Previously on The Magicians, Season 3 Review
When we left The Magicians in Season 3, they’d just completed the Quest of the 7 Keys and saved magic by traveling to the Castle at the End of the World and reigniting its source. At the last moment, a Librarian, Irene McAllister, and surprise conspirator Dean Fogg swooped in and stole the last of Julia’s goddess powers, harnessed magic, wiped their memories, and plunked them all back in the real world with fake identities and boring lives. Except, of course, for one little thing: the “Do you want to play with me?” monster trapped in the castle’s prison was a body hopper, and when Eliot shot it to save Quentin from eternal imprisonment as its jailer, the demon possessed Eliot. He’d already kidnapped Quentin, or “Brian,” by the finale’s end, and the rest have no idea he’s coming for them. Not everyone made it back to their worlds, however. The Library has Alice and “our” Penny, while Timeline 23’s Penny and Marina are in our timeline and Fen is temporary King of Fillory.
In a show about magicians, the plot has spent a considerable amount of time on the lack of said magic, a drag on an otherwise excellent Season 3; as fun as the Quest was, we all want to see the crew finger tutting and wizard vogueing. So after driving hard towards reclaiming magic from the gods over the course of thirteen episodes, grumbling abounded when, within seconds, The Order hijacked it, this time with the added complication of nobody save the conspirators knowing. Fortunately The Magicians managed to weave just the right amount into its Season 4 premiere, taking advantage of the fact that magic is back, albeit highly regulated. We can only hope it doesn’t stay regulated too far into the 13 Season 4 episodes.
Quentin, Kady, Margo, Penny, and Josh are all in suitable, successful jobs but don’t look like themselves thanks to complex magic-obscuring spells that violently repel anyone trying to see their true identity. Despite The Order’s efforts, however, magic keeps telling on itself. Margo/Janet (shoutout to book readers!) can’t focus on editing at Hipbone fashion mag because her fairy eye acts up and has to start wearing an eye patch. Undercover cop Kady inadvertently runs across a hedge witch in her sting operations, and, after he runs into traffic to get away, she uses his protective amulet to fend off her glamour’s protection spell which blows up her computer every time she tries to look into it further. Her research produces an obscure comic by the hilarious pen name “James Tiberius R. Martin,” no doubt a guilt-ridden Dean Fogg, which outlines her fake life and the others’ with alarming accuracy.
Thanks to the comic, Kady gathers up Margo first with similar slapstick results when even talking around the situation blows fuses left and right. Those two collect Penny, a famous yogi/DJ “Hansel,” (Zoolander, anyone?) and Josh, an Uber chauffeur, noting with alarm that the Boring World counterparts for Quentin, Eliot, and Julia were officially reported missing. Their gathering attracts Marina, who pulls them into her safe house through a mirror, wards the place, and attempts to tut her way through their obscuring spells with her considerable powers. Before they all lose consciousness, there’s a hint she may have briefly seen their true faces. But while they’re out, a kind of dead-man’s-switch “emanation” (he does so love that word) of Ember appears to Margo, directing her as king to make things right. When she exasperatedly tells him not only does she not know who Margo or what Fillory is, but she’s in New York City, he zaps her without further ado to Fillory’s forest and leaves her screaming.
Even with his role in the conspiracy, Dean Fogg and the rest of Brakebills is subject to The Order’s magic restrictions, to the point of deciding whether to keep or heal his own migraine and limiting new student testing to small groups. Yet the class size benefits his surreptitious canvassing for Julia, whose plain world counterpart still holds enough magic to be drawn through the wards to find Todd smoking in Eliot’s place and an invitation to test. She gets every question wrong, but her spell shatters the lens on his looking glass, a fact he hides from Professor Lipson. Through the shattered glass at his side, we can clearly see Julia. When she questions her inability to practice magic, Fogg alludes to guilt over her original rejection from Brakebills. To keep NotJulia under his wing, he cites professional instinct to The Librarian, who now insists on approving all new students in a benevolent dictator kind of way-she “trusts his instincts” but requires explanations nonetheless. To The Librarian’s re-re-explanation of The Order’s position on admitting only “safe” magic and taking their sweet, sweet time hunting down the monster, Fogg bitterly notes that whenever the monster finally catches up to his former students, at least their blood will be on her hands. Maybe I’m crazy, but The Librarian doesn’t seem 100% happy with the new situation, considering her typically flawless 50s curls are unusually frizzy, but I wouldn’t look for her sympathy any time soon considering how she let her daughter die… or be caught in Limbo for all eternity.
