no one could have predicted it would be Quentin and Julia who would make it there first. This is just one of the unexpected dangers and twists in this week’s episode of The Magicians. On the one hand, the meandering story felt chaotic and convoluted, but on the other it felt like realistically jumbled happenstance. Somehow, the randomness of the various encounters this week fit nicely with the overall hopeless grasping at straws that has comprised the entire outmatched battle with the Beast this season.

At least Dean Fogg was finally forced to reveal that the mission has consisted of many repeating time loops, all of which have failed as Jane Chatwin tried different variables to prepare the chosen team for battle. How perfect it was for Julia’s rejection from Brakebills to be re-cast as a strategy designed to make her stronger outside the confines of institutionalized magic! Her casual acceptance of this fact and her reconciliation with Quentin felt very comfortable, especially now that Julia has found peace herself.

Her pursuit of a better kind of magic continues to find a kind of understated success with her group of god summoners. Although the choppy manner in which the Julia storyline is told often leads to confusion, it also leaves a lot to the imagination of the viewer, which is appreciated. Richard went… somewhere, and presumably the other Free Trader Beowulf members also embraced the gifts of the Lady. When all is said and done, Julia moves on to Quentin’s quest, and that’s all that really needs to be known (although curiosity about Kady’s “cleansing” is inevitable).

Ad – content continues below

Speaking of Quentin’s quest, it certainly finds its own stumbling progress as the episode hops quite jarringly from the revenge sex of Penny and Alice to a repeat visit to the Neitherlands library. The reveals were nonetheless appreciated, especially the tie-in between the imprisoned Traveler, Victoria, and the missing third year Brakebills class, which apparently followed her to Fillory. The librarian clearly perceived the time loop Dean Fogg referred to, and the reference to Margo’s previous incarnation as Janet (a nod to her character’s name in The Magicians novels) was appropriately mysterious.

Still damaged is poor old Eliot who simply can’t resist eating a hallucinogenic carrot. His reading and subsequent burning of Mike’s book is both sad and troubling given the result of the group being banned from the library. With Penny not yet having mastered group Travel, he could use a little more time to study. The librarian did give him hope, however, even though, like Doctor Who’s River Song, she’s unwilling to give spoilers about the future written in his book.

It was nice to see that Penny and Alice could pull out some battle magic to defeat the Neitherlands mercenaries, but their success in reaching the Fillory fountain was upstaged by Julia and Quentin’s time travel. The magic that took them back to 1942 to a known opening of a portal to Fillory from the Plover books seemed almost too easy, as satisfying as it was that it worked. For them to actually beat the others to the punch felt a little unearned.

But it’s the end result and the final destination that matters. Obviously, the finale of The Magicians season one will take place in Fillory with some sort of confrontation with the Beast being likely. The young magicians are still woefully unprepared for anything that “Mothra” can dole out, but viewers are no doubt anxious to see what they will come up with. And despite the stuttering narrative this week, the payoff is certain to be big.


3.5 out of 5