Wednesday, April 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Julia Reunites With Some Old Friends in the Underworld in 'The Rattening'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.11 "The Rattening"

Quentin and Julia undertake a difficult journey. Eliot faces mounting catastrophes in Fillory. Margo attempts to fix the bad deal she made. Penny finds a new ally.

Much like last week's episode, The Magicians is still largely just moving the pieces around preparing for the finale in "The Rattening." Of course, some stories are more fun and inspired as well. Julia and Quentin's venture to the Underworld is particularly great. Overall though, it still feels like the narrative is very scattered at the moment. It's clearly building to big moments of confrontation with Reynard and Eliot's reign over Fillory. But it's also clear those moments are going to happen in the finale. So, these episodes are a ton of buildup that allow for fun and quirky character moments while also not making much progress on the overall story. And again, some of these plots still work. Some are more successful than others. I'm much more invested in whether or not Julia will be reunited with her shade than if Penny will be able to cast spells with his hands again. But overall, this universe is just so interesting that even a stretch where it's just setting up a bunch of stories is still very amusing to watch.

Quentin and Julia's trip to the Underworld is so much fun because the show envisions that world as basically a DMV and a small town bowling alley. Those aren't the images that immediately come to mind when imagining this place. And yet, the show even notes that these characters aren't in Hell. They have simply died on Earth. And now, they are waiting their placement for the rest of eternity. Sometimes the process happens easily and quickly. Other times though, the souls can be trapped here for quite awhile. It's fun to see Julia reunite with the other magicians who summoned Reynard with her. It gives the two of them some allies in this world. Plus, it serves as a remainder that Reynard is just in a host body on Earth. Richard was someone who was very helpful to Julia beforehand. He's helpful now too - certainly more than the other two women. Of course, all it takes is for him to create a minor distraction for Julia and Quentin to find out what they need about the shades. And yet, it's still amusing to see them work together.

And yet, Julia and Quentin are here on a mission. They only have a day to find what they need or a dragon will eat their bodies on Earth and they'll really be dead. They really don't run into many problems in the Underworld though. It's not a tense journey that they go through. That's probably because this episode is telling a number of stories. If it only focused on this adventure, it would have been more arduous for them. They largely just have to find the shades and get back to the elevator portal to return home. Instead, the true twist comes when Julia and Quentin discover Alice's shade as well. It appears as a little girl too. And yet, this really is Alice. The Alice who Quentin loved. She's not from an alternate timeline. She's not a niffin who has turned evil on magic. This is the Alice who sacrificed himself to defeat The Beast and save her friends. It's a reunion that is a little too short-lived. The audience really doesn't get to spend much time on the conversation Quentin has with Alice's shade. It's just more important that Julia decides to return to Earth with Alice's shade instead of her own. That's a truly shocking moment. Plus, it sets up a very interesting future. It means that Julia's personality will change once more. This time she'll have all the feelings that Alice had for Quentin. That could open the possibility for a romance between Quentin and Julia. But will it be real considering Quentin knows the truth that this is a new person and not the two individuals he knew before?

Meanwhile, random magical things are happening in Fillory. That's it. There's no real reason or purpose for why these things are happening. Unpredictable things have been happening in Fillory all season long. It was largely because of the wellspring. It was dying and so there would be magical blackouts throughout the kingdom. That's what made Margo make the deal with the fairies in the first place. She did what she thought was best to protect everyone she cared about. But now, random things are still happening. It's erratic and unexplained. That doesn't make it the most engaging story. It's amusing that it first happens when Eliot and Idri are getting better acquainted with each other. Eliot is blindfolded when his fiancé is suddenly turned into a rat. That's hardly the most disastrous thing that happens throughout the kingdom right now. But it is the one with the most personal stakes. But because there's such little explanation for why this is happening, it doesn't entirely work as an engaging story. Weird stuff is happening and the only explanation the show gives is "magic." That's a lame excuse for a show that always aspires to more.

And yet, it is fantastic when Eliot is able to pull the truth out of Margo over what she did. She made that deal behind his back even though it would affect his family. Fen is now missing because of her. She's been taken to the land of the fairies to give birth to her child. Margo wanted to change the details of the arrangement. But that only seemed to make the fairies more angry. That's why they took Fen. And now, Margo feels personally responsible. Of course, that means she's the one who takes action to fix what she did. Even though she's locked away in the dungeon because of Eliot, she still has friends and allies in the castle. The voice for the sloth ambassador gives her a potion that will take her to the land of the fairies. She sees that as the only action she can do right now to fix what she did. It sets up a pretty engaging story for next week's episode as well. This hour spends its time in the Underworld and has a ton of fun re-imaging that imagery. And now next week, it will travel to the land of the fairies to do the exact same thing. Except in that place, Margo's only ally will be Fen. So, it seems much more precarious for her but with a larger payoff as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Rattening" was written by Mike Moore and directed by James L. Conway.
  • The show teased a dragon appearing as an ancient creative in this episode. It's who Quentin and Julia need to see to travel to the Underworld. It's not surprising that the show largely captures her in the shadows. The audience sees an eye and a head. They are very impressive special effects though. But the restrictions are clear as well.
  • Quentin also has to give the magical button to Fillory to the dragon in addition to a baby tooth that he still has somehow. The tooth detail was very amusing because it was so weird. But the loss of the button should have huge consequences. It largely means that Eliot and Margo will remain the characters of importance in Fillory.
  • And yet, neither Margo nor Elliot are actually in Fillory at the end of the hour. Eliot somehow gets back to Earth. It seems like another random magical act. But it also seems impossible based on the rules the show previously established about marriage in Fillory.
  • All of this just basically means that the team is going to need Penny and his traveling abilities even more in the future. He's their only option to travel between Fillory and Earth. And yet, he's too busy working at The Order of the Library.
  • Penny also doesn't make a whole lot of progress in actually getting into the Poison Room. He finds a new ally in Sylvia who is his superior even though she's younger than him. She wants in just because she's curious. Penny and Kady want in to find the god-killing book.
  • This show doing politics is just very boring and lame. It's a very political and progressive show. But this actual politics story with Reynard and John isn't that interesting or engaging. It's just important that John shows up at Brakebills in the end to join whatever Kady has planned for Reynard.
  • Several characters in the Underworld note that some of the gods have been missing for a long time. Is that something the audience should be aware of moving forward? Will it create a new story for the future? Or is it just something to explain how easy Quentin and Julia's quest is?