Wednesday, February 8, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Quentin and Alice Confront the Beast While Julia Traps Reynard in 'Divine Elimination'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.03 "Divine Elimination"

Quentin and friends prepare to face The Beast again, while Julia conspires with The Beast and their new ally to lure and trap Reynard.

The Magicians has been building to a number of big confrontations this season. Quentin, Alice, Penny, Eliot and Margo have been preparing to take on The Beast in battle again. Meanwhile, Julia and The Beast have struck a deal to kill the trickster god, Reynard. Time constraints also made it clear that these confrontations would happen early in the season. Julia and The Beast have quickly assembled the tools to lure Reynard into a trap while Alice's god-like powers have been fading away with every passing moment. All of this has kept things very intense for the start of the season. It's brought a strong focus and purpose to these opening episodes. These stories take priority over everything else. And now, these confrontations actually occur in "Divine Elimination." At times, it feels like this episode is trying to cover too much story. It rushes through a couple moments necessary to make the ending work. And yet, it's still building up to these grand moments that have received so much buildup. And wow, it is just so much fun and exciting to watch.

It didn't seem like the show would get to these conflicts right now either because Quentin and his friends were too distracted with the curses in the Fillory castle. That was something setup in last week's episode when Quentin saw Julia again. It could have been the basis for an entire episode's plot to delay these conflicts for just a little while longer. It's a fun and fantastic story as well. The thrones are cursed and make everyone who sits in them paranoid and want to kill the other kings and queens. It's up to Penny to save the day. That's good because he gets to be the hero for once instead of the guy who simply doesn't want to hang out with these people. Of course, this story is at its most exciting when Margo and Penny release their beasts to attack each other. That's a surprising and really cool moment. That complicates the later fight with the Beast as well. But it along makes sense given the circumstances of the situation. But it's not that long after that happens that Penny is able to fix everything by killing his friends and then reviving them. So this is ultimately a fun story that gives these characters something to do that distracts them from their main goal. It's simply The Beast continuing to mess with them even though he's no longer in Fillory.

Plus, this distraction at the castle doesn't take away from the strategizing that the team must do. Alice has the battle magic to kill the Beast. but the team still needs to come up with an effective strategy to trap him. Last time things didn't work out for the team because they weren't prepared for how powerful The Beast was. They are stronger and wiser now. They are better equipped for this battle thanks to Dean Fogg. It's still a huge undertaking though that could still easily lead to all of their deaths. Plus, their defeat could drain magic throughout the land. So, this battle needs to happen now. And honestly, it's just great watching this team work together. Yes, Quentin mixes up his metaphors. But he still comes up with a solid strategy. These people may have complicated feelings towards each other but they are also willing to help each other survive. That means so much. It works because of the history the audience knows between them.

The same can also be said of Julia and Marina. They haven't always been friends but they are working together now. Marina doesn't know the full story with the Beast. She doesn't know that Fillory actually exists and the stakes of this war are way more intense than the presence of one trickster god. This is just a passion project for Julia. It's helped her friends better prepare for a way to defeat the Beast. But it also seems inevitable that these two confrontations would clash and complicate each other. Julia and the Beast hatch their trap for Reynard. It works and Marina serves as their bait. Its fascinating watching her actually be afraid for her life but trying not to let it show. It's brutal when Reynard eats her finger to stop her from doing magic and then taunts her with it. Of course, it's after that that Julia and the Beast show up and exert their power. But before they are able to kill the god, Penny shows up to take the Beast back to Fillory and the trap waiting for him there which is such a blow to Julia.

It's such a high energy sequence to watch that is made more complicated by the messy personal dynamics between the characters. Quentin, Eliot and Margo have shields up as Alice prepares the final blast. But when Julia tags along for the ride, it forces Quentin into saving her as well. That could potentially ruin all of this. And yet, it still works. Or at least partially. The blast hits and injures the Beast. It doesn't kill him but it shows that Quentin and his friends may be getting the upper hand in this war. Of course, Alice immediately freaks out about missing. That's not all that fun to watch. She works so much better as a character when she's evil or confident with herself. When she doubts her skills, it can get annoying very quickly. Plus, her and Quentin talking about their relationship while traveling to the final battle site is just a little too awkward to work. It makes sense given what happens later on in the fight. These feelings needed to be expressed now even though it wasn't an appropriate time. That needed to happen because Alice sacrifices herself in order to defeat the Beast.

That final confrontation at the wellspring really is such a remarkable sequence. It is just so witty and fun when it focuses on Ember the God having just taken a shit in the magical waters. That's such a wonderful and weird reveal. It shows that the gods can be funny and satirical as well even though they rarely help when the situation calls for it. He instead transports Eliot and Margo to the battle site instead of giving them more of his magical jizz. That's all just set up for Alice having to use too much magic in order to defeat the Beast. It works. The Beast is killed by the end of the episode. Alice is just gone as well. She is transformed into pure magic. At first that seemed like a mistake that would allow the conflict with the Beast to continue this season with the team down a crucial member. It was not. It was just misdirection for her to deliver the final blow. Of course, it also turned her evil in the process and want to kill Quentin. Despite their overworked and tedious romance, it's still devastating when he finally has to release his inner monster to kill her. A very dramatic and complicated conclusion to a very intense story. And now, the show will have to figure out what to do next while maintaining this level of fun and purpose.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Divine Elimination" was written by Henry Alonso Myers and directed by John Scott.
  • Plot hole #1: Margo runs after Eliot after he sits on his throne and becomes paranoid. And yet, she apparently does it too offscreen even though there's no real opening for her to do so.
  • Plot hole #2: Alice just randomly got rid of her monster soon after the Dean gave it to her because she didn't like the feeling of it inside her. That meant Quentin was the only one with a monster left when the Beast showed up.
  • Eliot's wife in Fillory doesn't really like Margo - likely because she's always making fun of her. And yet, she proves herself useful to Penny when he has to figure out how to kill and then revive his friends. 
  • Marina is killed by Reynard and he takes the magical blade that can kill a god. After all of this, Julia is right back to being all alone. She's only gotten more people killed. Of course, she could blame Quentin and his friends for doing this too.
  • It really is surprising that the Beast is killed now. He's been the main antagonist since the first episode of the series. Fillory probably has more problems. So hopefully that will give the show a new focus. But it lost a great performance by Charles Mesure too.
  • Also, is Alice really dead? It sure seems that way after dying from both magic and Quentin's monster. That will be a devastating blow to him. But she's also a main character on the show which could find some way to revive her if wanted (because magic!). It would probably mean more if she's dead though. It makes it a grand sacrifice in the story.