My apologies that this has to be a double episode review because of a cross-country move that made me miss last week’s episode. Thankfully, episodes four and five meld seamlessly together, with episode 5 picking up right where episode 4 left off. The best part of The Magicians, for me, has been the balance the writers have been able to find between silly and serious, and these last two episodes are perfect examples of this. Episode four, “The World in the Walls,” throws the audience completely off balance at first by beginning with Quentin in a mental institution, portraying his Brakebills time as just a psychotic break with reality. It mirrors Julia’s own experiences of fighting her way back to magic after having her memory erased when she fails the Brakebills entrance exam. And huh, it seems like that isn’t just a coincidence, because it turns out that Quentin’s situation is the result of a powerful spell cast together by Julia and the delightfully devilish Marina: He’s actually in a deep sleep, trapped in a nightmare from which he may honestly never wake up. As Quentin fights to regain consciousness, we learn that Marina is using Quentin as a pawn to get the headmaster to lower the school’s defensive charms so she can break inside with Julia and regain the memories that were wiped from her when she was expelled from Brakebills years earlier. Admittedly, the plan didn’t really make any sense to me—it deals with this weird demon thing that takes the form of a gold origami scorpion that scuttles down Quentin’s throat and then is supposed to lead him out of the spell’s illusion, and to summon this demon they have to lower all the school’s defenses– but okay, I get it, they need to move the plot forward and Marina needed a way to get past the defenses and onto the campus. As all of this is going on in the outside world, Quentin is fighting his own battle to escape the illusion, the first step being breaking out in Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” during a group therapy session to try to gain the attention of Penny in the outside world. This scene is great on a couple of different levels—one, it was really entertaining silliness. Quentin the character, or maybe just the actor Jason Ralph, has a horrendous singing voice, and it lent some authenticity to the character (unlike the scene in episode three where Alice sings a song for her brother and, eye rollingly, has the voice of a Broadway star). Two, it brings meaning to a scene between Penny and Quentin from the last episode that I thought was just a meaningless throwaway when Penny threatens Quentin for singing Taylor Swift in his head so Penny could overhear. Kudos to the writers for being able to tie multiple threads together throughout the season and keep all the story arcs coherent thus far. This episode is more complex than previous episodes as multiple layers of meaning and consciousness are exposed. We are also introduced to the Madness Maker, a character in the Fillory books who has been cursed by a witch to create games that make other magicians go mad. The Madness Maker was a visual delight—his costuming, with a pinstripe suit, top hat, spiral pupils, and silver foil teeth, was a mix of menacing and whimsical. His character, a magician who only plays a game if he knows that he can win, serves as a parallel for Quentin’s lack of agency in his own life, his own non-participation in living. When Quentin decides to break the gameboard and start taking action in his own life by truly living, he is rewarded with a return to reality at Brakebills. Later, back at the safehouse: because of Julia’s concern over Quentin’s life, Marina now sees her as a traitor and banishes her. This effectively leaves Julia out in the cold with no one to help her feed her addiction for more magic, and sets her up for more desperate actions in the next episode. This episode sees the Brakebills characters getting to play against part in the mental institution scenes- Eliot playing manic pill fiend, Alice a wild conspiracy theorist, and Penny as a stereotypical Indian, accent and all. I just wish that they could have played with these roles further along in the series, after their original characters were a little more developed and the payoff of playing against part would be higher. Episode five, “Mendings, Major and Minor,” begins with the headmaster, played by the amazing Rick Worthy, explaining to Quentin that he won’t do anything to punish Julia for what she did to him in Episode 4 because “hedge witches tend to bring enough punishment upon themselves.” This is definitely beginning to become true for Julia, and especially in this episode, as she continues to spiral downward in her obsessive addiction to magic, eventually trading sex for tips on how to find other magic safehouses. By the end of episode, Julia is truly outcast in every way as Marina has her fiance’s memories wiped so he does not even recognize her. She’s left with literally no one and nowhere to go, and I’m looking forward to see where she ends up when she hits rock bottom. I really can’t wait for Julia’s true power to become realized and for her to start redeeming her bad behavior to show that all of her desperate actions—putting Quentin’s life in danger, lying to her fiancé, prostituting herself—have all eventually been worth it. In the book version, it is, but as we see in this episode especially, the series is going way off from the books’ stories, so who knows what to expect? This episode also strikes the perfect balance between serious and comedic with Eliot and Margo playfully competing against each other to snag the best advisor during Mentor Week, the Physical Kids competing in a welters tournament (compliments to costuming for their team uniforms), and a scene with a cancer puppy that actually made me laugh out loud — Yes, it is as horrible and darkly funny as it sounds, with Quentin remarking “oh no” in the exact perfect tone. And shout out to the writer, David Reed, and director, Bill Eagles, because I am a huge animal rights activist, and they orchestrated that scene perfectly to make it comedic instead of horrible. And boy did this episode need some comedic relief, as we find out that Quentin’s father is suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. This brings up the philosophical question of how much can magic help the world, and the answer, disappointingly, is that it can help some, but it can’t fix everything, something that Quentin has to come to terms with by the end of the episode. Once again, the dangerous aspect of magic is highlighted as the headmaster explains that if you change too much of someone with magic, even when you’re trying to help, you can irreparably harm their soul. Pretty serious stuff. Quentin is forced to grapple with this idea throughout the episode, until he finally comes to peace with the fact that he can’t save his father but he can help make what’s left of his life more enjoyable. One welcome addition to this episode is when we actually get to see the extent of Quentin’s magical abilities during the welters game, where he summons a spell so powerful that it clears the whole board. It’s good to see that Quentin does show promise as a magician early on in the series and gives us high expectations for his future abilities in later episodes- more cool magic tricks like the black hole he created to come! Penny’s character develops further as his traveling skills are shown to be extremely useful in furthering the plot of the series. Hearing a woman crying out for help, he travels to an undisclosed location where we get to see the creatively imagined Beast again- I just love the imagery of the moths obstructing his face. So weird and creepy! He shares what he’s seen with Quentin, who as the expert on the subject, informs him that he’s traveled to a place that before everyone thought only existed in a children’s book: Fillory. But it’s not the wonderful revelation you’d expect: Imagine knowing that you can travel to Hogwarts, but ending up in Voldemort’s hideout instead. The episode ends here, and I really can’t wait until episode 6. The characters are really coming together in an ensemble cast, each episode is satisfying in its circularity with a theme presented in the first few moments, developed throughout, and called back to in the end, and the performances are entertaining, with Eliot and Margo’s witty banter and Quentin reminding me of a stuttering, quick talking Jesse Eisenberg type. I’m thankful they’ve already ordered a season two! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.