Previously on The Magicians, the Season 4 Premiere
At the halfway point of Season 4, The Magicians continues to impress by presenting ever-rotating character pairings we never knew we wanted, allowing the actors to reveal new aspects of their character’s personalities and backstories. Nearly entirely off the rails from the book series, this season’s plot surprises and inspires, reminding viewers that each character is the hero of their own storyline, and that life and love rarely conform to expectations, allowing old friendships to at last settle down and new partnerships and romances to sprout. While the players alternately reassemble and scatter, the primary quests set forth in Episode 1 continue to build, leaving the final half to resolve saving Eliot, reigniting Julia’s goddess powers, reveal Margo’s destiny in Fillory, and ignite the rebellion against the Library’s grip on magic. Let’s review the critical points, details, and players from each episode in this first half.
Episode 2: “Lost, Found, Fucked”
Marina casts the same identity-forgetfulness spell on Dean Fogg to induce him to break all of them but, unwilling to give up his protective spell for the magicians, he dictates his autobiography to Todd as they rush about paying off his debts and grudges before the clock runs out, revealing the enigmatic dean’s functional alcoholism, gambling, and philandering. Still powerless, Julia finds she’s still immortal and magically electrocutes herself over and over until she successfully overloads Dean Fogg’s battery powering their identity spells. On the downside, they can now all be found.
The monster inside Eliot seeks to reassemble mystery pieces stolen from him at the time of his incarceration and since buried inside other gods’ bodies, a quest complicated by the monster forgetting what those pieces are and by Quentin’s feelings for Eliot. After a momentary breakthrough, Quentin can’t resist asking for Eliot back, which sends the monster into a tailspin. Meanwhile, Margo returns to Fillory and claims her “birthright box” purported to reveal her destiny.
Highlights: Quentin missing Eliot, Dean Fogg’s many scandals, Todd as the audience
Lowlight: The birthright box
Overall Score: 7/10
Episode 3: “The Bad News Bear”
When Alice’s surveillance of the Library via roach fails, she busts herself and Saint Nick out by breaking the lock with a paste of their cells’ magic-deadening paint. They steal the Magicians’ books, and Alice helps Nick escape on his sleigh but is captured herself. Marina dips out from the penthouse, leaving the Eliot/Monster intent on killing the Magicians. Margo swoops in and offers to help him find Bacchus, who’s been partying so hard in Fillory that citizens are overdosing on his airborne opiates. Margo enlists Josh to roofie Bacchus with ambrosia, declaring she would kill everyone there to save Eliot, leaving Josh no choice but to betray his friend. Eliot lures the drugged god away and rips a glowing orb from his guts. The Monster tells Margo that they are kindred spirits, both bad friends and good friends, but has no intention of leaving Eliot’s body.
Marina reveals there is a 3 Dewey (magical ration coins) bounty on the Magicians, but for 5 Deweys, she could be bought. Enlisting a luck-blessed counterfeiter to copy the McAllisters’ unlimited magic Black Cards, Quentin must first obtain a single Dewey as seed magic through a magical card tournament, complicated and made dangerous by a dearth of ambient magic. In the final pull, Quentin shorts out all of the remaining magic and trounces the dealer with his pilot-episode card skills. Using the successfully counterfeited card, Kady and Penny heist the Deweys from the Library’s bank. The catch? Quentin must hold a teddy bear which absorbs all of their anti-luck, leaving the infamous sad-sack with a series of increasingly dangerous slapstick encounters. Afterward, Kady secretly hexes Marina’s payment causing Marina’s capture and claims the warded penthouse for herself. Quentin’s father dies.
Highlights: Bacchus’ affection for Josh, Quentin’s card play, Frankie (Zach Cherry) the counterfeiter
Lowlights: Kady and Penny’s horrible “comic” disguises
Overall Score: 9/10
Episode 4: Marry Fuck Kill
Suffering from guilt over killing Bacchus, Josh is doubly cursed when his lycanthropy STD begins Quickening during which the carrier must either transform, kill, or sexually transmit it. Horrified to find his other identity already caused one death by transmitting it, Josh locks himself in the dungeon. Margo attempts a dramatic but ineffective spell involving the heart of Kanye’s Komodo dragon, then, determined to save her friend, Margo sleeps with Josh, assuming her own Quickening is 30 years away.
