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The Magicians goes on a very weird visit home

Arjun Gupta / Carole Segal, Syfy
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It’s probably not a great sign for Quentin that it’s so damn funny every time something embarrassing happens to him. Like, for instance, Penny bursting in on his sex dream. Pretty much everything that happens in that dream is great, from his goofy fantasy (which was about as basic in its dialogue as an actual porn parody of GoT and Star Wars would be) to him in costume as Indiana Jones, to the concept that he tells the women in his dream that he supports them only to be told to shut up because he’s preventing the dream from passing the Bechdel Test. Quentin’s subconscious is an amazing place.

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This episode was the strongest sign yet that the show has found a way to advance its plot without sacrificing the emotional development of the characters. It’s probably no accident that in an episode that begins with Julia and Alice discussing the Bechdel Test, they also take center stage for much of the emotional progress. We finally get a somewhat belated glimpse into why Alice has as much trouble being open as she does, stuck as she is between her exhibitionist father and emotionally manipulative mother. And it’s hard to think of many shows that would take the time not just to get in a few jokes about her sex life with Quentin but to also address the concept that this isn’t just some American Pie-esque thing where he needs to get better at sex. Being able to ask for what you want in bed involves making yourself pretty vulnerable in front of another person, and nothing about Alice so far has suggested that that’s something she’d be able to do. Having her and Quentin work through the issue allows Alice to take a step forward while also proving that Quentin is capable of focusing on what someone else needs emotionally, while also being nicely sex-positive.

Julia’s forward progress also involves finding the ability to be emotionally open in front of someone else, and for once, it’s the right person. Putting Julia and Kady together makes a lot of sense—of course Kady would still be pursuing magic, and she’d have the same issue of needing to avoid anyone connected to Marina. Talking to Kady finally gives Julia some small amount of emotional catharsis, and as an added bonus, she doesn’t have to think about what Kady’s ulterior motives might be. Richard, on the other hand, will now be known as “Red Flag Richard.” It was super shady of him (shoot, speaking of nicknames, Shady Kady would have been a good one, but we know her deal now) to refuse to tell Julia what magic he was doing in her apartment. I may not be fully caught up on magical manners, but I feel like you tell a girl before you reverse the flow of time in her guest room. Besides, when has trying to control a god ever worked out for anyone?

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And without either of those narratives getting hijacked, we also get some slightly more meaningful shenanigans with Margo and Eliot, and Penny has an adventure of his own that’s closely connected to the A plot. The sepia tone was a bit much, but other than that, the set design for the Neitherlands was fantastic. It was exactly what it needed to be, without being so overdone as to require goofy looking special effects. And the notion that the library looks like every old university library you’ve ever been in was a nice touch. Penny continues to be very resentful about the fact that he’s trapped in a fantasy story, and watching the librarian repeatedly get the better of him, including calling him William, was very satisfying, considering he spends the rest of his time being rude to everyone. His tendency to jump into Quentin’s brain when he’s in trouble is beginning to suggest that that relationship is far more meaningful than he’d like to admit. They’re probably not quite ready to buy each other matching best friend necklaces, but at some point they may need to admit they’re more than acquaintances to each other. Fingers crossed Quentin’s next dream involves the two of them hanging out together doing just that.

Alas, it is a cruel tease that this episode ends before we get to see the photocopied pages from the intriguing Martin Chatwin book. But in an episode that gives us the gift of Alice’s dad saying “You haven’t even touched your penis!” to Quentin at a dinner party, it seems harsh to complain.

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Stray Observations

  • “Nice dream, loser.” “Why do you ruin everything in my life?”
  • In my notes for this episode, I wrote “spellbinder —> Richard is a nerd.” I stand by that note.
  • Oh, Alice, we all thought the Garden State soundtrack was cool when it came out.
  • Joe seems like a friendly guy, and definitely the person you’d want to hear from about whether or not there was a nice connection between your genitals and your partner’s. Hopefully he’ll stick around.
  • Quick poll: Were the brief mentions of Free Trader Beowulf a. very underwritten and confusing to newcomers? or b. purposefully underwritten, and only in there as an Easter egg for fans of the book? This question threatens the very fabric of my roommate relationship, so choose wisely.
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