Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Magicians gets gory and romantic, all at once

Esme Bianco, Jason Ralph / Carole Segal, Syfy
Esme Bianco, Jason Ralph / Carole Segal, Syfy
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Somehow, it’s the most Quentin possible thing that the character gets to live out a moment where the girl he likes calls upon him to use his knowledge of his favorite fantasy series to save someone he’d love to one up, and then he fails to do it right. Swing and a miss! But it plays into the episode’s (and series’) ongoing question about whether Quentin’s obsession is a help or a hindrance. Alice is considering putting up with it because she likes him, but it does seem to be a bar to his potential friendship with Penny.

That relationship gets almost as much of a workout this episode as the Quentin/Alice relationship. The books position Eliot as Quentin’s best friend, but the show has taken the more dramatically interesting step of suggesting that despite his outsized irritation with Quentin, Penny in some way recognizes him as the closest thing he has to a friend. He may shoot down Quentin’s hesitant attempt to ask him about what happened with Kady, but it also doesn’t seem out of the question that he might have eventually opened up about the topic if poor possessed Mike hadn’t showed up.


Bringing Penny and Quentin together as friends also serves to involve Penny more closely in the A plots on the show. For too much of the season, it was almost like he was on his own show, and considering how much of an issue that can be with Julia, it’s good to see him finally incorporated into Brakebills life more. It still doesn’t exactly parse that he hasn’t figured out what happened with Kady, but we’ll leave that one alone for this week.

Julia, meanwhile, is busy trading one addiction for another, even after she explicitly points out that that’s what her new friend at the rehab center, Richard, is doing. Will religion treat her any more gently than the magic she was trying to learn with the hedge witches? Marina’s reappearance in this episode was a little confusing—why is she bothering to check in with Julia now other than to try to spook her? It’s safe to say that Julia was well and truly spooked at this point.

Also, the random appearance of Marina draws attention to people who are missing. Sometimes it seems like this show can’t afford to hire Summer Bishil, who plays Margo, full time. Remember when she was the only one who didn’t appear in Quentin’s hospital hallucination? It’s unclear exactly how much time passes between Mike’s surprise attack and his death, but shouldn’t Margo be rushing back to check in on Eliot at this point? She’s his entire emotional support system. It’s particularly brutal that the real Mike doesn’t even seem to know who Eliot is, given Eliot’s big confession about his background.

The Beast’s latest attack on Quentin and his friends has greater consequences than expected. The idea that trying to kill the main character of the series is just a red herring for getting to Eliza was a bold move. Didn’t we need Eliza to stick around and explain a few things? Quentin certainly did. Her violent death also firmly confirms that all of the Brakebills instructors know what’s going on, too. This isn’t one of those young adult novels where the kids figure out a great evil is looming, and defeat it on their own. What the Magicians is suggesting is that involving the adults doesn’t make a difference, anyway. The dean is no more able to stop the Beast than Eliza was, and she was fooled surprisingly easily.


But at least Quentin’s love life takes an upturn! Alice’s resistance to getting involved with him treaded the line between plot contrivance and realistic emotional response for a very reserved person. Thankfully, this is Quentin we’re talking about here. He will surely prove himself totally capable of handling the emotional responsibilities of being in a serious relationship while in the midst of trying to figure out if he can travel to Fillory. Or not. Good luck, buddy.

Stray Observations

  • It gets lost in the hubbub of Penny appearing in the middle of class, but I appreciated that Professor Sunderland is telling her class about how the stars can “really bone your casting.”
  • Not only does Quentin have a collection, on vinyl, of Leonard Nimoy’s spoken word albums, but he apparently brought them to school. What is the opposite of “panty whisperer”?
  • Mike’s eyes glint blue when he’s feeling sinister. Is the Beast a niffin?
  • “People are generally disappointing.” Alice is Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, but somehow more gloomy.
  • In a final indignity, the NBC press site identified Eliza as Professor Sunderland in the caption for that photo. RIP Eliza/Jane/Not Professor Sunderland.

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