The Magicians - The Losses Of Magic - Review: “A Quest Of Loss” + POLL By Aimee Hicks (January 25, 2018, 3:00 am)
This hour of the show presented some of the highest stakes all season. It was also, so far, one of the best of the season. It had some terrific emotional beats and made great steps to move the story forward. Though, on a sad note, by the end of the hour, things are looking particularly grim for Penny. In fact, if this wasn’t The Magicians where death isn’t always the end, it might be a truly concerning development. The writers and performers really delivered a top-notch powerful episode that showcased the heart of the show. The theme of this episode seemed to be loss and it provided some powerful material. Even without magic freely flowing these characters themselves make the show magical.
The last episode ended with Quentin becoming possessed by a lamprey hell-bent on revenge against Alice for what she did while a niffin. That forced Quentin to abandon his mission to find Kady as he was instead forced to go find Alice. He located her at her parent’s house and things went all to hell from there. After a lot of body switching and mistrust amongst the four of them, Alice’s dad ultimately ends up paying the ultimate price to destroy the lamprey. It was sad all around, the lamprey was out to avenge its family that Alice murdered. In the end, even though it was defeated, it did sort of win by stripping Alice of the only one of her parents who she most loved and cared for, her father.
Despite everything that happened, this chaotic time did give Alice and Quentin a little time to reconnect. Alice finally opened up about why she was keeping Quentin at arm’s length. And it was a wonderful moment of depth for Alice that showed how much she is struggling. After being a niffin it is hard for her to be the person she believes Quentin wants her to be. It seems as though she’s isolating herself because it’s easier to be alone than face the expectations of her friends. That’s so sad and tragic that someone who was given a second chance is almost too afraid to embrace it. Olivia Taylor Dudley delivered a really strong performance when Alice was opening up to Quentin. It seemed like a defining moment for Alice that will hopefully help propel her forward. It will be interesting to see how she fully reacts to her father’s passing. The brief glimpse made her seem empty and at a loss for how she needed to react. Alice is alive, but a shell of the person she once was and that shell never felt emptier than in that moment. It was a sad moment for so many different reasons but terrifically portrayed.
Things got a little chaotic in Fillory as well. When the Muntjac is captured by pirates some swift decisions propel the characters in some unexpected directions. Eliot sweeps his family away through a magical doorway that was opened by the key he acquired last week. But the Fillory story continued after they took their leave. Margo convinced the Fairy Queen to zap all of them to the captured Muntjac where she tried to negotiate with the Pirate King (Daniella Alonso). Things got really interesting at that point. Margo’s negotiations went surprisingly well. There were definite sparks between Margo and the King and had things went differently that could have been an interesting dynamic to explore.
Instead, their parlay took a very dark turn. It turns out that the pirates were drawn to the Muntjac by their own ship who effectively wanted to rape their ship. This episode couldn’t have been timed any better in terms of the brilliant movement happening in the real world that is fighting for women’s rights and to get out the message that a woman’s body is hers and hers alone. This particular story point could have felt a bit absurd, but Summer Bishil once again swooped in and delivered a strong dose of heart. She does the snarky scenes so perfectly that it is sometimes easy to forget how complex Margo is. The writers have very cleverly crafted the character to have all these rich layers and Bishil absolute nails everything the writers throw at her.
The scene where Margo talks to the Muntjac is a perfect example of the complex layers of this character. It was a beautifully done scene with a very powerful emotional element to it. Margo was genuinely concerned for the ship as a sentient being. For that moment it wasn’t about the vessel or anything else. It was about trying to give a sentient being the right to make a choice. Margo could have forced the Muntjac into the sexual encounter with the pirate ship, but she didn’t. She gave the ship the free will to make her own choice in the tough situation they found themselves in. It was a truly stunning scene that speaks to what is going on in society right now. This was a very well done moment that was written with great respect and care and Bishil’s performance really elevated this powerful moment. Ultimately, Margo caring so much about the Muntjac inspired the Fairy Queen to intervene. Unfortunately, that meant that the entire pirate crew was killed including the Pirate King who had serious sparks with Margo. While the Muntjac was spared Margo still had to make a hefty sacrifice. After Tick (Rizwan Manji) cleverly steals back Margo’s eye they anger the Fairy Queen when she discovers it. Instead of having her own eye used against her, Margo quite literally crushed it. That, of course, only served to further anger the Fairy Queen who then cursed Gillen (Zahf Paroo) with a song in his ear that will never go away. The vindictive fairy then proceeded to abandon Margo and her crew to find their own slow way back home. It will be a long journey home for them, but Margo shined as a benevolent and caring leader.
Elsewhere on Earth things weren’t going much better. Kady managed to successfully get Penny and her stolen magical battery to safety. However, he wasn’t looking long for this world. Kady had a ritual and a power source, but she really needed another person to help her. That’s when Julia tracked them down. Julia’s arrival didn’t exactly make Kady happy, but through a very sincere request for another chance Kady relented and let Julia in. For the first time this season they were truly working together. No one should for a second believe they are best bitches again. They have a lot to overcome before they can get to that point. Kady went through hell to help Julia and it didn’t end the way she had hoped.
That’s the thing about Kady, she’s a fierce warrior who no one wants as an enemy, but there is also no one more loyal than her. She showed her immense loyalty when helping Julia last season and again this season with Penny. There really isn’t anything she won’t do in order to help the people she cares about. Penny is the guy she loves and she also cares about Julia. Even after all that went down after Julia losing her shade Kady still shows up when Julia calls. An immense code of honor keeps her bound to those whom she feels she owes a debt to. Though, in Julia’s case, that debt has been more than paid at this point. In fact, the roles seem to have reversed this season and Julia now owes Kady. Julia, just like Kady, has a strong sense of loyalty to those she cares about. She knows she owes Kady and when Kady needs her most Julia shows up to help without question.
