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The Magicians: The Losses of Magic

Asteroth: “I am Asteroth.”
Julia Wicker: “Astaroth, Demon of the Seventh Circle, Great Duke of The Inferno...”
Asteroth: “Oh, no, I'm Asteroth with an E. Astaroth with an A is my cousin. You can totally stand. The whole kneeling thing's weird.”

This episode quite literally considers “the losses of magic”, just as its title describes. How their lives changed, how their worlds changed, how their very identities changed. And what to do with that. If there’s anything they can do.

Its two central stories involve Alice and the lamprey and Margo and the pirates. Alice runs home as she hides from the lamprey. This leads to a family drama plus ex-boyfriend drama plus body-snatchers (I think, I’ve never actually watched that movie). It all culminates in Alice having to admit what she did to the lamprey and why she really left Quentin and Brakebills.

So apparently our Alice is somewhat of a psychopath. Or at least her niffin side is (was?). In an effectively emotional confession she admits that she killed the lamprey’s family because they made pretty lights when they died. And in an effectively vulnerable conversation she admits to Quentin that she pushed him away because she’s not the girl she used to be, that niffin self is part of her, and she isn’t sure what to do with that or what she wants. Being with Quentin, who still sees her as she was, made that harder. It all works well because it’s real. I’m sure many struggle to reconcile the version of themselves or others who made sucky decisions with the version they were before or want to be. And with the terror, hopelessness, and confusion that comes with that. Alice effectively lost herself to magic and now she’s got no map or guide to find her way back.

Margo struggles with a tough decision (a rare struggle on this show) when Eliot’s ship, The Muntjac, is attacked by pirates. She manages to successfully negotiate with The Pirate King until The Pirate King demands The Muntjac submits to sleep with the pirates’ sentient ship. This means Margo either needs to order The Muntjac to submit to rape or the pirates will kill everyone. So she decides to ask The Muntjac what it wants to do.

It’s a sweet conversation (one-sided as it is). In it you can see how much her worldview has changed since becoming royalty. How she lost a lot of innocence. She used to think pirates were fun, now she sees that they’re dirty. And she keeps having to make these impossible decisions. But, as the Fairy Queen tells Margo, actions like this one show how much she’s grown as a queen. Instead of making hasty decisions, giving petulant orders, she stops and talks to the ship. She’s vulnerable and honest with it. Later she sacrifices her own eye to cut off one of the Fairy Queen’s ways of spying on them. She’s grown stronger and smarter. She’s standing her ground. In both cases, Margo and Alice, it’s great to see this serious character development.

Finally, there are some literal losses this episode. Alice loses her dad to the lamprey. Which is a little sad for Alice, though we as an audience maybe haven’t spent enough time with him to feel that same sadness. We also kinda maybe lose Penny.

Kady and Julia summon a demon using the battery to save Penny from his Cancer Plus. For a while it’s nice to see the two of them working together and to see Kady and Penny have a sad, small moment where Penny thanks her for helping him. And then the demon performs the ritual and it doesn’t go well. Penny’s body dies but Astral Penny is still there. So we should soon find out how everyone, Penny included, deals with this loss.

Bits and Pieces

-- Thank God that cat ran before anything happened to it. All cats should run as far as they can from this show. Dogs too. And bunnies. This show’s almost as psychotic as Niffin Alice.

-- Eliot and his “family” escape from the pirates using the key.

-- We get a nice reminder that Quentin’s dad is still out there and still has cancer.

-- It’s nice to know that even when fighting over a raping trickster god Julia’s still up for helping Kady with demon-summoning rituals. That’s the kind of friend you want.

-- A possessed homeless woman tells Julia she’s not moving fast enough and they’re going to have to push her. That’s not creepy at all.

-- I liked the little references to life without magic for non-main-characters. Alice’s parents are losing their house because they used a now worn-out enchantment to evade their taxes and they don’t know where they belong in a world without magic. The pirates ask for a bunch more money from Margo because times have been tough since magic disappeared. It makes the loss seem bigger and the show’s world(s) seem larger.

Stephanie: “Carol? You remember my daughter, Alice. She used to be dead. Now she isn't. And it's only just now that she's decided to visit us. And she brought a cat.” Alice’s mom really knows how to give an introduction.

Margo: “What is the problem here? I asked for two simple things. Pull up the fields, plant some goddamn mushrooms.”
Tick: “If you will allow me to mansplain, Your Highness, the farmers are hesitant because you're asking them to throw out food and replace it with, uh...”
Margo: “Inedible mushrooms, I got it. And mansplaining is a bad thing, Tick.”
Tick: “But I'm a man. Explaining. Is that not mansplaining? Perhaps you could woman-splain it to me.”

Margo: “Fine by me. I'm here to motherfuckin' parlay, Ms. King.”
Pirate King: “Maybe you and I could take a private cabin and parlay a thing or two on our own?”
Margo: “Yeah, I'm hot. You're extremely hot yourself. But you just took over my goddamn boat. Which tells me you're not one to pay attention to a safe word.”
Pirate King: “What's a safe word?”
Margo: “Exactly.”

Three out of four horny sentient ships.


  1. Really liked how Margo refused to simply sacrifice the Muntjac that way. And what she did with her own eye. There's more to Margo than it seems.

    The hunt for the lamprey was pretty funny, mostly because everyone looks ridiculous in saran wrap. Too bad it ended badly. And I was creeped by the way Alice watched the pretty lights.

  2. I actually saw parts of this episode during commercial breaks in something else I was watching and it's interesting how seeing a few scenes out of context can totally distort your impression of it. I remember thinking to myself (watching the scenes with Alice & co wrapped in cellophane) that they seemed to have turned Lev Grossman's novels into a comedy. Which isn't how the episode feels in totality, despite a few funny scenes.

    I actually felt sorry for the Lamprey when I heard what niffen Alice had done. So I guess Alice is the torture expert and Katy is the warrior among Elliot's friends.


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