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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Magicians takes a journey through mourning and body part replacement

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After coming off an episode in which the order of the show was upended, it makes sense that this week’s Magicians is a much slower and more downbeat affair. Everyone is struggling to make sense of what they’re left with, post-Beast. And Quentin makes what might be his most unexpected decision yet: He leaves Fillory.

Imagine Hogwarts was real. Or Narnia. Or Pern. Imagine going there. Then give it up. Quentin is the fanboy/girl’s avatar, the embodiment of every geeky person getting to live out their fantasy. That Fillory has manifestly sucked for him is about as soul-crushing as it can get for someone like him. What’s worse, he doesn’t even bother to stay there that long. Sure, he could explore the country some more, see what other wonders await him. But it’s become clear that whatever he might discover will pale in comparison to the experience of reading the books as a kid. And he now has the emotional maturity to see that hijinks there will not actually help him recover from losing Alice.


That he comes to that realization after a caper with Penny is a nice touch. They’re a duo that always comes with a nice comedic chemistry, and it’s also hard not to root for them to become a sort of hard-won friends. Almost any show can find new energy by pairing its characters off with unexpected co-stars, and while Penny and Quentin have certainly interacted before, they’re rarely alone together, in pursuit of a common goal, and even more unusually, not totally at each other’s throats.

It’s the same mechanics behind why that scene with Julia and Margo has an extra little frisson of energy. The conversation, ultimately, is a bit underwhelming. Julia’s insult about people being afraid of Margo doesn’t really ring true, and it shouldn’t to Margo either—she and Eliot clearly have an off-beat but nonetheless genuine emotional bond with each other. But the brief moment where they’re together raises some interesting undercurrents. For one thing, they represent the two poles of Quentin’s life, between the person he’s loved for years and the person who most personifies the extremes of life at Brakebills. But they’re also, somewhat similarly to Quentin and Penny, two people with not a lot in common who nevertheless can recognize when they might need to help each other.


More promising for Julia is the reappearance of Kady. Julia desperately needs someone to talk to who isn’t a threat to her, like Martin and Marina were, or an occasional nemesis, like the Brakebills kids. Given the relentless darkness of her plotline in the first season and now, there are too many scenes that call for Stella Maeve to play Julia at her absolute lowest point. It makes a certain amount of sense, but it also doesn’t always make for enough variation in her scenes. Bringing Kady back gives her more emotional notes to play. And Kady remains the only person whose relationship with her is relatively free of conflict.

Eliot’s struggles, meanwhile, suffer a bit from a lack of dramatic momentum, since he’s too freaked out to know what to do with himself. Margo wisely recommends a trip home to perk him up, but the main point of the trip is to bring the Dean into the fold, and start everyone on the path to fixing Fillory. The plot also seems to be going somewhere with Eliot’s sex life. It seems significant that it’s coming up so much, but whatever larger point is coming about it is still a bit of a mystery. He’s affectionate enough with his wife that it’s raising some questions about where he falls on the sexuality spectrum. Which is fine! There are not enough bisexual men on TV. But it also doesn’t seem like he identifies that way, and at this point, it is coming up often enough that it seems likely to be more meaningful than the jokey references thus far would indicate. Unlike in real life, in TV, everything happens for a reason, right?


But for now, we’ll have to settle for finding out what the non-magic world holds for Quentin. What does a retired magician do for work?

Stray observations

  • Julia looks happier around Kady than at any other point this season. Friendship is magic, guys. Will she have any kind of epiphany about her priorities because of this?
  • That heroin recovery was so brief for Kady I’m not sure why the show didn’t just pack her off somewhere less dramatic to explain her absence.
  • Eliot’s slow nod after “I know we’re being serious right now, but that surgeon has the biggest dick” is obviously the best indicator of why he and Margo are friends.
  • “The befouling was substantial.”
  • Speaking of poop, there is no dramatic purpose whatsoever to bring in Alessandro Juliani to shit in the middle of a conversation with Penny, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable that it happened.
  • “Let’s go hunt the white lady? People like me get shot for saying shit like that.”
  • “Where are my stuff touchers?”
  • “Fuckin’ Todd.”
  • Did you Bunheads fans recognize Emma Dumont as the White Lady? Sadly limited opportunities for dancing in the role, but she did get to call Quentin a turd.