‘The Magicians’ Review: Magic’s Back With a Vengeance

THE MAGICIANS -- "Do Something Crazy" Episode 501 -- Pictured: Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice Quinn -- (Photo by: Eric Milner/SYFY)

It’s the season five premiere of Syfy’s The Magicians and everyone’s still raw from the death of Quentin Coldwater. One thing’s for sure is that he’s changed the course of many lives and has made a lasting impact on his friends.

Here are the most notable moments from this week’s all-new episode.

Magical Surges

While in season four the world was coping with the Library controlling the amount of magic available, Quentin’s sacrifice of throwing the monster into the seam and subsequently killing himself and wannabe god Everett in the process corrects the flow of magic. However, we soon discover that are irregular large bursts of power happening that make spells go haywire. Penny 23 takes Julia out on a special date at a remote location where they have a clear view of meteors being manipulated by a magician. While beautiful one of the flaming rocks goes off course and nearly hits them (due to the surges), but not to worry because Penny 23 travels them away. Julia’s been trying to figure out what to do with her magic feeling guilty that she’s gotten it back because of Q’s death. She wants to do something meaningful with it, but Penny 23 argues that nothing will ever be worth as much her best friend’s life.

At some point in time, Julia at the apartment comes across a man-pig raiding their fridge. He introduces himself as Sir Effingham and she deduces that he’s from Fillory. The Fillorian has traveled all the way to Earth with a quest of apocalyptic proportions and he’s come in search of a hero. Unfortunately, the person he is searching for is Quentin Coldwater and Julia has to explain that Q’s dead. She instead offers to help but the Fillorian dismisses her simply because she is a woman. Clearly, the guy thinks that women are prone to hysteria and incapable of being heroic. She has a conversation with Penny 23 though and decides that she isn’t going to wait for porky to tell her to become the hero because in real life you don’t get chosen, you choose your quest. She’s choosing to use the magic she got back to figure out what’s causing the apocalypse and stopping it.

Professor Penny

Speaking of the traveler, Dean Fogg arrives at the apartment and while Julia at first thinks he wants to ask her to return to Brakebills, the principal is actually there for Penny 23. Another by-product of the surges is that with so much magic available again, more people are discovering their abilities and so enrollment at the graduate school has grown abundantly. The dean explains to Penny that even the rare disciplines have appeared in new students and he’s currently the only Brakebills trained traveler on Earth and therefore is the best person to teach them. He understandably freaks out as he’s never been one to care about school and what if one of the students accidentally dies? Dean Fogg though as a form that will indemnify him from that scenario and Penny reluctantly signs it. During his first-class he explains that books don’t really help, they should get some psychic wards to block out hearing other people’s thoughts, and that being a traveler is a curse. The best-case scenario is that one ends up being a taxi service for friends and the worst case is you dream about volcanos and then you wake up in one. One of his students then asks if he’s going to teach them anything useful or just scare them. Penny 23 is annoyed and answers that they should all be scared. He recommends that they get anti-traveling tattoos and to live out their lives because it would a hell of a lot longer than if they stuck around doing this crap. The professor then peaces out by vanishing from the classroom. Classy.

At some point, Dean Fogg appears back at the apartment to explain to his newest professor that the paper he signed wasn’t an indemnification form but an employment contract. What is it about Penny and contracts? The principal tricked him into signing and explains that he is forbidden from quitting. If the younger man decides to resign anyways then he’ll be sued to oblivion and that he’ll likely be unable to run away from the lawyers. After a conversation with Julia (who explains the appearance of Sir Effingham), he is inspired to return to class and show his students the good side of being a traveler. He takes them to a special location where one of them approaches him explaining that she’s been hearing a signal and doesn’t know what it is. Penny 23 attempts to help her by lower his mental wards so that she can project. The signal, however, causes the professor to be unable to control his abilities or reactivate his wards. He vanishes only to appear moments later utterly baffled at what just happened. Mysterious!

The Great Unshackling

Back in Fillory, Margo and Eliot find themselves three hundred years in the future with both Josh and Fen long since dead. They’re trying to get into Whitespire with no luck and so they’re taking a much-needed libation break. Soon however they come across some costumed locals who think they are a part of the celebrations. One of them is cosplaying as High King Fen the toeless and thinks the duo are pretending to be High King Margo and High King Eliot. It turns out that today is the Great Unshackling and there’s a party at Whitespire. The two magicians go along as this is their way into the castle. Inside they are treated to a playmaking a mockery of the children of Earth whom Ember declared as rulers of Fillory. But they also discover that a mysterious group called the Takers rose up and attacked the land with Josh and Fen doing nothing. The Fillorians were saved by a humble wizard who came from the darkness and eventually the people made him their king and he was thus known as the Dark King. The play ends with a depiction of Fen being hung and Josh’s head being decapitated, upsetting Margo.

She runs off with Eliot chasing after her. Alone in the hallway, El tells her that she’s got to know that things didn’t end well for their friends. Margo, though, isn’t ready to give up and tells him that they’re going to endgame this crap (he hilariously wonders out loud when she had time to see Avengers: Endgame). She then tells him that at the center of Fillory is a clockwork heart built by dwarves (they taught Jane Chatwin how to do time magic) and during her reign, she started a project to find it. Her plan is to dial back to the clock three hundred years before all this happened. Margo leads the way to a different corridor and blasts one of the walls. As the duo walks inside they see a deep chasm that appears to lead to the center of the world. The best friends slide their way down and meet the dwarf who seems to just want a ham sandwich. The clockwork tinker sadly explains though that he can’t wind the chronometer back because it would destroy Fillory. We also learn that the magic surge is the reason why time is out of sync between there and Earth. Annoyed, Margo explains that they need to go back because their friends are dead and the world is screwed. But unfortunately, the dwarf is unable to help them and offers some cave mushrooms instead.

