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The Magicians cuts some corners (and some trees) in a busy episode

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Stella Maeve, Summer Bishil / Eike Schroter, Syfy
Stella Maeve, Summer Bishil / Eike Schroter, Syfy
B

The Magicians

"Word As Bond"

Season 2 , Episode 8

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It’s just a fact of the Magicians universe that happiness is generally a goal rather than a state of being, and also that as one person’s fortunes rise, another’s are surely about to plummet. So while Quentin’s life is busy falling apart (it turns out that hosting a niffin in your body is a really bad idea, from a not-dying standpoint), Kady and Penny inch closer to becoming an actual functioning couple and Eliot makes a miraculous recovery from golem death.

This mixing and matching of tones leads to a somewhat disjointed-feeling episode, but for once, that sensation makes a certain amount of sense. That’s how life works, right? Some people are happy, some people are sad. Some people are going to take impromptu trips to Ireland, and some people are going to lose all touch with their humanity.

That last bit could apply to both Julia and Alice here, both of whom have been magically altered beyond what the human spirit can take, it seems. Martin Chatwin was this show’s first villain, but it’s starting to seem possible that Julia could be its next, since it seemed pretty clear that the reason for his monstrousness was linked to the loss of his shade. The fact that Julia’s magical abortion caused the problem is perhaps not exactly in line with what the show’s politics have generally been regarding abortion. There are times when a show needs to get from point A to point B, but this might have been a time to introduce an additional step in there. Presumably they did not actually want to suggest that having an abortion can cause you to lose your soul?

Quentin also finally reveals the secret of Alice, although not intentionally. If Alice was preventing him from doing it before, why didn’t we see that? There’s no sign that they’ve even discussed him telling his magician friends. Even if certain members of the magical community would want to lock him up for this problem, there still isn’t really any evidence that his friends would be in that group. But regardless of the labored steps it took to get to this point, having Penny and Kady be the ones to figure it out adds a wrinkle. Is Penny’s friendship with Alice enough to motivate him to figure out a way to save her rather than destroy her?

Kady, meanwhile, gets to punch someone for the third episode in a row. It is, per usual, very effective, though Quentin is, shall we say, not her strongest opponent. But her sudden descent into problem drinking and pushing Penny away is a bit abrupt. Clearly, there is a lot that has happened in Kady’s life that’s quite traumatic, even beyond her experience with Reynard. Seeing that it’s still all weighing down on her makes sense, but because her return to the show has mostly been defined by her friendship with Julia, it all came across as a bit abrupt. Has she been like this all along, but we haven’t seen it because the show’s point of view has stuck with Julia? Again, that explanation would make sense, but it’s not really what we see here. There isn’t really anything about the current state of the Reynard investigation to suggest that it’s at any worse a place than any other part of it. Dead ends happen.

Plus, Penny’s entire crisis about signing a contract with the librarians happens offscreen. We don’t even see him break the news to Mayakovsky, or talk to the dean about it. The surprise of him turning up with the missing name Kady needs is certainly a grand romantic gesture, but it happens at the expense of finally giving us some serious Penny drama. We got to see Julia grapple with the idea of losing her shade before it happened, and we see Quentin struggle with what to do about Alice, but Penny signs over his life off-camera. Sure, he’s inherently a more impulsive and decisive character, but that shouldn’t mean skipping his big dramatic moments.

And in Fillory, we get a half-hearted critique of sexism, and a glimpse of how much Margo needs Eliot. The thing is…Eliot wakes up just after Margo promises Fen that she’ll save the day, so we don’t actually get to see her do it. But the version of this show that would send Margo after Ember to force him into making men and women equitable rulers of Fillory is one that would be very much worth watching. Someone clearly needs to take Ember down a peg for destroying magic, and it feels right that Margo might be the one to do it.

Stray observations

  • It’s a little hard to transcribe, but the entire scene with Quentin pretending to remember where Alice learned about viewing pieces of the past was a great bit of comedy between him and Penny and Kady.
  • The casual reference to the Bush administration and then mentioning “enhanced interrogation techniques” certainly seemed pointed, didn’t it?
  • Alice freaking out when Penny showed up in Quentin’s brain was like a teenager being interrupted during an important phone call. For a powerful, brainy being, she didn’t really have a great plan for what to do just then.
  • “You leak, asshole” is a particularly vivid turn of phrase, isn’t it?
  • Hey, someone mentioned how much school Quentin has missed! Can someone please clarify what the enrollment status is for everyone? I’m weirdly annoyed by this bureaucratic detail.
  • So...Julia just murdered a bunch of sentient trees, no? Margo is right to throw her in prison.