The Magicians: Ramifications

“Do you know what magic is? Energy capable of making this shithole world one fractional speck less unbearable because we shits try so fucking hard, and that - that is not weakness. Believe me. You don't like this world? Good, you see its faults. It gives you focus and solitude to actually fix it.”

Throughout the season, the show, our character’s lives, our magicians have made some pretty terrible decisions. They’ve acted cowardly, hastily, selfishly, and have caused some pretty harmful chaos as a result. This episode asks, where do you go from here? Are you doomed to be a coward, a screw-up, a monster if you’ve been acting that way for too long? The Magicians is a pretty hopeful show (despite all the death and doom and violence) so the answer is a resounding no.

We start the episode with Alice’s de-niffining. Now that Quentin’s got all the elements (Alice’s shade and niffin body) he can put her back together. With Mayakovsky’s reluctant help, Quentin and Julia manage to complete the ritual. There’s only one problem: Alice isn’t happy to be back. She feels trapped and crippled and completely lost. Quentin wants the old Alice back and he thinks if anyone can figure out how to manage that it would be Alice. But Alice might not want that herself. She’s no longer an all-powerful niffin, she’s no longer shy, selfless Alice. So who is she?

Shadeless Julia’s struggling with a similar issue, but she actually wants to become the old Julia. She spends the episode using Kady as a guide to acting like herself, but she feels like she’s losing whatever hold she has on who she is the longer she goes without her shade. Reynard is trying to turn her into a monster. He tells Senator Gaines that he left a little black spot on her soul and she’s been devolving ever since. So Gaines, Kady, Quentin, and Shadeless Julia herself try everything they can to stave off the monster. Quentin and Kady act as her moral compass, Gaines picks Kady to kill him and store his energy instead of Julia, all so she can hold onto whatever humanity she has left.

And Julia and Kady’s plan works, they have Reynard. Then the actual Our Lady Underground shows up and gives Julia a choice: she can kill Reynard and act as the monster he tried to turn her into or she can let him go and show him mercy. Julia chooses the latter option. And then OLU says something really important; she tells Reynard she’s disappointed in what he’s done. She’s not disappointed in him, who he is, but in the choices he’s made.

That’s important because it allows for growth. As we’ve seen so far, changing who you are is really difficult if not impossible. We see this in Alice; she’s at a point now where she no longer has an identity and she has to figure out what she’ll become. We’ve seen this in Julia as she desperately tries to return to who she was. But changing your behavior, while still difficult, is more achievable. Quentin, who is perpetually anxious and cowardly, spends this episode sticking up for those he loves; demanding that Mayakovsky and Umber take responsibility for their past mistakes and help Alice and Fillory now. Margo, who’s been making hasty, harmful decisions all season, works to fix her mistakes by confronting the fairies even if it means putting herself at risk. And Julia, who’s made selfish decisions both with her shade and without, decides to show Reynard mercy. Because, as OLU says, she’s a survivor, not a monster, and she gets to decide what choices she makes, not Reynard. She chooses to act mercifully, selflessly. And she will choose how she acts from here.

But, as we see with Eliot, we sometimes fall into less altruistic choices. Quentin and Eliot spend much of the episode trying to save Fillory. Apparently Ember and Umber only created Fillory for their entertainment and Eliot’s reign as king has been disappointing in that department, so Ember will probably destroy Fillory at any moment. Eliot comes up with a way out of this jam; they’ll find a way to stay in Fillory forever and kill or dispose of Ember. But Quentin points out that this is the same as The Beast’s plan. So the question becomes, are certain actions inherently good or bad? If Eliot’s got more honorable intentions (wanting to protect the wellspring and everyone he cares about) but makes the same devious choices as The Beast, does that make it wrong? Quentin’s got no other plan in mind so we’re likely to find out in the finale.

Bits and Pieces

-- Penny and Sylvia (the mobsters’ daughter) sneak into the poison room to help take down Reynard. Turns out the poison room is full of actual poison. Sylvia dies and Penny’s left seriously ill. Penny really can’t catch a break.

-- Kady is furious with Shadeless Julia for choosing not to kill Reynard. As much as I’m proud of Julia for showing Reynard mercy and symbolically overcoming him and what he’s been trying to do to her, I can see where Kady’s coming from. She’s given up a lot to take down Reynard, devoted so much time and effort, and now Penny’s horribly ill for seemingly nothing. That said, I do really like their friendship and want to see them work it out.

-- Julia’s got her shade back. She so deserves it.

-- Josh becomes High King of Fillory this episode. He spends the whole time getting high. He makes a horrible king but would probably be a ton of fun to hang out with.

-- Fillory was born out of opposites. Ember’s all about chaos and Umber’s all about order (as evidence by his collection of Law & Order DVDs). Next, Ember plans to make Cuba. Not the country.

Quentin: “Is that?”
Umber: “A screenplay for the failed 1983 feature film adaptation.”
Eliot: “There was a Fillory movie?”
Quentin: “No, the studio wouldn't pay for the talking bears so the director, he quit in protest.” I wonder if this the writers’ way of getting back at their studio for refusing to pay for any talking bears.

Tick: “On to business, then. Half the court are still rats. The talking beavers are in revolt. They're demanding dental coverage.”
Benedict: “And the Measly Mountains, they've disappeared. Completely just—”
Tick: “...Your High Kingliness, perhaps this is all too much for you.”
Josh: “There was a great king on Earth who had a philosophy: ‘Hakuna matata.’ Roughly translated, it means, ‘no worries.’ That's my philosophy too. Who gives a shit about a few Measly Mountains? ... Erase them. Bring in the talking rats to translate for the rat people, and we are giving all those beavers braces because they deserve it. Say it, Tick.”
Tick: “Hakuna matata.”

Julia: “I got my shade back. And then I lost it again. For good. But, I also discovered I don't have to be like the Beast. With the right help, I can do good. I just have a chip missing.”
Kady: “What do you want from me, Julia?”
Julia: “To be the missing chip. Tell me when to tap on the brakes.”
Kady: “Tap?”
Julia: “Slam on them. I trust you. I need you.”
Kady: “Shit. Okay, we can try it. The thing is, I think I kind of need you too right now.”

Eliot: “You faked your own death, and you moved to Vancouver?”
Umber: “Well, if I had to leave Fillory, Canada was the obvious second choice.” Apparently The Magicians is mostly filmed in Canada. This is a nice shout-out.

Umber, taking a poll for his new world, Cuba: “And how do you feel about turtles?”
Eliot: “Indifferent, I guess.”
Quentin: “Not a fan.”
Umber: “Would you sleep easier knowing that your entire world rested on the back of one or several?”

Four out of four erased Measly Mountains.

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