After what was an uneven but ultimately satisfying first season, SyFy’s The Magicians is back and it’s already seemingly has gotten its footing quicker and with more energy. After the catastrophic events of the season one finale, the episode does quick work in rewinding things so that Alice, Penny, Elliot and Margo don’t die and the four of them plus Quentin are forced to go searching for Julia who has teamed up with the Beast to kill the trickster God who assaulted her and killed her friends last year.
However, rather than simply being a course correction tactic, something that might’ve lessened the impact of the events that transpired, it instead sets our characters up for their season two narratives as all are reeling from what they’ve just witnessed.
Julia’s storyline is still separated from the other characters but with the Beast-aka Martin Chatwin-now accompanying her it at least feels as if her story is still more woven in to the overall storyline. While it seems like tricky business to have two possible antagonists be also two victims of sexual assault, the show so far has taken pains to demonstrate the differences between Martin and Julia and the paths their choosing to take, especially when Julia doesn’t part with her shade. While I’m still not convinced the writing will do Julia justice in the episodes to come regarding her trauma, I’m optimistic that they’ll at least be respectful to her emotions.
Elsewhere the characters are dealing with a similar fallout but in Filory, as many of them realize the true ramifications of their actions. Penny is shell shocked by the loss of his hands and when he manages to get them magically resown, learns the hard way not to piss off the locals whose knowledge of magic far surpasses his own. Alice meanwhile is dealing with a different type of loss as she grapples with her hesitation when it came to confronting the Beast. Alice, while hardly the most interesting character of the bunch, has the potential for one of the more riveting storylines because she is so clearly the most powerful magician of the series, despite the show focusing its attention on Quentin. As Quentin comes to realize this, in one of the more understated moments of the episode, Alice starts to embrace her true potential.
Quentin as a character can be a difficult one to love but only because the show and Jason Ralph refuse to shy away from the grating side of his personality, the part that assumes he’s destined to be the “chosen one” and has to come to the harsh, reality check that sometimes we aren’t the chosen ones of our story, that sometimes our roles are to bolster those around us or to offer a listening ear or compassionate heart. His slow realization that Alice is likely the hero of their story (or certainly the powerful entity to best fight the Beast) and that Eliot is the true High King of Filory, a fantastical land he’s dreamed about since he was a child, are some remarkable character beats and ones that do a lot in terms of endearing viewers to the character. On the whole Quentin is a character whose best used as a counter to other, more polarizing personalities such as Margo and Eliot.
Hale Appleman as Eliot-now High King of Filory- spent much of season one being the MVP, managing to make the smallest of lines sing with wonderfully, off beat comic timing and a vulnerability he wore on his perfectly cuffed sleeves. It was only natural to take the biggest breakout character from the debut season and give him a larger, meatier role and if Appleman is going to continue to be as effortlessly strong as he was in “Night of Crowns” throughout he remainder of season two we’re in for a treat. It’s Eliot who, beyond Julia, is facing the harshest realities of their situation as he’s stuck in Filory, never to return to earth, and married to one woman for the rest of his life. His is an enforced loneliness, which he expresses in the episodes best scene to Quentin, how because time moves differently on earth Eliot could be waiting out the rest of his days in a strange land for his friends to return and never knowing if they actually will.
It’s a scene that’s then given a comic flavor as Eliot asks Quentin to squeeze his ass, but that in a nutshell is everything we’ve come to love about Eliot, a contradiction of a character who can be so guarded and so open in one go.
The show is at its very best when all of these eclectic personality types are working off of one another so hopefully they don’t stay splintered too long. The Magicians was fun science fiction in it’s first season, but it has the oppertunity and realistic chance to become something greater than just escapism in season two as darker themes are introduced, but never at the expense of the humor or the characters.