Alice’s kidnapper is Fillory writer and pedophile Christopher Plover who offers to help her retrieve her own book from the revision room and therefore elude the Library if she will help him find a world to live quietly with his regrets. Disgusted but regretful herself, Alice agrees. They retrieve the books and use Plover’s plot-writing spell to protect her friends from the Librarians.
Packing up his father’s models, Quentin mopes that his mother thinks he breaks everything and now truly has. Darth Eliot encourages Quentin to embrace expectations, break all of the models, and become free. The Monster then claims Eliot is dead, but at last we see the real Eliot, trapped in a corner of his own mind. Having saved Bacchus’ last maenad Shoshana, Julia and Penny perform an intimate ritual to diagnose why her magic is still blocked. Shoshana can’t fix it but converts to Julia-ism.
Highlights: Margo & Josh’s surprising chemistry, Darth Eliot snacking on frozen peas
Lowlight: Plover complaining that he can’t help who he is
Overall Score: 7/10
Episode 5: “Escape from the Happy Place”
With the monster’s last host Charlton as his guide, Real Eliot’s is trapped in memories and hunted by shredding monsters. As Quentin and Julia conspire to ambush and kill the Monster, Charlton helps Eliot sort through his most regretful, humiliating memories (killing a childhood bully accidentally with magic, bullying his best friend for his sexuality, etc.) until he realizes that his greatest regret is the previously unseen finish to “Life in a Day,” AKA the mosaic episode where Quentin and Eliot live an entire life in the past to find one of the Quest’s keys. Remembering what they’d had together, Quentin asks if they should try again but Eliot blows him off. At last admitting he was afraid of taking the chance, his door appears.
After Shoshana removes the wards from the penthouse and dismisses Penny (who is captured), the goddess Iris commands Julia to save all of the gods from the Monster or die, providing a living stone from Castle Blackspire to bleed and throw onto the Monster. Once at the Neitherlands portals, Alice sends Plover to the Poison Planet (savage!) then rushes to save Quentin from the death written in his book, during their attempt on the Monster. She uses magic to accelerate the timeline and hopefully change the ending, but Quentin tells her they’re never getting back together and requires that she go wherever the World Book tells her to afterward. The group converges on the Monster with Iris watching, but Eliot emerges briefly so Quentin pushes him out of the way. Shoshana dies protecting Julia from Iris, who the Monster kills to retrieve another glowing stone. Julia covers for the group, claiming it was a trap for Iris all along and provides a sheet of hieroglyphic instructions on using the stones. Fillory, Margo opens her birthright box only to find an iguana who has been inexplicably struck mute along with all of Fillory’s Talking Animals.
Highlights: Fen’s Fillorian lamentations for Eliot, everything Eliot
Lowlights: Quentin still referring to Plover as his favorite childhood author
Overall Score: 8/10
Episode 6: “A Timeline and Place”
Penny and Marina are captured by time-magician Stoppard whose magic to save his mother is being interrupted by their presence in Timeline 40, so he zaps them all back to Timeline 23, realizing too late that magic doesn’t exist there. Penny busts them out and Marina zaps them one trip to another militarized timeline. They find that Stoppard and steal his device, learning his mother invented horomancy but is dying as a result; they try to warn her in the past, but she already knows. Penny 23 ends up face to face with Penny 40 in the Library, who tells him he belongs in Penny 40’s place so he must make hard choices to stay. Upon their final return, Penny 23 tells Stoppard he’s already spread dandelion seeds from other timelines in this one and it’s too late.
