The Magicians is barreling towards its season finale as it dials down the gore but ramps up the darkness with this week’s pitch-perfect episode. It starts innocently enough with Julia and Quentin not exactly making amends but at least apologizing for their respective parts in the dissolution of their friendship. Julia, still wracked with guilt over invading Quentin’s mind in Episode 4, reaches out for spiritual guidance from the chaplain she met in rehab. What follows is a great meditation on penance, death, and morality. Even taking a lighter magical path then she learned under Marina’s tutelage and using magical powers to help people instead of exact revenge leads to its own moral ambiguity and tough decisions as Julia helps a woman in a vegetative state pass on, though the chaplain reminds her before they assist in her suicide that the path to atonement is a painful one. Though I think I like the Brakebills storylines a little bit more, I absolutely LOVE Julia, possibly because the performance by Stella Maeve makes her character so believable. In an interview, Lev Grossman says that he based the character of Julia off of Dudley in the Harry Potter series, and she really does personify that little part of all of us that truly wishes we had gotten our letter to Hogwarts or a wardrobe to Narnia and is a little bit pissed off that neither happened. We are the ones left behind too, just like Dudley in Harry Potter, Julia, and we find out later in this episode, Martin Chatwin. And being left behind can be a very hard position to endure and understand. When the episode switches back to Brakebills, it’s a little heavy on exposition, as Quentin and Alice uncover that Penny stole Quentin’s copy of the 6th Fillory book and he is then convinced to recount what he learned from reading it after Quentin tells him, “You can’t possibly want to be a dick more than you want to live.” When it comes to Penny, don’t be so sure. His retelling does give us some screen time with an adorably British ferret, however, and it propels the group forward to England where Christopher Plover, author of the Fillory series, lived in search of a magic button that can transport them to Fillory whenever they wish and put them in a position to track down The Beast instead of vice versa. On a side note, where is Margo? Was Summer Bishil working on another project during the filming of the last two episodes? I miss her banter with Eliot, and the episode, though already full with characters, could have easily accommodated her presence as well. Once at Plover’s home, Quentin nerding out during the tour is so, so relatable. It reminded me of my same emotions when I went to the café in Scotland where J.K. Rowling spent time writing Harry Potter. As someone who has visited the sacred writing space of a beloved author and experienced my own, as Penny would say, “nerdgasm,” I was right there with Quentin when he corrected the tour guide with superior knowledge and took an excited selfie. Quentin’s excitement is more than just surface level enthusiasm though, and I’m sure that many audience members can relate. When he tells Alice that “this desk saved my life” and then relates to her how the Fillory books would help him feel better enough to “try to get back in the game” during his earlier hospitalizations, it expresses just how much a book series can mean to someone. And it also sets him up for an even harder fall when he learns the truth about his idol later in the episode. Once they break into Plover’s house after hours, the mood and tone shifts decidedly to creepy and foreboding through the use of shadows, thunder, the grisly death of the tour guide, ghostly children, and the presence of Prudence, Plover’s terrifying sister. The truth of the past is delivered excellently through the narrative device of a time slip where Quentin, Penny, Alice, and Eliot are able to experience different scenes from the past firsthand. As they’re plunged into the past, they see the horrible truth behind the creator of the Fillory series- he and his sister tortured and murdered the housekeeper’s children and sexually abused Martin. The tone is creepy and tense during these scenes and hits the perfect level of horror- if it was on HBO or Showtime I’m sure we would get more graphic details, but it’s not necessary. The audience is disturbed enough by what they are allowed to see. We’re horrified as the realization slowly hits us that Plover is not as benevolent as he first appears. Initially, it seems as though it is just Plover’s sister who is monstrous, but as the scenes continue we realize that Plover and Prudence work together to take advantage of and abuse these poor children. Through witnessing and participating in these scenes, Quentin is able to locate the magic button which supposedly lets a person travel to Fillory whenever they want, which they take with them from Plover’s residence, but while their goal is achieved, Alice can’t stand the idea of leaving the children’s ghosts behind without helping them stop reliving their torturous existence and deaths. It is up to Eliot, his cool exterior cracking with what can only be the pent up emotions he’s left with after killing his boyfriend in the last episode, to explain to Alice that life isn’t fair and there is nothing they can do. It’s especially poignant also because as Alice worries about the children who died years before they were born, no one has thought to ask Eliot how he’s doing after his loss in the last episode. This poor guy needs Margo back from Ibiza asap. Once again, magic does not fix everything. We’ve been led to believe that if only we could get our letter to Hogwarts, or if only we could step through the wardrobe to an alternate reality, then everything would be perfect- evil would not exist and we’d be forever happy. The Magicians takes that belief and turns it on its head once again- Julia cannot use magic to save the woman in a vegetative state and magic cannot erase the evil that exists in this world and the horrible, horrible fates that the children in this episode had to endure. There’s also a parallel theme here of lost innocence. The children lose their innocence to the sick depravity of Plover and his sister. Julia loses hers by taking a life (though I wouldn’t call it murder because it was an act of mercy, taking a life does cross a line that can never be taken back). And through Quentin’s experience of realizing the truth about his idol, he loses his own piece of innocence. The whole episode is a meditation on our lost innocence, as well, when we must grow up and put away our childish books and fully participate in our harsh and flawed adult reality. The Magicians is as much a meditation on our relationship with books as it is a show about magic. The series completely delivers on what aging Harry Potter and Narnia fans desperately desire- an adult version of the fantasies they grew up with and became so attached to. As we get older, we love the nostalgia that remembering these stories from our childhood brings, but the beauty of The Magicians is that it takes that nostalgia and subverts it entirely for a more mature audience. An audience that would love to hang on to the dreams they’ve had as a child, but who has already come to terms with the concepts that Quentin, Alice, Julia, and Eliot have struggled with throughout this season: In the paraphrased words of Eliot: “Life isn’t fair, so why should death be any fairer, you twat?” The episode ends with Penny being transported…somewhere. We’ll find out where he goes next episode, though those who have read the books and saw the preview for next week probably have a good idea of where he ends up. This was a perfect episode in every way, adding even more depth and layers to the narrative- now we not only have a villain, but we have a villain with a creation story that we are interested in unraveling. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.