These two could have been written as bitter bickering ex-friends, but the writers haven’t gone that route and that’s refreshing. They are writing them in a way that justifies what they are each feeling. They aren’t underplaying what happened last season and have allowed Kady to be rightfully angry and Julia to be remorseful but not expecting anything that she isn’t willing to earn. She seems to want Kady’s friendship back and she’s ready to prove herself worthy of that friendship in actions. She asked for a second chance and while Kady begrudgingly obliged at least she obliged. Kady was asking a lot of Julia and even though Julia had some doubts she stood firmly by Kady’s side. These two don’t have the best of luck when it comes to summoning powerful beings so it was nice that this time the being they summoned didn’t try to rape or murder them. This whole thing could have so easily turned into these two fighting over the battery and becoming enemies. Instead, the writers chose to write these two as imperfect people who have screwed up, but who are still incredibly supportive of one another. Kady will likely keep snapping at Julia as they work through everything that happened, but at least they aren’t bickering over something stupid. Kady’s anger comes from a very real place and Julia’s remorsefulness isn’t overdone. The writers had to walk a very fine line allowing Kady to be justifiably anger while slowly walking these two back to the powerful dynamic they had last season without making it feel unrealistic.
This episode also provided one of the first actual magical tuts this season and it was beautifully performed and stunningly filmed. Thankfully they entrusted this complex moment to two actresses who have a really strong acting dynamic and trust with one another. Stella Maeve and Jade Tailor have taken their characters to some really complex dark places together. The writers have thrown some intense stuff at both of them and they always deliver. These two actresses have formed this terrific bond between two characters that started off hating one another. Even now, when Kady is angry at Julia, the energy between the actresses allows the multifaceted nature of that anger to shine through. Kady is angry, but a deeply buried part of her does actually want to forgive Julia. She was able to unbury some of her old bond with Julia as they tackled the summoning spell that they thought could save Penny. And that summoning is what let to the beautiful tut that they performed. The tut was a complex dance that required the actresses to be laser-focused on one another to stay in sync. When they needed to be synced up they both were right on point with each other. At the start of the scene, as the camera is under them, there is zero margin for error in what they are doing. Different camera angels gave them some wiggle room, but during some of the most complex parts, the camera placement didn’t make things easy for them. However, none of that came through in their performances as they delivered a spot on perfect performance. In the midst of all this these two characters connected in a way that they haven’t since Julia lost her shade last season. It was really a perfect moment for these two characters.
Ultimately they were able to summon the demon who proved to actually be benevolent and tried to help them. Sadly Kady didn’t pull things together in time and the process is too much a strain on Penny and his body succumbs to the illness while Kady desperately pleaded with him to fight. This is The Magicians, so this doesn’t necessarily mean the end for Penny, but things do look pretty dire. On the bright side, Penny was able to astral project out of his body in time. On the downside, none of them know he’s there and his body looks like its time is permanently up. Where the writers go from here is anyone’s guess. Penny and Kady are an interesting couple so it would be nice to see them reunite. They had some phenomenal scenes full of great heart. There is a strong chemistry between Jade Tailor and Arjun Gupta and it would be sad to see that taken away. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see the writers explore other romances for Kady. It would also be interesting to see them dive deeper into her drug addiction. With that said, they have to find a way to bring him back. There is still a lot of story left in Penny, plus, Arjun Gupta is a terrific actor and it would a shame to lose him from the show.
The episode ended with Kady sobbing over Penny with Julia doing her best to comfort her. The fact that Kady was even letting Julia comfort her speaks volumes to the amount of pain she was in at that moment. In the first season Kady lost her mom, last season she in many ways lost Julia, and now she’s lost Penny. The writers love to put the characters through some horrible stuff, but Kady is just about due for a break. Thinking she failed Julia at the end of the first season sent her tail spinning right into a drug addiction. Julia only just barely pulled her out of that last season. There is really no telling what feeling like she failed Penny will do to her, but it might be something that not even Julia can save her from this time.
The ending was all about pain and that made it a fitting end to an episode all about loss and suffering. They didn’t really make any headway with the quest this week, other than the mysterious door that Eliot’s key magically created. Even without progressing the quest storyline they moved forward a lot of other character-based storylines. Alice and Quentin along with Julia and Kady are better off for what they faced together this week. Margo protected her ship, kingdom, and sacrificed her own eye in the name of protecting those she cares about. There were a lot of losses this week and it was an intense hour. Penny’s fate is still up in the air and it seems like they’ll deal with that next week. Hopefully, there will be just enough magic left in that battery to help Julia save him somehow. Kady isn’t likely to take losing Penny well. Eliot and his family are who knows where. Margo is on a long voyage home. And, again, perhaps most importantly, Penny is still alive in the astral plane. So, the next episode has a lot of ground to cover and it promises to be another intense hour. If the season can keep going like this it could be the best season of the show yet.
Don’t miss the next episode when it airs next Wednesday, January 31st at 9/8c on Syfy to see what becomes of Penny.
Hit the comments with your thoughts. Can Penny still be saved? Will Kady spiral out of control after this loss? Where did Eliot and his family go? What did you think of the sacrifice Margo was willing to make for the Muntjac?