Welcome back to our weekly coverage of The Magicians. To read prior reviews, click here.
“Heroes and Morons” may not match the wit and wonder of the season three premiere, but it’s another dedicated hour of television that highlights a series that has learned to reinvent itself season to season and has come out this year as one of the most exciting series airing. Committed to its fantastical elements without forgoing the human nature that charges each and every decision (for good or bad) that these characters make, The Magicians is hellbent on carving out it’s own genre is the current television zeitgeist.
Here were the three strongest parts of the episode.
Adventure is looming (and the world building is pretty great too)
Before setting off on his trip, Eliot is presented with the (plot) twist that his daughter is alive and well and a preteen working for the Fairy Queen. He and Margo contemplate how suspicious this all is, especially when they reference all of the pop culture they’ve consumed that has done similar things (there’s a nice Buffy the Vampire Dawn reference thrown in there). However, for the time being they allow it to happen because there’s no real changing their situation when the Fairy Queen is involved.
It does allow for him to set off on his official quest with Frey and their new daughter in tow for the keys which brings him to After Island where a cruel and power mad man rules by keeping the townspeople afraid of what amounts to a parlor trick. Eliot and Frey are both allowed moments of heroics with Eliot being presented as they king that he is. Heeding Margo’s advice on how to stay alive by relying on his survival instinct rather than playing the hero, Eliot walks away more confident in his position and with a key to aid him on his travels.
Out of the season so far it’s been this introduction of After Island that its inhabitants that has further aided in building the world beyond Fillory.
That SHIP! (No really, an actual ship)
The Magicians enjoys adding details to its world that are bizarre and eccentric and completely absurd to the characters as well as the audience and the addition of a sentient ship (that’s kind of a dick) is just one of those delightful developments. It’s a small thing but it allows the show to continue to build context into the world beyond Earth. In Fillory, sloths hold council positions in court, rabbits can be used as carrier pigeons between worlds, Kings can have a husband and a wife and any and all rules are bound to be broken at some point. So of course that had to be a sentient ship as well.
(Must be noted that the production design is gorgeous with this set and the location breathtaking).
Character Context EVERYWHERE
One of the most achingly raw moments of the episode comes in the form of an aside. Quentin, in their search to seek out Professor Lipson, to both prevent her from committing suicide and retrieve what essentially is a magical battery, brings up the likely building she’ll choose, commenting on its pretty view and vacancy. When asked just why he would know this, he remarks that he used to research this “sort of thing”, a call back (or acknowledgement) of his depression. It’s not a highlight of the episode, perse, but further reinforces just how well this show understands its characters. Not one character makes a decision that feels out of place with who they are.
Along with the return (kind of) of Mayakovsky (as a bear) and Emily who we last saw in the sobering “Cheat Day”, this episode is presenting call backs that harken more to character building than plot development, to good and bad effect. All of these characters and how they add to the plot is a reminder that no matter the fantasy world that they live in, it’s hardly a utopia where real world struggle ceases to exist. With magic gone for the time being this idea is doubled down on as that one blip of hope that kept these people going is extinguished.
We see as Mayakovsky’s battery puts Central Park into a trance of sorts with a giant orgy taking place and if this is the peak of happiness that this small battery can offer, that it isn’t quite something to chase after because it isn’t the real thing, but a substitute. It’s a distraction from the real pain and confusion they’re all feeling. It’s why Julia’s ability is being so latched onto, because she possesses the hope that these bad feelings they’re having or being reminded on may not be here for the long term. Magic, in every sense of the word in this universe, is a hell of a drug.
Elsewhere in the episode Alice is reunited with the group after running away from the mysterious entity chasing her which, in an unsettling and gory detail, can be tipped off by an exploding cat (this show hates cute and innocent animals). Trying to accomplish too many storylines at once and not delivering on some of the more exciting moments as the group moves onward on their quest, the episode is far from a let down but just can’t manage to sustain the enthusiastic energy of its premiere.