In Fillory, Atros flower pollen is to blame for the Talking Animals’ silence, but island Codswall beet juice could cure it. Josh and Fen help Margo smooth talk Lady Pike, including drinking her alpaca’s chunky milk, but Margo ultimately loses her cool and tells Lady Pike she’ll eat her alpacas if she doesn’t deal. Then she accuses Josh of trying to replace Eliot, but Josh wants to be her boyfriend, which Margo shuts down. Alice’s locator spell leads her to an unschooled magician Sheila (Camryn Manheim). Together they find a leak in the Library’s magical “pipes” and use it to cure the town’s water supply. As Alice enjoys doing right for a change, not only is Sheila kidnapped by Librarians, hedge witches blow up the local traverse point for the Librarians.
In a museum basement, Quentin and Julia research hieroglyphs to unlock the orbs’ secrets and save Eliot, but get stuck on one clue. Darth Eliot wakes a mummy to answer the question, but despite the totally worth-it hijinks ending with Julia leaving the reanimated corpse and its whiteboard with a bye! the next god they’re looking for is long dead. Quentin throws down with the Monster to protect Eliot’s body from his boredom-induced substance abuse. The Monster half-heartedly strangles Quentin, but Quentin stands firm, coming to a reluctant understanding between them with Julia witnessing how much Quentin genuinely cares for Eliot.
Highlights: Penny’s dandelion savagery, Stoppard’s mom, Margo’s threats, the Mummy, Quentin and Eliot’s standoff
Lowlights: Alpaca milk, Alice’s safe house detour
Overall Score: 9/10
Episode 7: The Side Effect
The midpoint gets meta when we pause to examine how All Characters Matter, thanks the frame of Penny 40 schooling an “intern” on the importance of every side character. While a somewhat trite way to close plot holes, the device signals Penny’s integration to the Library and the show’s break from the novels’ “classic case of white male protagonism.” The supposed intern reveals he is Penny’s superior and grants him a promotion. On the elevator to his new job, Penny bumps into an unseen friend.
Penny’s rewind shows how Alice’s escape cracks Lead Librarian Zelda’s polished exterior when she sees her daughter Harriet (still trapped in Limbo) in her office mirror, which shatters. Her first attempt to find Alice, enchanting Deweys with a tracking spell, has disastrous consequences when it interrupts the hedge witches’ personal spells and causes several deaths, which Kady witnesses while searching the magical flea market for wares to pay the penthouses’ landlord, who channels the Baba Yaga to enforce rent. Kady revives her alternate identity’s detective career to solve the mystery, enlisting Marina’s first season partner Pete, aka Lovelady. Increasingly unwound, Zelda guilts Gavin into holding the mirror realm door open with his blood but it’s a trap. “Harriet” only mirrors her words, appears in horrifying mutations, and stabs Gavin. While Pete and Kady warn the hedge witches and foment rebellion, the Library deems Zelda’s unintended side effect accepted and proposes they use it to keep order. Zelda turns to Dean Fogg and Alice.
Finally, Fen has prophetic dreams, warning her mostly of minor things but also seeing that pouring the beet juice on Margo’s birthright lizard (a sentence never before typed in history) causes it to explode. She warns Margo in time, but notices a figure running through her vision to Corian’s Land and decides to seek her out.
Highlights: Zelda & Not-Harriet’s chilling confrontation; Zelda & Gavin going rogue; Baba Yaga to Kady: “You reek of nondairy creamer and desperation.”
Lowlights: The framework. Kady claiming she doesn’t hate hedges for killing her mom when she hexed lead hedge witch Marina 3 episodes ago for killing her mom.
Overall Score: 6/10
The Magicians Season 4 First Half Score
The Magicians Season 4
Starring: Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Rick Worthy, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran, Trevor Einhorn, Mageina Tovah, Sergio Osuna, Adam DiMarco, Daniel Nemes, Charles Shaughnessy, Jolene Purdy, Madisen Beaty, Spencer Daniels, Brian Markinson, David Call, Jewel Staite, Marlee Matlin, West Duchovny