Arjun Gupta, Hale Appleman, Summer Bishil, Olivia Taylor Dudley / Carole Segal, Syfy

Season two of The Magicians starts out in the most Magicians way possible. Quentin, confronted with a big problem, flounders completely and makes a hasty, questionable decision, and then by the time he arrives with a resolution, Alice has already solved the problem because she is a deeply competent person. And still coasting on god semen. Ah, welcome back, gang!

If season oneoccasionally suffered from pacing problems, season two starts with so much to resolve in its first episode that it has little time to slow down. Given that Quentin and Co. are still in imminent danger from the Beast, as far as they know, they have to hustle to find a series of magical solutions to their problems. Penny needs his hands back, Eliot needs to be crowned king, and everyone else needs to figure out a way to defeat Martin as fast as possible, now that Julia has eliminated their first plan. It leads to a few misadventures, as well as a some suggestions that life in Fillory will be neither as simple nor as pleasant as the books have led them to believe.

It also offers the first hints about what kinds of things we’ll see in Fillory this season, from the richness of the images (that flower bridge was the sort of unexplained beauty that fits right into the Fillory genre. It’s beautiful! Why is it there?) to the tricky natives Quentin and Penny tangle with. When you’re journeying through a land that was used in a series of moralistic children’s books, you can expect that the place is going to try and teach you a few lessons, which is just as well, since Quentin is clearly still in need of some maturity.

But between the jokes, there’s also a sense of greater connection between these people. In the first season, it felt too often like Eliot and Margo were involved out of proximity rather than any tenderness for Quentin or Alice. The coronation scene allows everyone a chance to acknowledge and affirm that they’re together for reasons beyond a quest. And the quiet scene between Eliot and Quentin in the castle was a nice piece of character growth for the two of them, with its suggestion of a deeper well of affection for them. Season one Eliot was often emotionally uninvested in people, including Margo, his ostensible best friend, and it provides more ground for him to cover as a character now that he actually cares about people.

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Julia, as usual, is on a thornier, more winding path. The trauma she’s suffered and the fact that she’s spending her time with a soulless monster, who also happens to be a fellow victim of abuse, both make this a very tricky storyline. The “shade” removal Martin offers is a little nebulous—it seems very intentional that we didn’t get to see what it actually looked like—but it’s not clear yet what we’re supposed to think about Julia’s interest level in it. And is his casual dismissal of her ever feeling love again supposed to be the truth, or a suggestion that she shouldn’t listen to him about coping methods? The answer to that question doesn’t need to be provided right away, of course, but it will be interesting to see what direction the show takes with her, and with Martin. He’s a murderous Beast, but since he’s spending all his time with one of our main characters, will he start to develop sympathetic sides?

Overall, this was a strong, confident premiere outing. It’s starting to feel like the show has a clearer sense of what it wants to be, and how its characters can grow up. If the first episode suffers from a need to tidy up too much of the first season finale, it still manages to set up plenty of interesting threads to explore this season. What could go wrong with King Eliot the Spectacular, the champagne king?

Stray observations

  • Margo the Destroyer was on a roll this episode, from her inspirational call to arms (“OK fuckers, huddle up!”) to her snark about the god semen (“Wow, swallowing has its privileges”), but what she says to Quentin while crowning him is the most insightful: “You’re honest about what you love.”
  • While the swallowing joke made me laugh, I think Alice’s abruptly revealed love of horses was one of the funniest one-off jokes I’ve seen in a while. Her response to Eliot complaining that the carriage sped off without them (“You have got to be kidding me.” “I know, those horses were so rude.”) was hopefully a sign of more oblivious humor to come from her.
  • “Are you even officially affiliated with the torrent?”
  • Though they weren’t in this episode, the press materials indicate that both Rick Worthy and Jade Tailor will be series regulars this year, which is good news. I like the idea of the Dean as a sort of deeply irritated Giles figure to the group, and Kady provides some emotional grounding for both Penny and Julia, who are generally the least connected of the core cast. I’m looking forward to seeing them both brought into the fold.
  • As ever, I’m going to try to avoid discussing book spoilers here, since I know a lot of people watching haven’t read them, so I will just say I am VERY curious about whether the Martin and Reynard situations will end up mirroring the books. We’re certainly very far off those plots right now, but there are hints that we might get back to what the books did.

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