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The Magicians: Be the Hyman

“Friends don’t make friends solve the trolley problem.”

This week The Magicians reflects on our characters’ decisions. If a “hero” makes a “villainous” decision with the best of intentions, is that okay? And what does it mean if a character chooses not to make any decision or take any action? Are our characters the heroes at all? Or are they the harbingers of the apocalypse? I guess we shall see.

In a dream sequence much like the one last season, but with an unforgivable lack of kittens, the previous high kings and queens of Fillory (Eliot, Margo, Fen, and Josh) learn from the energetic emanation of Ember and Umber that the dead will not only completely take over Fillory and every other world, they will also turn the living dead with their touch. This is obviously horrible, so Umber tells them to use The Ark he built to move all of Fillory to a pocket world. And then destroy Fillory. It’s all very Thor: Ragnarök and Frozen II.

In order to create a permanent world for the Fillorians to live in, Alice and Kady need to steal the World Seed from The Couple (one part evil torture guy who cut off Alice’s fingers). When they go to Marina for help, they find she’s magically reformed. Turns out, Marina’s big heist that originally kept our magicians from saving Earth involved stealing the World Seed and a bunch of people died or got seriously injured as a result, leading Marina to make serious changes to her personality. As Kady and Alice try to get the information they need to pull off the heist, they find (or think) they have no chance but to act like Marina, and then to bring previous Marina back completely.

There are a lot of serious ethical concerns here. But I think the most interesting and most connected to the rest of the episode is: if you try to act like the bad guy to save the world, does that make you the bad guy? At the end, we see Alice and Kady look on regrettably as old Marina lies to her girlfriend, not only to get them what they need to save the world, but also to rekindle her relationship. It seems like they might have some ethical concerns as well. One thing’s for sure though, reformed Marina is still just as funny as old Marina.

Back in Vancouver (the only obvious place for a Fillorian God to relocate) Margo, Eliot, Fen, and Josh work on obtaining The Ark. Turns out Ghost Umber (or Ghost Butler, as Josh calls him) is pretty into Indiana Jones. The magicians have to select the right pocket world otherwise all the pocket worlds will explode (which I probably would have found really funny if I'd ever watched Indiana Jones. Oops). They all turn to Fen to choose but she runs off in a huff.

Fen has always been pretty forgiving and easygoing, even as some of the others treat her as less than. But this season you could see that a feeling of resentment has been boiling, and now that they’re talking about destroying her home, that resentment’s starting to blow. Fen herself thinks this decision might be a villainous one and she thinks if it had been Earth they might have tried harder to come up with a better solution. She’s got a point. We see later that our heroes are the villains of the sexist pig’s prophecy; they’re the ones who destroy Fillory. It’s also not the first time they made the same decision as a villain; at the end of season two they decide to kill Ember and Umber to save Fillory and remain there forever, just as the Beast tried to do. And it worked. And then the Gods shut off all magic. And then they saved magic. And then magic was restricted and a monster was set free. And on and on. Maybe it is time our characters really examine their decision-making skills.

At least Fen and Penny 23 do. Fen realizes she wasn’t helping things by staying quiet. In order to make change, she needed to confront her friends and take responsibility for her own choice in the matter. It was great to watch Fen finally stand up for herself, and even better to see her appreciated for it. Elsewhere, Penny 23 realizes he needs to confront his issues directly, as well.

Penny 23 was busy this episode re-acclimating Hyman to the world (now that Hyman has a body) and adjusting to the news of Julia’s pregnancy. When Hyman confides in Penny 23 that he misses being able to spy on people because he’s lonely with no one to talk to, Penny 23 tells him he needs to confront his problems, be vulnerable, and talk to people; Penny 23 realizes he needs to do the same with Julia’s pregnancy. In a very heartfelt scene, Penny 23 tells Julia that his mom developed schizophrenia after giving birth to a psychic traveler and he’s worried the same is happening to Julia. Now, Julia’s able to offer him support, she agrees to the treatments, and Penny 23 gets to release some of his childhood trauma. It seems that both Penny 23 and Fen find that once they confront their problems head on, their lives become a little easier. Maybe that’s what they need to do to save Fillory? Or maybe there’s no good solution and they’re all just doomed. You never really know with this show.

Bits and Pieces

-- Seriously, I have so many ethical questions about the Marina thing. First of all, they changed her personality without her consent. But can someone consent to such a drastic change to their personality in first place? On the other hand, when Alice said the healer used a “synaptic blocker” it made me think of medication for mental disorders. Which would be like taking away someone’s treatment without consent, which opens so many more ethical concerns. And then there’s the girlfriend in the situation, who in this case would think Marina is under treatment when she’s not, and all the ethical and safety concerns there…

-- I really hope Julia’s right and they can manage however the baby affects her with magic. Julia’s already gone through so much. Let’s not take away her sanity too.

-- It looks like next week’s episode is going full Buffy the musical with all the characters singing their feelings. Given that the Buffy musical is probably my favorite episode of any show of all time I’m pretty excited. Can it be two hours? Three?

-- This week’s episode description: “Slap fight! Josh eats a pickle. Dreams are weird.”

Ember, as he starts to demonstrate what will happen to Fillory through pickles and a Fillory diorama: “In addition to just being very creepy, the dead drain life, contaminating everything they touch, like a pickle on a sandwich.”
Josh: “I like pickles.”
Ember: “Behold, a dead person wriggling from their grave. Oooh, aaghh. And this is every Fillorian that has ever lived.”
All, after Ember dumps a bunch of pickles on the diorama: “Ugh.”
Ember: “You see the pickles of the dead will ruin Fillory. We must stop this, whatever the cost.”

Sir Effingham: “Oh my heavens, you have embraced the blessing of your sex, but surely you have misplaced your wedding band. [Julia shakes her head] You are widowed then?”
Julia: “No.”
Sir Effingham: “Oh you poor dear, you are carrying a bastard.”
Julia: “Definitely talking to one.”

Hyman: “Penny, did you know they sell pre-sliced bread now? That’s the greatest invention since … I don’t even know what!”

Three and a half out of four pickles of the dead.

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