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

The Magicians substitutes one all-powerful villain for another

Arjun Gupta
Arjun Gupta / Eike Schroter, Syfy

In between all the monsters, mayhem, and world-conquering, it’s easy to forget that The Magicians is, at heart, a story about growing up. If Season 1 featured an awful lot of Quentin Coldwater getting in his own way, Season 2 has offered glimmers here and there that he’s finally making forward progress on that most difficult of challenges, responsible adulthood. And while much of “Ramifications” focuses on the various nemeses blocking the path of Quentin and his friends, it also shows the clearest signs yet that Quentin might be figuring out what kind of man he wants to be.

It makes a certain amount of sense that this growth comes in the episode where he resurrects Alice, given that much of his efforts to mature are connected to trying to be worthy of her. Thankfully, the episode does not waste time building up to saving her. This could have easily been forty minutes of Quentin and Julia working their way towards a rescue, followed by a cliffhanger about whether or not Alice made it, but instead, the drama comes more from the question of whether or not Alice wants to be human again.

She’s ultimately one of three different people Quentin ends up confronting over the course of the episode, each of them a representation of something he would never have faced before. He gives Mayakovsky, a Brakebills authority figure, a deserved dressing down for not owning up to his own responsibility for getting Alice’s brother killed. Even more surprisingly, the experience of meeting Umber doesn’t intimidate him so much that he’s not ready to give the missing god of Fillory a piece of his mind for the chaos that shakes the country in his absence.

The revelation that Ember is this season’s latest villain is perhaps reflective of how many bad guys this season has had. It’s led to a somewhat drifting focus, for all that the overall quality of the show has been consistently strong. That’s a lot of life or death quests for these people.

And while the appearance of Persephone isn’t totally unexpected given all the foreshadowing we’ve had about it, the resolution of the Reynard storyline is. In the end, Julia would have been left standing in a desolate field either way, but in this version, she gets healed. There’s a difficult line to tread here in what she chooses to do to her rapist, but ultimately it’s clear that her choice is about moving on as much as anything. Revenge isn’t what she needs, and certainly it’s not forgiveness. But deciding that what happens to Reynard isn’t her problem is the strongest move she can make. Her life has to move forward either way, and this leaves her more whole. Why Persephone didn’t deal with him until Julia was about to kill him is a bigger question, but for now, for possibly the first time in the entire run of the show, Julia is a person who’s gained a small amount of peace.

Of course, that leaves Kady enraged. Considering what she went through to get to this point, she’s not going to be feeling any of Julia’s peace any time soon, and the best bitches are no closer to overcoming their issues. Penny almost died getting her the book, and the senator forced her to murder him to create another weapon, and now she can’t use either of them. While it’s not like we needed to see a gruesome murder happen, it was a little odd that we didn’t get to see what happened to John. Why write this character off so abruptly, with no real goodbye? It’s not unclear why he was pushed to this point—the course of Reynard’s actions throughout this episode makes it even more difficult that he isn’t dead by the end of it—but it is strange that the resolution was so vague. And why would he make Kady do it? He likes her, and while his determination to keep Julia on the path towards good is noble, he does it at the expense of Kady being forced to do something terrible, which is far more heartless than the character seemed in our limited time with him.


The resolution of Penny’s time with Sylvia is similarly abrupt. We never learned what else might be happening to her, and she was shockingly calm about her own upcoming demise. The Poison Room is yet another really interesting place that we don’t get to explore too much. Granted, anywhere these characters go tends to be exciting, but when the imaginary place we spend the most time is Fillory, it makes these side trips seem all the more tantalizing. Aside from people saying they love it, it’s still not clear what’s so great about the place.

And now we head into our finale with a plan to defeat someone even stronger than Martin Chatwin. Well, not a plan so much as a desire to do it. And hey, if everything goes that badly, everyone can move to Cuba. No, the other Cuba.


Stray observations

  • Look, Josh is an entertaining character, but is there anybody who wanted to watch an extended drug mirage with him instead of seeing what Margo was getting up to in the fairy world? Never has the show’s struggle to know what to do with the character been more pronounced.
  • “If I had to leave Fillory, Canada was the obvious second choice.”
  • In terms of foreshadowing, “Nothing entertains Ember more than a whimsical death” is some world-class trolling. Any bets on who it’s going to be?
  • I’m pretty sure Mayakovsky’s imitation death rattle is still going on.
  • Somehow, Nico Evers-Swindell’s gentle New Zealand accent was perfect for Umber, wasn’t it?
  • At last count, our squad has two potential god killing weapons, between the bullet and the poison book, and one god wreaking havoc, even if it’s not the one they planned to kill. Probably these situations are not a coincidence.