The Magicians - All That Josh - Review: “A Musical Quest For Unity” + POLL By Aimee Hicks (March 8, 2018, 3:01 am)
The sci-fi/fantasy genre does many things very well, but traditionally musicals aren’t one of those things. It’s the simple fact that to be able to deploy a musical episode the music has to somehow be incorporated into the story and rarely does that ever feel organic. It is not easy to have your characters break out into song and dance and it not seem ridiculous. However, The Magicians isn’t a typical genre show and therefore is one of those shows where breaking out into song doesn’t seem weird or even out of place at all. In fact, in the case of this episode, it helped to elevate the story. This cast has some really strong accomplished vocalist while a few others aren’t quite as polished they are still solid singers. The writers smartly played this episode towards the stronger vocalists, but credit is due to the others who put forth an incredible effort and still managed some great vocalizations during the group song. What could have been a train wreck of an episode for almost any other series turned into a masterfully performed standout episode for The Magicians.
This show is lucky to have accomplished vocalists like Jade Tailor and Hale Appleman on the cast. Both have strong musical backgrounds and Tailor in particular really shined in this episode. She was tasked with the most singing and she nailed every single note. From the sultriness of her solo All I Need Is The Boy to the powerful group Bowie song Under Pressure she was a standout. Her voice is well trained and strongly confident in every note. It is very clear that she is at ease and in her element when performing whether it is just acting or singing. She nailed every complex inflection of each song and made it look effortless. She was clearly in her element and it showed in how easily she belted out each note.
Some of the cast were clearly nervous to be singing, but they all performed admirably. Nerves were evident in a few places, such as the start of Under Pressure. In the background when Jade Tailor starts to sing it’s obvious that in the hustle of all the complicated choreography that both Olivia Taylor Dudley and Jason Ralph missed their placement marks. The confusion played in well though since their characters were a bit like fish out of water with singing. Though, neither had any reason to be nervous, as they both have lovely voices, especially Dudley. Since nerves were clearly at work with some of the cast the writers smartly weaved in the complicated vocals to fall on Tailor and Appleman during the group number, but their co-stars were all solid singers. Of the rest of the cast, Trevor Einhorn was the strongest even warranting his own solo song. It’s clear through his performance that he has some sort of vocal training himself. Stella Maeve and Arjun Gupta were each tasked with solo aspects of the group song and they were right on point. Maeve’s solo performance seemed a little shaky at the onset, but she pulled back on any nerves at play and nailed her parts.
Given the stunning success of this musical episode it would be a darn shame for them to not do more of these in the future. The show can pull off the ploy of breaking into song and dance, so they should do it. Even if they just throw random song and dance numbers at Tailor and Appleman they need to further explore the singing talent they both bring to the show. They both have beautiful singing voices and to not utilize them more in that capacity would be criminal. In fact, this episode proved that there isn’t a single bad singer amongst the cast.
From the work of the cinematographer to the brilliant work of the editor this was a visually beautiful episode. This show always has rich coloring, but the fantastical party nature of this particular hour lent itself to be even more vibrant. Even the set designs infused with more color than usual helped to accent the rich energy of the story. It was in stark contrast to the end of the episode where they returned back to their reality where the colors dulled back into their normal hue. It is that attention to detail that makes this show so special and capable of pulling off these storylines so wonderfully.
The writers couldn’t have crafted a better episode to house the musical numbers for this special episode. The song and dance numbers felt organically part of the story and helped to advance the overall arc of the season. That is where so many musical episodes of other shows fail is because the musical numbers don’t fit in with the actual plot. Not a problem on this show. The writers crafted this episode to revolve around Josh in his demon created alternate reality but still found a way to be able to flow the other ongoing storylines around the central focus of the hour. What is interesting about this Josh story is that he honestly wasn’t all that missed since he was last with the group. So much has been going on that he was truthfully forgotten. If it was that easy for the audience to forget him then it’s easy to see why the characters did. However, the moment Josh reappears in the story it’s an instant reminder of how fun he is as a character. Trevor Einhorn plays Josh so brilliantly and honestly needs to have more to do on the show. Now that Josh is back and reunited with the group it seems likely that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him, which is a very good thing.
Given that Josh has been on the fringe of things since his introduction it felt very appropriate that it was he who was the quester who felt left out. At the core of this story really was a message of never leaving someone behind. They may not be best friends with Josh or even know all that much about him, but he is still one of them and in the end they all showed their true colors by fighting to save him. Josh even learned a lot about himself through the process and came to realize that these people are truly his friends. They all bettered themselves by working together. Behind all the music was a beautiful message of unity and friendship.
This episode also took time to tackle the very real and dastardly topic of slavery and torture. Through Julia and Fen’s story with Skye, the audience got a firsthand look at a totally different side of fairies. They are being enslaved and tortured here on Earth. There are still a ton of questions revolving around this story, but this particular plot point is in its infancy and there is sure to be much more to come from Skye and her fellow enslaved fairies. For the purpose of this hour, her story was about learning and understanding the magic inherently inside of her. And through compassion and genuinely good intentions, Julia also learned that her magic has become inherently a part of her. She no longer needs tuts to channel the magic. Through all the good she has been doing, saving Kady, helping Alice, and now helping Skye she has become at one with her magic. As Julia put it, she “leveled up”. Now, as for what that means moving forward, well that’s anyone’s guess. Julia is in uncharted territory and there is really no way to know where the cap to her new magic is. Prior to saving Kady, Julia could barely light a spark, but since then and through subsequent good deeds her power has grown immensely. It doesn’t look like she has reached the cap of her abilities yet.
