This week, The Magicians is all about “returns.” And a little bit of body horror.
We saw the return of Kady — Penny’s ex, an expelled Brakebills student, and the other survivor of Reynard the Fox’s attack on Julia’s Gaia-worshiping hedge-witch coven last season. She’s back, attached to Julia’s storyline. So we can probably kiss Kady goodbye because everyone who floats in Julia’s proximity seems to end up dead. We also saw the all-too-brief return of Marina, killed last episode, but resurrected temporarily to give Julia a new clue in her fight against Reynard.
While their shared past would caution against taking Julia and Kady’s new “best bitches” status too seriously, they do make a fine team, more purposeful and certainly less fumbling in their mission to Brakebills’ library than the other questing duo, Penny and Quentin, an odd couple in pursuit of a wish-granting questing beast, The White Lady, within “The Flying Forest.”
Penny’s quest is the most obvious — a return of functional, non-cursed hands. Not only won’t they cast magic spells reliably, they actually attempt to choke him at one point. He pressures Quentin to chop them off his wrists, and he spends much of the episode with stumps. Quentin’s body horror is less horrible: portions of his shoulder and torso that were ravaged by the Beast have been replaced with magic wood. It’s less obvious than missing hands; in fact, magical skin gets painted over it during his convalescence, so the wood parts aren’t even visible (there’s a way to save on SFX budget, right? Still has a hollow noise when you knock on his shoulder, though). Quentin’s wish has nothing to do with physically healing himself: he wants Alice brought back to life. Sadly, not even a being designed for wish fulfillment can grant that one (or perhaps she can’t bring Alice “back to life,” because Alice isn’t dead, just transformed). And he’s smart enough to know that wishing to forget Alice won’t solve his sadness or provide his life with whatever it’s lacking.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve got. Magic is real and it can fix anything except what I need.”
Ultimately, Q’s wish it to “return” to Earth, to normalcy, or some approximation of it, and an attempt to leave the life of a magician behind him.
Speaking of “magic wood” — Eliot wants to return to his home dimension, an ability he gave up in becoming Fillory’s high king. But Margo proves her position as #1 problem solver (now that Alice is dead or Niffined or whatever) by coming up with a way to make that happen for him — creating a golem doppelganger into which Eliot can transfer his mind.
He gets to go home, have a tryst via golem body with a young man in Earth realm at the same time as he makes it with his wife in Fillory. Confusing at first, but he comes out of it okay.
But Eliot’s return to Earth was not strictly selfish — he actually wants to save Fillory, and by proxy magic itself; not only was the Wellspring — the source of all magic — depleted, but Ember’s “Divine Elimination” seems to have not done it any favors; spellcasters across the multiverse are having trouble with making magic. He meets with Dean Fogg and turns his dilemma into his new thesis project: “How to save an entire god-damned world,” as Fogg puts it. Return to the student/teacher relationship.
In our latest “crossing of the streams,” Margo and Julia run into each other at Brakebills and have a minor confrontation that ends with Margo putting that problem-solving penchant to work in Julia’s favor. The book Julia and Kady need to get Marina’s message from beyond the grave can’t be taken off of school property. Margo shows Julia how books can “mate” and create a near-xerox copy when locked in a dark box. If she can’t solve it with booze, Margo will solve it with sex.
In sum? Resurrection and wish fulfillment aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. A slower-paced episode that meets the high bar the series has set, but doesn’t exceed it.
GEEK Grade: B+
- Line of the episode goes to Penny: “Let’s go hunt ‘the white lady’? People like me get shot for saying sh^t like that.”
- The White Lady calling Quentin a “Turd” is pretty funny too.
- Marina’s blood-shot right eye and terrified testimony of how awful it is in the afterlife is beyond chilling. “You don’t understand, you don’t know where I was. I don’t want to go back there, I don’t want to go back there!”
Next week: Cheat Day!
The Magicians airs Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on Syfy.
Director: Carol Banker
Writer: David Reed