Back upstairs, Eliot tries to get her to look at the bright side that they can now hole up in a villa by the Grand Canal and sip Bellinis until they pass out. Margo isn’t having any of that though and tells him that they can’t leave Fillory. More so she can’t understand why he’s isn’t as upset as she is and thinks he’s in a classic case of denial. After all, a monster body-snatched him for months and then one of his closest friends died. El clearly doesn’t want to talk about it though and Margo thought that at least with her he would be real about his feelings. She then tells him that if he’s going to be this stupid she needs some time alone to calm down. Going off to a different part of the castle, she tries to manage her emotions when a Fillorian guard appears, notices her marks of banishment and promptly knocks her out. She wakes up inside the dungeons. Unexpectedly though, Josh’s ghost appears inside the jail going through the loop before his execution. Ghost Josh says he hopes where ever Margo was that she was safe but also wishes that she was there with him so that he didn’t have to die alone.

Kady Fixes an Arm

As the leader of the Hedge Witches, Kady has become the go-to person for problem-solving in their community. A man shows up at the apartment one day explaining that his friend tried to remove his Reed’s Mark with magic and resulted in his arm being blown off instead. She is easily able to reattach the limb with the minor side effect of vomit, but hey at least she fixed it. Kady tells Pete that she thought things would get better with magic back but the Library hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain of removing all the marks. He counters that with the organization’s current meltdown, helping the hedges isn’t high on their priority list. She is done waiting however and proposes that they figure out a way to fix this themselves. Pete says that if she’s serious he’s heard of a guy that might be able to help. And that guy is Gavin the douchebag traveler who is now an ex-librarian! The man explains to the duo that now that his former place of employment is falling apart, his contract is void. He tells them that a specific book called, “The Order of the Library of Neitherlands Medical Manual” would probably have what they need but it’s in a former book depository that no one’s hit yet. The catch is that he can’t get it for them because it’s got some formidable defenses that even he can’t maneuver.

When the two hedge witches arrive at the location provided by Gavin, a building appears to be missing. Pete asks a local food cart vendor if there had ever been anything there before and gets a big no. Kady though thinks that the entire structure had been removed somehow because she still sees residue of magical wards.

Alice Takes a Freelance Job

Meanwhile, Alice has been inconsolable from Q’s death and is currently holed up in a room at her mom’s house. The Library is still sending her letters trying to get her to help them but she’s refused numerous times. Mrs. Quinn tries to get her daughter to help her choose which orchid she should use for a flower competition but the younger magician is more annoyed that this constitutes as an emergency. Julia appears though and asks her about performing a séance to contact Q. Alice cautions against it though because talking to the dead is wild magic and way too dangerous. The former goddess is at a loss though because she doesn’t know what to do the person who would know is her best friend. The ex-niffin adds that she misses him every day too and honestly, doesn’t know how to move on. Although they have to right? Julia then takes a book from her bag and hands it over to the other woman. We see that it’s Q’s copy of “The World In The Walls” and she says that it has his notes in the margin. It is a tender moment for the two as they might not be able to talk to Quentin, but they can read it and picture what he was thinking. Alice is incredibly grateful as she hugs the book to herself trying not to cry.

As she reads Q’s book, an idea begins to form and she decides to take up one of the Library’s requests. We later see Phyllis at Alice’s house and the librarian asks why the other woman changed her mind. The phosphoromancer answers that she needed to get out of the house and this inquiry seemed the least annoying of the bunch. The two head back to the Neitherlands where Phyllis tells her they’ve lost most of their branches and can’t even get in touch with their people in the Underworld. They make their way to Zelda’s office and whom we find out is currently MIA. Alice’s job though is to unlock a library branch index book (it shows the location of every book and how to access it) cast by another phosphoromancer who is currently dead. She then informs Phyllis that she’s going to need a drink and so the other woman prepares some for them both. As the librarian babbles on about the great tradition of masturbation in their organization, she decides it’s time for a bathroom break. Alice seizes the opportunity to quickly remove the magical wards on the book easily (instead of taking her time as she did earlier) and goes off to locate a specific tome that was currently hidden in the stacks.

Back at her mom’s house, she smokes a cigarette and Mrs. Quinn partakes. The elder magician tells her daughter that after her father died she was a mess and didn’t know how to be alone. She actually provides some wise advice that no one can tell her how to grieve and if she needs to do something crazy to get through this, she should just do it. Later on, Alice heads down to the basement where we discover a few things. Earlier Dean Fogg had commented that someone had stolen living clay from the school and now we know who had done it. She had fashioned the clay into a makeshift body and the book she had taken from the Library was Quentin’s book.

Final Thoughts

  • Does the apocalyptic quest have anything to do with what Margo and Eliot try to accomplish in the future? Do they somehow manage to turn back time?
  • How does the Dark King gain immortality?
  • Heck yea Julia’s going to take this quest because she doesn’t need anyone’s permission.

About Nicole C

Nicole is the Features Editor for The Workprint. She may or may not be addicted to coffee, audiobooks, and sci-fi.

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