Skye’s storyline opened up more potential for Julia and also provided a forgiveness arc for Fen. She has spent the whole season not exactly thrilled with fairies and then when she learned the truth about her daughter she completely soured her to them. Then she met Skye and instead of seeing an almighty evil being she saw an innocent young woman being treated in the most despicable of ways. She seemed to genuinely feel for Skye but was extremely hesitant to help Julia help Skye. It’s understandable, but as the episode wore on Fen gradually moved closer to Skye and Julia. She even helped bridge the gap between how Julia knew how to do magic and how fairies do magic. By the time Skye nearly dies Fen is fully invested in helping their new friend. When Julia manages to use her God-given magic to save Skye, the three women embrace in genuine relief as a new friendship is born. Fen realized that not all fairies are like the fairy queen and her good kind heart was won over.
That was in stark contrast to what was going on in Fillory. There was no kindness or forgiveness for Margo or Eliot, at least not from their subjects. Tick turned out to be a backstabbing crown usurper who is likely behind the uprising that led to Margo and Eliot being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He seems like a horrible excuse for a leader and Margo and Eliot need to fight to regain their kingdom from him. And even though some of the citizens of the kingdom have turned against them they do have some allies. The Muntjac is a big Margo fan and came through for her and Eliot in the end. Back at the start of the season, Margo had the chance to order the Muntjac to allow herself to be raped in order to save everyone else. Instead, Margo left the power of the choice up to the Muntjac. She was kind to the ship and showed immense compassion. That is in stark contrast to Tick who tried to use his power to force her to cast away her true King and Queen to their deaths. She turned on him and valiantly fought the swift water current to try and save them all. With a little bit of luck, and perhaps a tiny bit of magic spurned on by the unity key, the Muntjac was able to fly them away to safety. Margo’s compassion earned her a loyal friend for life. Through this moment the series delivered another important message in regards to the power of compassion and how kindness is far more powerful than dictatorship.
The unity key is one of the better keys they have encountered. It did some actual legitimate good for the group. It helped save Josh, helped guide Julia on how to save Skye, helped Margo and Eliot, and it even helped Kady and Penny communicate. What it started to do, but couldn’t quite fully accomplish, was help Quentin and Alice move past their issues or help make Kady and Julia overcome their issues. The end of the episode showed the tensions that are still firmly in place. Despite all that Julia has done to try and mend fences with Kady there is still a hefty divide between them. The moment Julia entered the room Kady seemed to throw up defensive walls. She wrapped her arms around herself and the look she gave Julia wasn’t entirely trusting as if she didn’t really see a reason for Julia to have had the truth key. It was great acting by Tailor to portray the tension still in place without speaking a word. That was likely intentional as these two really haven’t had a legitimate chance to fully mend the fences broken during the end of last season.
Also in the same scene we got to see the tension that still exists between Quentin and Alice. She has lost his trust and despite everything they went through in the alternate reality he’s not willing to give her any leeway. He clearly didn’t believe her answer as to why she was in the library. And, to be fair to him, the way she was acting was shady enough to warrant caution. The lyrics they were tasked with in the chorus of Under Pressure indicates a possibility of a reconciliation, but not just yet. They still have chemistry and they still care about one another, but they each have a bit of a journey to continue on before they can learn to trust one another again.
That’s one of the hallmarks of this show is that they don’t rush their storylines. They give things enough breathing room to play out organically. Kady and Julia are meant to be friends. They have been through hell together, but Kady was hurt and it’s going to take time to heal those emotional wounds. Having them immediately return to their “Best Bitches” friendship would be a serious injustice to the characters. That needs to be earned for it to truly feel right for the characters. The same for Quentin and Alice, they have such a strong connection that it seems likely they’ll reunite as good friends if nothing else, but it’ll take time for them to get to that point. Rushing it would in many ways undermine all they’ve been through. Even with Penny and Kady, allowing them to suddenly have nothing standing between them and having no roadblocks to overcome would serve a massive injustice to their relationship. They are all better because of what they overcome together. Many writers would intentionally draw these sorts of storylines out indefinitely just to have drama to play off of. The beauty of this show is that these writers have their fingers on the pulses of each character. They know when it’s time to push them apart and time to bring them back together. Nothing ever feels overly rushed or forced. They have paired up compatible characters for each storyline and ensured that the respective performers have the sort of acting partnership that will benefit the story. What these writers produce is the very best in well thought out well-paced television storytelling.
This show is funny, quirky, serious, heartfelt, and occasionally flat out weird, but it all works. It is a testament to these writers and this cast that things that shouldn’t work for this genre organically fit into the show. This musical episode could have been horrendous and yet it was an exceptional hour for the show continuing on this season’s perfect track record for delivering outstanding episodes. It’s amazing that the show has already been renewed, but it is going to be very hard for next season to top what has been done this season so far. Each episode raises the bar a little bit higher. The season is rapidly pushing towards its end. With only four episodes left they still have a lot of ground to cover. The story has been rapidly moving all season, but with three keys still left to find and magic to restore there is a lot that still needs to be accomplished.
This was a beautiful episode that was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and easy on the ears. It was full of standout performances mixed with quirky moments and heartfelt ones. It marked the start of the final phase of the quest. With the group now bonded by the unity key they now have a way to more easily work together despite all of their vastly different locations. With a potential Earth-based baddie in Irene, an angry vengeful Fairy Queen, and the pissed off people of Fillory, the team better work through their interpersonal group issues fast if they are going to overcome everything else and accomplish their quest. These last four episodes should be amazing fun to watch, so buckle in as the quest continues.
Don’t miss the next episode when it airs next Wednesday, March 14th at 9/8c on Syfy.
Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. Did you like the musical numbers? Can the group sort out their issues and keep working together as a united force? Can Margo and Eliot retake their kingdom from Tick? Will Julia and Fen be able to help Skye free her people and stop Irene? Will Penny find a way to escape the library?