The Magicians: Have You Brought Me Little Cakes

“Ever since I first read Fillory and Further I’ve been waiting for some powerful being to come down and say ‘Quentin Coldwater, you are the one’. Every book, every movie, it’s about one special guy. Chosen. You know in real life for every one guy there are a billion people who aren’t. None of us are the one.”

This episode is set-up like a story-book. Quentin is entering his favorite fantasy world for the first time and, naturally, he decides to write about it.

This structure works for the episode in a lot of ways. It allows the show to dispense information quickly and makes the boring exposition much more interesting. In just a few lines we learn about Quentin and Julia’s plan for getting to Fillory (a very convoluted plan which involves traveling to 1940s London, following Jane into a phone booth-portal to Fillory, and then somehow finding a way to present-day Fillory), about Fillory’s procedures on royalty (only aliens can become royal—not centaurs), and we’re reminded that all the characters hate each other and why (they kinda all slept together). This allows the show to dump a lot of information on their viewers without heavily interrupting the story. In an episode where they introduce an entirely new world, that is pretty useful.

The structure also puts more focus on Quentin’s obsession with stories and the importance of his decision to drop them (or, at least rein in his obsession). Quentin has spent his whole life lost in the Fillory books, wishing his real life could be more like the fantasy stories. Then, when he learns magic is real, it seems that his wish came true. But magic isn’t what he thought it would be; it’s darker and more painful and even tedious—it’s more like life. Quentin continues to cling to his fantasies throughout the season and throughout this episode until finally, just before he tells Alice to take his place as the “chosen one”, he shuts the book he was writing for good. In a typical fantasy novel his big moment would have been when he bravely tells Ember he’ll kill the beast, but in the show his big moment is actually when he tells Alice to. Because she’s the right person for the job, not him. And Quentin is ready to be an adult and admit he is not center of this story (even though, arguably, he is).

In keeping with Quentin’s realization that his real life is not and will not match up with the stories in his fantasy books, Quentin and friends do not nobly kill the beast and save the world in the end. The events and motivations of other characters cause his plan to fail. A very traumatized Julia is forced to remember that she was brutally raped by a trickster God just before they set out on their quest. In a moment of desperation she decides to use The Beast to kill Reynard, leaving Quentin and friends in peril. Because in real life you don’t always get to kill the big bad in the end.

Bits and Pieces

— Oh, and the beast turned out to be Martin Chatwin. There are some sticky implications to making the victim of childhood molestation the big bad and having the victim of rape betray the rest of the main characters in one episode. Although it is easy to see how these characters came to their choices, it still isn’t a great look for the show.

— Eliot and Margo have finally have a real conversation. After Eliot is crowned High King of Fillory, he tells Margo that he will make the sacrifices that go along with his title in order to have the bigger purpose and sense of meaning in his life that may come from becoming king. Their talk really showed how deeply the two love and care for each other.

— It was great to see an admittedly surprised Quentin take his not being crowned High King in stride. Early season one Quentin may not have been able to do that.

— “Chapter 10: Helpless” was the only chapter that wasn’t read aloud by Quentin, probably to avoid undercutting the tension and the pain Julia was feeling in that scene.

— Gods give off some of their power through God semen—just a nice reminder.

Julia: “How are the Witch and the Fool supposed to see her?”
Julia and Quentin: “Oh.”
Quentin: “Which one do you think I am?”

“Chapter 2: By All Means, Hinge Your Entire Quest On a Traumatized Boy”

“Chapter 7: Weddings Are So Boring, Penny Would Rather Astrally Project Into a Dungeon”

Quentin: “The truth is the castle was constructed to be invisible primarily for budgetary reasons. The royals had spent their entire seasonal allowance and then realized they still had a castle to build. So they figured builders-grade material is just fine if you can’t see it.”

Margo: “Come on, hun. Pretend it’s prom night and you just want to shut him up.”

Three and a half out of four invisible castles on a budget.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on finishing season one, and so expeditiously!

What happened to Julia was a shocker. Wow. I hadn't really thought about the implications of Julia and Martin doing such things, but you're right.

For me, the best thing about this episode was Quentin stepping back and letting Alice take charge, because it absolutely *was* the right thing to do.

God semen. Gag.

Tim said...

Great reviews for the whole series, Ariel. Thanks.

The Magicians is one of my favourite shows.

Looking forward to coverage of the subsequent seasons.