Wednesday, February 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Quentin Hunts a Magical Creature While Elliot Adjusts to His New Reality in 'The Flying Forest'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.04 "The Flying Forest"

While Quentin and Penny try to catch the White Lady, the others deal with their own set of problems.

Last week's episode of The Magicians was very climatic. It featured the big confrontations with The Beast and Reynard. Quentin, Alice, Elliot, Penny and Margo were successful in their battle with The Beast. Alice had to sacrifice herself in order to kill him. But it was still a victory. Meanwhile, Julia finally caught Reynard again but Quentin ruined her plans before she could kill him. Instead, he killed Marina, which left Julia all alone once more. After all of those big and sweeping moments last week, "The Flying Forest" relaxes a bit more. This season so far has been very intense. It had to be that way because there was a ticking countdown on these major conflicts. And now, the characters need to figure out what comes next. Julia is still hunting Reynard because he is still out there killing women. But now, she has to find a new way to do that without The Beast's help. Back in Fillory, Elliot has to figure out how to rule this kingdom while Quentin has to heal from his injuries and cope with the death of Alice. It's a lot of meaningful character work that is interesting to watch. But it's also a piece-moving episode too as the show sets up what happens next after the main antagonist of the series has been killed.

Quentin has grown a lot as a character since the start of the series. All of his dreams have seemingly come true. He has discovered that magic is real. Fillory is a place he can actually travel to. He's able to rule over this magical land just like the heroes did in his favorite books. But now, all of that has been corrupted by learning the dark truth of this reality. Magic comes with a price. It doesn't just suddenly fix all of his problems. In fact, it only adds to them. Magic may make him more sane. But it also brought him close to Alice only to then rip her away from him. He traveled to Fillory but had a target on his back. He was destined to be killed by The Beast - just like it happened over and over again in the time loop. And then, he realized his beloved books were a romanticized notion of these people and this world. It covered up all of the sinister truths lurking underneath the surface. He's got to experience Fillory just like Jane and Martin did. But now, he's lost the woman he loved because Martin wanted as much magic as possible. Magic is dying throughout the world and all Quentin cares about is getting back what was lost.

Magic can frequently be used as a narrative shortcut in order to explain something away easily. So, it was unclear last week if the major character deaths would actually stick. With magic in this universe, anything is possible. The show proved that in the way it opened the second season. The first season ended on the major cliffhanger of many characters potentially dying. Within the opening minutes of this season though, they were suddenly okay and the only explanation was "magic." Because of that, the show has to establish the rules of magic. When can it be used to explain away the impossible and when can't it. It's fascinating to see which characters are able to be brought back to life throughout this episode. Julia is able to enlist Kady's help to break into Brakebills and find a spell that will be able to revive Marina. They are able to cast the spell and it works. However, it only lasts for a few seconds. It brings Marina back long enough to give Julia a new direction to pursue moving forward in her quest to kill Reynard. It's a simple solution that also shows death doesn't have to be finite. There isn't a full resurrection spell. But characters can still be revived for a brief amount of time if necessary.

However, it's also interesting that that cannot be done with Alice. She had to be consumed by magic in order to defeat the Beast. That move changed her as a person. It made her turn on her friends as well. It was Quentin who delivered the final blow by releasing his demon. That's what ultimately killed her. And now, he's trying to get the girl he loved back. He does so by hunting the magical creature known as The White Lady. It's an adventure that is pretty fun to watch. That mostly comes out of Quentin and Penny walking through a forest that gets them higher and higher the deeper in they go. That's an amusing concept. Plus, it allows them to be friendly for a brief moment in time. However, the final reveal that The White Lady won't be able to bring back Alice is still tragic. Quentin viewed this adventure as his one opportunity to make everything in his life okay again. It's his personal mission. He needs to do this in order for things to make sense in this world again. This is everything that he wished for. And yet, it is now terrifying for him. That makes it such a bittersweet note when he simply wishes to return home. He returns with the knowledge that magic and Fillory exist. But he returns having decided to no longer chase it and discover new worlds and possibilities. He has already lost too much and can't suffer through any more of it.

That's something that Quentin can do because he has no grander responsibilities. Not everyone can do that though. Elliot is forced to stay in Fillory for the rest of his life. Just because The Beast is now dead doesn't immediately solve all of the problems in this world. First of all, it is proving very difficult to remove Ember's "divine elimination" from the wellspring. So, magic is still dying. That's starting to have an effect on Earth as well - as Dean Fogg notes. That has to take a priority. But Elliot's responsibilities are much more than that too. The kingdom is struggling and not all of the citizens will recognize him as the ruler of this land. He's wrapped with guilt about what happened to Alice too. But he also has to be mindful of the fact that he can't bankrupt the kingdom just to memorialize her. It's a huge struggle for Elliot throughout this episode. The show finds an interesting way to get him back to Earth as well. That weird story about Margo being cloned last season finally has a purpose because it gives her the big solution to Elliot's problem. It's fascinating to see him in two places at once. It shows the two directions of his life. He wants to be the student who is the king on campus making signature drinks and having a ton of meaningless sex. He doesn't want to be an adult yet. And yet, he has to be. He has to accept the responsibilities that come from being the king of Fillory. It should be an interesting journey for him this season. He has to come into his own as a ruler. He'll have help from Dean Fogg who'll recruit the brightest minds on Earth to fix the problems in Fillory. Will that be enough? Who knows! But it should be a fascinating new direction for the show to pursue this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Flying Forest" was written by David Reed and directed by Carol Banker.
  • A lot of crazy things have happened on this show. That's only bound to continue with further exploration of Fillory. But it's still important that the show notes just how crazy it is for Penny to say "he's hunting The White Lady."
  • After Marina is revived, she tells Julia that she needs to find the woman who managed to trap Reynard forty years ago. She'll be able to tell her how to do it again. And yet, how did Marina get that information? That's less important than it being mentioned now to give Julia a new direction to go in.
  • Margo is right to say that everyone around Julia dies because of her. A lot of people have ended up that way. It really amps up the isolation quality of her life. But Kady is still willing to work with her now. It's nice to see Kady back as well - even though she became more of a drug addict in between seasons.
  • Quentin isn't able to get what he ultimately wants from The White Lady but Penny is. She is able to fix his hands when no one else is able to. That's good. That has been an amusing story for these opening episodes. But it didn't really need to be a huge part of his story for the entire season.
  • It would be crazy to think that Quentin suddenly becomes an expert archer right after undergoing major surgery to fix his injuries. So of course, there's a magic spell that helps the arrow go straight no matter what. So that allows him to actually catch The White Lady.
  • It's amusing to see Todd as the new Elliot on campus and how much that really bugs Elliot. However, it doesn't take long for him to get distracted by a pretty face. Plus, he's able to have sex in two places at the same time. That's such a fascinating and exciting sequence to watch.