The Magicians: The Side Effect

“When you file people away as sidekicks you don’t realize their importance to the story and this story belongs to a lot more people then you think. Where to shelve a book, it’s not a little thing. You’re telling people what to value. Who to value.”

What if the sidekicks were the main protagonists? Or, what if they weren’t a sidekick to begin with? “The Side Effect” flips The Magicians point of view for a different perspective on its past events. And it’s brilliant.

We check back in on Penny 40, who’s lecturing a library newbie on book-shelving (more on that later!). He’s trying to show the newbie that people he dismisses as side-kicks can actually have a huge effect on the overall story, using Fen, Harriet, and Kady as examples.

So it turns out Fen’s been having prothetic dreams. What seemed to be a shocked face at the silent lizard at Margo’s birthright box was actually a shocked face at the scene she’d already seen in her dreams. Fen never figures out why she’s having these premonitions, but she does manage to stop Margo from unintentionally flaying her birth-right lizard alive. So that’s good. I’m still not sure what’s going on in Fillory, but I am interested to see how the green-cloaked lady in Fen’s dreams will affect the rest of story. Plus, Fen’s storyline had a ton of great lines (see quote section).

Kady and Zelda’s stories were more inter-locked. We check in with Zelda right after Alice escaped. She works with the other librarians to find a way to track down Alice while also making sure to keep her safe. Turns out, Zelda sees Alice as Harriet (I’m pretty sure I called this one, but it was also pretty obvious). Zelda’s still feeling guilty after what happened to Harriet, and she’s now seeing Harriet’s image in mirrors and hearing them shatter. She steps into a mirror to find her long-lost daughter (with the help of the traveler who smashed the mirror) and finds herself in an effectively creepy funhouse, no daughter to be found.

It’s nice to spend some time with Zelda, to see how one of our villains comes to her villainous acts: feeble attempts to protect people and magic gone wrong time and time again. To see her as human. She might not have been the one to smash the mirror Harriet was (is?) trapped in, but she’s probably done similar things under “library protocol”. She believed so strongly in the library’s doctrine and that put her daughter and the questers and countless others at risk. Now she seems to be starting to doubt the library, but it’s too late. The damage is already done. We get a real sense of this with Kady’s story.

Kady’s sick of being a sidekick. She tells Julia she needs her own path. Really, Kady’s been pissed about her sidekick role for quite some time. A big part of her struggle over the Reynard issue was with her inability to express her disappointment because the Reynard mission wasn’t really hers. She was playing the sidekick to Julia: protecting her, supporting her, knocking down doors for her, and performing some of the grudge work (killing poor Senator Gaines). What happened with Reynard wasn’t her decision because it wasn’t her mission. So now she wants her own mission, her own path.

And, thanks to a creepy rent-demanding demon, she finds it. She seems to really enjoy having her own mission. Working the system at the hedgewitch flea market, calling Pete out on his creepiness, (magically) breaking down doors, and using her former sleuth life skills to check a dead body. Her leadership role gets kicked up a notch when she figures out that the library sent out trackers disguised as deweys. And that those trackers are inadvertently killing hedgewitches. Zelda may have caught this, stopped it in time, saving hedge-witches, but she was too busy trying to find her daughter. Kady, convinced the library doesn’t care about hedgewitches (which, with the exception of maybe Zelda, is pretty true), becomes the leader of the hedgewitch revolt.

Thanks to Penny 40 shifting our perspective, we see that the side characters—Zelda, Fen, and Kady—will actually change the world of The Magicians. Zelda will change the library, Fen Fillory, and Kady all of magic.

Bits and Pieces


-- In recognizing all this, Penny 40’s world changes as well. Turns out the sleezy frat boy was actually his boss (because the ladies upstairs love a twist) and Penny’s being promoted to Secrets Taken to the Grave. I’m pretty sure that’s where librarians hear all the secrets of recently lost souls before they go to wherever they go so they can get it all off their chest and the information can be recorded for the library.

-- Penny 40 seems to see someone he recognizes there. Who? Does someone we know die soon? Hopefully not.

-- I was intrigued yet confused by the shots taken at weird angles at the start at the episode. Now I think it was to signal that this episode would take place from a different perspective, a strange angle. Which is clever.

-- Kady inadvertently plays a role in the library bombing which makes hedgewitches targets of the library. She tells the girl who lost her boyfriend to the tracker that it was the library’s doing; that girl helps set off the bomb. Obviously this isn’t totally on Kady—she did try to reason with the girl. But maybe she could have checked up on her sooner or stayed with her instead of just leaving her to sleep it off so they could figure out their next moves when the girl was calmer?

-- I like that when creepy Pete asked about Julia Kady called him out on his creepiness. Nice to see she’s still protective of Julia.

-- Jewel Staite (Kaylee from Firefly) guest-starred as the librarian cracking up over Santa Clause. She was in a previous episode as well, but only for a split second.

Derek: “Okay, I think I’m starting to get the point of these stories, all women are just one emotional crisis away from psychotic break”
Penny 40: “Jesus, no whoa you can’t say stuff like that anymore.”
Derek: “What, in the afterlife?”
Penny 40: “Anywhere.”

Babayaga to Kady, who questions her shopping list: “It’s not weird, you are weird. You reek of non-dairy creamer and despair.”

Fen: “I dreamt about what Tick does with all those peaches he steals from the kitchen, which is surprisingly not gross.”

Fen: “You think someone did this to me?”
Josh: “If you’re worried next time it happens just poke around the dream a little.”
Fen: “Poke with what? Knife?”

Four out of four spirits of Slavic witches that come in handy for rent demands and chatty Uber drivers.

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