Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Julia is a Changed Person Following the Procedure to Remove Reynard's Baby in 'Word as Bond'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.08 "Word as Bond"

The Magicians deal with a variety of crises as Quentin struggles to keep his own problem a secret.

The Magicians ended last week's magical heist episode on the devastating note of Julia's abortion/exorcism being successful but a complication also occurring during the procedure. The show left it unclear as to what that complication actually was. It was easy to infer that it meant some of Julia's reproductive system had to be removed as well. But instead, the show takes a much more extreme approach. The surgery actually nicked her shade. And now, she's a completely different person. Early on, this season introduced the shade. It's the essence of one's being. The Beast removed his so he would no longer feel his pain or emotional attachment to anything in the world. He offered to do the same to Julia because he saw something in her. She could become a powerful magician if she wasn't so determined to get revenge on Reynard. She chose not to remove it because she needed her pain in order to feel alive. Losing her shade here wasn't her choice. But it is something that has occurred that will now define Julia moving forward. She is a completely different person. She's still on the same journey. She's still trying to find a way to rid Reynard from this world. But she's being a lot more reckless with that journey as well. She doesn't care who gets hurt in the process as long as she ultimately gets what she wants in the end.

So, all of this is a fascinating place to find Julia in throughout this episode. Her regular friends aren't there to help her through this transition because they are dealing with their own problems. Margo has returned to Fillory because Elliot is still seriously injured from losing his host body on Earth. She has to be the one leading Fillory as it prepares for war. Quentin is forming his word as bond deal with niffin Alice and realizing just how dangerous it is to have her in control of his body for an hour each day. And lastly, Penny and Kady are struggling to find the demon baby that Dana gave birth to all those years ago. So, no one really has the time to babysit Julia and make sure she doesn't get into any trouble. So of course, she does. She's now only looking out for herself. She has a newfound confidence that is electric to see on the screen. It's a transformation that is similar to what has happened to Alice this season as well. Of course, Alice chose to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends. Becoming a niffin was a consequence of that. Julia had no choice. She wanted to get rid of the demon baby and this was the result of that procedure. But now, both of them are badass women who aren't afraid to hurt the people they once called friends just to get what they want.

Of course, Julia also finds herself in Fillory for an extended amount of time in "Word as Bond" too. She is sent there by Quentin to keep her safe. That's him thinking he's doing the right thing by her even though he quickly abandons her. Julia is safer on Fillory than she is on Earth. She has free range to go wherever she wants there. And yet, that's a dangerous quality as well. She gets into so much trouble. She doesn't care about the war between Fillory and Loria. She has no interest in being diplomatic. She just wants to find a way to become invisible to gods. She finds a solution to her problems. Plus, she blows up a forest as well. Of course, it was a magical forest where the trees have aligned with Loria after decades of abuse from Fillory. That story is a little too weird to actually work. It highlights just how sexist a society this new world actually is. Elliot has all the power as high king of Fillory. Margo may be a queen as well. She can make a declaration of war. But this kingdom doesn't take her seriously as a ruler. That's a fascinating subplot that really deserves to be explored more. It highlights the differences between men and women in positions of power. The women of this show have really been kicking ass over the last couple weeks. It's great to see them at the center of so many great action moments. They have the big, transformative character arcs this season that are really engaging to watch.

Elsewhere, Quentin's story had a predictable edge to it. It has a number of cool visuals - especially whenever niffin Alice takes control of things. But it's still largely a story about her trying to find a way out of this entrapment. Everyone could have predicted that it would go horribly awry for Quentin by allowing Alice to take over his body for an hour each day. That was clear as soon as he didn't tell anyone that the niffin wasn't dead but actually trapped in his back tattoo. It's a little frustrating that he doesn't tell anyone too. He's a part of Penny and Kady's investigation as well. Penny can sense that something is more wrong with him than usual. And still, the truth doesn't come out until the very end of the episode. Before that, Alice proves just how powerful she is. Not only is she trying to find a way out of her cage but she's trying to find a way to avoid being boxed. That's the punishment for any niffins found in the world. But it's also fascinating to see that she has all the knowledge in this situation and Quentin is just an idiot who falls into her traps. She gets exactly what she wants. Of course, that just leads her to a more powerful niffin who mocks her for not being able to get out of this situation herself. But mostly, this story is just intriguing because of that final moment where Penny goes into Quentin's head and is instantly attacked by Alice. So he now knows what's going on. It can be a secret no longer which will really add something more meaningful to this story.

Plus, that will probably be more intriguing for Penny than his unique love story with Kady. They were a romantic pairing that defined the first part of the first season. Last week proved that there is still a spark in their dynamic. They still have sexual chemistry. But they clearly have issues that they need to talk about and they refuse to do so. Of course, Penny has his big declaration of love moment in this episode as well. It's just a little forced and rushed considering they haven't been important as a couple in a long time. It's certainly not enough to justify him signing a contract with the librarians between worlds to work for them for a million years. That's the latest development in his quest to regain full use of magic with his hands. Mayakovsky is now gone and Penny's relying on the librarians for help. That plays as the story once again repeating itself while offering no indication of whether this will be the thing that finally makes him "normal" again. It's a story that has had a lot of importance this season. Penny is still a magician. He still has a useful purpose on the show as a traveler. But perhaps too much time has been spent on his hands. It's great to see that there were consequences to the first season cliffhanger confrontation with The Beast. But elsewhere, things have moved on to exciting and complex possibilities while this story has largely stayed the same. That's weird.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Word as Bond" was written by Sera Gamble and directed by James L. Conway.
  • The Royal Advisors obviously have more respect and admiration for the leaders of Fillory than the representative from the magical forest. And yet, they too see things from a certain hierarchy. They show disdain when Julia speaks out of turn and is able to get Margo's attention so quickly.
  • It's also important to remember that females have been the heroes and champions of Fillory. Jane Chatwin was the hero of that story who fought to save the world from the corruption of The Beast. Meanwhile, Margo has been able to get stuff done while Elliot is still just finding his footing as a leader.
  • There was no way that Elliot was actually going to die from his wounds from the magical heist. And yet, the moment where Margo is begging for him to return to her and not follow through on his constant death wish was very powerful.
  • In order to get out, niffin Alice may have to kill Quentin. She still has so much power. There's only so much his body can endure. With the right kind of focus, she could kill him and set herself free. With that knowledge, this story just got a lot more urgent for next week's episode.
  • Julia recklessly wanders out into the world and immediately runs into Reynard. He is able to tell that she has severed her shade. And yet, he somehow can't tell that she is no longer pregnant. That's why he's still keeping tabs on her and not killing her!
  • Penny and Kady find the name of the demon baby that Dana gave birth to. How they do so is a little murky and not all that interesting. It's just important that they know his name and can track him down more easily now. That's another exciting tease for the future because he may be powerful enough to vanquish Reynard.