Fogg then asks after Alice, who’s cooling her jets in the Library’s solitary confinement. The Librarian reports that she is sullen and depressed, but she later talks Alice into eating with a pile of bacon, thanks to having read Alice’s life book back to Season 2, and rewards her with Kafka’s Metamorphosis to pass the time. Alice’s next door cell mate, a middle-aged black man, even notes how depressed her breathing sounds, recounting his own run in with the Library… He was perfecting this spell by Diogenes to find all the good people in the world, see? Kids, mostly, and he wanted to reward them with a little something. But to perfect the spell, he and some elf friends broke into the Poison Room, and they died, and… *record scratch* It doesn’t take a wizard prodigy to realize her cellmate is Saint Nick, or how fortunate it is that he, of all people, can assure post-Niffin Alice that she is good, knowledge that might have kept her from being tempted by the Library in the first place. The Magicians’ reality twists on fairy tales remain unequaled. The casual line he drops about elf sexual proclivities not being as freaky as they say is an added bonus to the fact that Santa is apparently neither old nor white, and is just as disaffected as the rest of the world, going so far as report having stripped the magic-dampening paint from his cell walls and attempted suicide.
That gets Alice’s attention, because it’s clear the Library is doing nothing to help her outside friends and she has to escape. So, she cuts her wrists, knowing the Librarian will find her in time, and lands in the infirmary in healing cuffs. While there, she scrabbles across the floor to capture a roach and pops it in her mouth before the Librarian comes in to lay out her plea: Alice could be a Master magician, one of the greatest ever, if she accepts The Order’s billion year demand on her life. It’s a compelling argument, the tone of which is constantly undercut by Alice’s attempts to hide A LIVING ROACH IN HER MOUTH, which she carts back to her room. A roach… and Metamorphosis? Seems like transfigurative magic, if Alice can peel off enough paint, is in order so she can perhaps enlist our Penny, also stuck in the Library, for help.
Which leads us to Eliot/the Monster who’s apparently been carting Quentin/Brian around town, killing people that offend him, to look for the rest. By this point, Quentin’s business suit is covered in blood spatter and he’s numb to the inevitable violence when NotEliot doesn’t appreciate the cheerful ice cream truck guy calling sprinkles “jimmies.” Splashed with fresh arterial spray, NotEliot realizes in careless monotone, “Oh, jimmies are sprinkles.” Hey, Eliot, how do you feel about the soda/pop debate? Settled on a park bench, NotEliot does his best to answer Quentin questions about his goal considering “Brian’s” glamour doesn’t even like it when he says his name too much. Suffice it to say, he’s going to kill the whole lot of their magician friends, and it’s better for Brian if he doesn’t know who they are anyway, since he likes him so much, offering Q the thoroughly-licked ice cream. Thanks to their years together in “A Life in The Day” and their general acting greatness, Quentin and Eliot remain the show’s second best pairing after Eliot and Margo, which the writers well know, so it seems like pure fan service that these two are fated to be together for several more episodes at least, and I am entirely here for it.
Check back in with us in early March to discuss the first half of The Magicians Season 4!
The Magician S4E1 Review Score
"Season 4 Premiere"
Starring: Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Rick Worthy, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran, Trevor Einhorn, Mageina Tovah, Dominic Burgess, Jackie Blackmore, Agam Darshi