The Magicians: The Writing Room

“Life ain't fair. Why in the holy fuck should death be any different? Thinking you could change anything—it’s such an act of monumental ego.”

For a while, this episode seems like a fun time for everyone. Julia gets to try for redemption by helping someone out. Quentin and friends go on a tour of Plover’s house (author of the Fillory books) and Quentin spends the entire time fanboying. Everything is sweet and warmhearted, until it all becomes painful and scarring. So, it’s a typical episode of The Magicians.

Julia is all about amends this episode. She writes a nice letter to Quentin and joins Richard in helping a girl named Kira, who’s become trapped in her own mind. For extra redemption points Julia even uses the same spell she used on Quentin to reach Kira. The two have a nice conversation over ice cream. For a while, it seems like things are looking up for Julia, but of course that can’t last, so Kira asks Julia to kill her. Julia’s reluctant to, but Richard tells her she has to do the hard stuff to gain her redemption. So she fulfills Kira’s wish.

Redemption arcs are common in TV shows. Sometimes they can seem really cheap. As long as a character’s likable enough he can do anything so long as he does the bare minimum to make up for his sins. But I like that The Magicians takes it seriously. Julia doesn’t just happen upon her redemption, but takes real action to obtain it. Through her amends letter to Quentin, we see that she’s really been reflecting on her actions. She admits to Quentin that she messed up, and she doesn’t pretend like he had no part in it. She’s honest about wanting to forgive him even if she can’t do that yet. And she’s ready to make better, harder decisions. Even if it’s immensely painful for her. It’s a strong start.

Over at Brakebills, Quentin and his friends realize they need to track down a button that can take them to Fillory so they search Plover’s house. We get to learn more about the history of the books and Quentin’s connection to them. And then things take a dark turn when they break in for a search at night. Through a guided ghost tour, the group learns that Plover and his sister were horrible to the kids they raised. Plover molested Martin, which is what drove Martin to try to find a way to get to Fillory whenever he wanted. Plover’s sister drugged, abused, and killed both of the smaller kids so they couldn’t bother Plover or tell anyone what he was doing.

So Quentin learns that the man who wrote the books that got him through periods of depression, that helped heal his broken brain, was an abusive child molester. And he’s got to figure out how to reconcile the love he had for him and his works with his horrible actions. It’s a predicament we’ve probably all struggled with when we find out someone who’s created such meaningful things to us has also been cruel to others and made unethical choices. Quentin decides he’s been wrong for worshiping him all this time, that he must be The Beast, and that he’s ready to kill him. But Julia’s part in the story offers another way out for these lost figures: redemption. And, if they take it nearly as seriously as Julia does, that redemption may be earned.

Bits and Pieces:

— I really enjoyed Julia’s amends letter. It really highlighted how much Quentin meant to her. I also enjoyed finding out that Julia’s best day was reading Fillory books with Quentin. Despite the horrible things they’ve done to each other, I really want to see them friends again.

— Alice suggests Quentin use a locator spell to find the missing Fillory book. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? It sounds like magic 101 to me.

— Seeing the talking dog, pig, and ferret almost makes up for what the writers had Mike do to the rabbit. Almost.

— Eliot spends the whole episode drinking his feelings away. He even enchants a glass to never empty. It’s all very heart-breaking.

Kira: “The world never did help a smart girl. Why would it? We scare the shit out of the world. If the world is after you take it as a compliment.”

Quentin: “My brain breaks sometimes. And my dad brought me the books, and I read them, and I felt enough like me to at least try to get back in the game, you know?”
Alice: “Do you still feel like that? Broken brain?”
Quentin: “I feel like I don't feel that it really fixes. It just works better now in its own screwed up way.”

Quentin, regarding Plover’s house: “This house is haunted as balls, is what it is.”

Julia on redemption: “No, I did not sign up for this.”
Richard: “Then what? Pleasantries?”
Julia: “No, how about not killing anyone?”
Richard: “What do you think redemption looks like, Julia? Being nice? Donating shoes to Africa? You think that really burns the tumors off your soul?”
Julia: “What if she's wrong? You know, what if a Magician finds a cure tomorrow? What if there really is a hell and this takes me there?”
Richard: “You're already in hell. So is she.”
Julia: “What am I supposed to do?”
Richard: “Whichever's hardest.”

Four out of four talking ferrets.

2 comments:

J.D. Balthazar said...

It's kind of strange, you get some distance from this show and you can easily forget two things; one how good it is, and two how bleeping dark it can be. This really is Harry Potter cross with the Chronicles of Narnia if it were both about adults dealing with major trauma. This episode in particular drove home how expectations, especially Quentin's, are never met.

I believe there was a moment near the beginning of the series that mentioned why the lost book of Fillory was both missing, and difficult to find. But honestly I cannot remember exactly.

Ariel Williams said...

I totally agree J.D. Balthazar! You go into the show expecting some fun, light adventures in pretty, fantastical worlds and come out feeling deeply depressed. Which is also what happens to Quentin, so it works.

Also, I might've missed something about the reason the book was so hard to find, but at the very least you'd think Quentin would've tried a locator spell by now. But I'll chalk it up to Quentin's incompetence.