Wednesday, April 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Julia Crafts a Weapon to Kill Reynard While Quentin Deals with Alice's Shade in 'Ramifications'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.12 "Ramifications"

Julia, Kady and Penny each make sacrifices in order to finally face Reynard. Quentin and Eliot learn a disturbing truth about Fillory.

Julia changed as a character because Reynard raped her. She dealt with plenty of hardships before that moment happened in the first season. But that moment where a trickster god came forth and took advantage of her changed her in a profound way. It served as a key motivation for the deal she ultimately made with The Beast. But now, it's clear that much more has changed for her than she could have possibly expected. It's the show tackling rape culture in a very interesting and important way. Just because this horrifying and depraved thing happened to her doesn't mean that she is now a monster. She's passionately pursued getting vengeance against Reynard for what he did to her. She was willing to do anything to kill him and the demon baby growing inside of her. It was a journey that severed her from her shade. It's a journey that alienated her from her closest friends. But now, the big confrontation has arrived. She needs to decide how far she is willing to go to hurt Reynard the same way he hurt her. It's the show revealing that she still has choices in this situation even though the season building up to this point has slowly been taking them away from her.

Julia made an incredibly selfless decision at the end of last week's episode in bringing Alice's shade back to Earth instead of her own. She had nothing to gain from that decision. She was simply providing happiness to Quentin while sentencing herself to a life where she doesn't feel anything about the actions she takes. She was on a warpath in her quest for vengeance. She was willing to do anything. Without her shade guiding her, it was a destructive time for her. She's aware of the recklessness now. She reaches out to Kady to be her emotional connection to this world. She needs someone to pull her back when she she needs to be reigned in. And yet, Julia isn't the one who does the truly terrifying action against John. Instead, it's Kady who kills him to harness his powers as a demigod. That moment is a little unclear and unearned. John wasn't that interesting as a character. So his own self-sacrifice doesn't meant a whole lot. It just becomes a fuel source for the final confrontation with Reynard. Plus, Penny is able to get his hands on the book from within the Poison Room that outlines how to kill gods.

So, Julia heads into this confrontation with Reynard armed with so much information. She knows that Reynard and Our Lady Underground have a deep and complicated relationship filled with love and hate. She knows she can use that to her advantage in this battle to catch Reynard off guard. And now, she has a weapon that can actually kill him. She's harnessed all of this power into a bullet. All she needs to do is shoot him and it will all be over with. And yet, the show then pivots into an interesting discussion about choices and pain. Is Julia equally as monstrous as Reynard because she's willing to kill him for raping her? Should she succumb to these emotions because it seems inevitable? Or should everyone do whatever it takes to keep her from following this tragic trajectory? All of this is why John has Kady kill him instead of Julia. He doesn't want to hurt her like his father did. He wants to spare her of that. Of course, it's not her decision. He forces her to leave with his powers of suggestion. But in the big confrontation, it is Julia's choice to let Reynard live. Our Lady Underground actually appears and reveals that she is Reynard's mother. Everyone believed she disappeared for good. Otherwise, she would have been able to comfort these characters in their times of need. Instead, she appears simply to appeal to Julia's good nature to stop her from killing Reynard.

It's an absolutely brutal sequence to watch. This season has built up to this conflict. So much has been talked about this moment. This is the time where Julia can finally enact her revenge on Reynard. She can finally get what she has always wanted. And now, Our Lady Underground is asking her to forget all of that. This is her mistake and she should deal with the consequences. She should have to pay for the failings of her son. She should have to punish him for what he has done on Earth. Julia has to decide if that's good enough. Without her shade and Kady's guidance, it seems inevitable that she'll choose to kill and be the monster everything thinks she has become. Instead, it's truly surprising and rewarding to see Julia not do that. She allows the gods to leave together. She's rewarded for that action. Our Lady Underground brings Julia her shade back. The two reunite. So perhaps now the healing will be able to begin. Julia is a survivor of all of this. She's not a monster. This story highlights that the light can shine through even in the darkest moments. Julia has witnessed that and grown as a result.

Julia also helps Quentin bring Alice back to life. In the previous episode, I just assumed that Julia would now walk around with Alice's shade inside of her. It would change her as a person. And thus, her relationship with Quentin would change as well. Instead, the show is very smart to use it to try to bring the actual Alice back. Alice has remained an important character this season. She made a noble sacrifice at the beginning of the year but she wasn't written out because of it. Plus, the amount of magic that Mayakovsky has been hoarding is enough to complete the spell. And yet, it's still fascinating to see what Alice is like now that she's human again. She experienced what it was like to be a niffin. She was a magical creature that understood everything. She had an intense and destructive dynamic with Quentin. But him freeing her allowed this to happen. Of course, it all may just be a selfish decision on Quentin's part. He wasn't willing to let her go. He did whatever it took to bring her back to him even though it would be grueling on Alice. She's not appreciative at all. She's too focused on trying to remember all of the magic. That's what she cares about right now. It's a brutal return for her. And more than likely, she'll need to use some of this new knowledge before the season is over with next week.

And finally, Quentin and Eliot learn more about what's going on in Fillory. This season made such a big deal about magic dying because the wellspring wasn't replenishing itself. Margo seemingly fixed that with her deal with the fairies. And yet, the problems have persisted. And now, it's revealed that Ember is the one causing all of this chaos. He's the god of chaos who enjoys seeing it for his own amusement. The children of Earth aren't royalty in Fillory for some larger reason. They are royalty because Ember sees it as his own reality show. He loves a good drama and has no problem creating chaos and letting magic run amok. So now, Quentin and Elliot are determined to return to Fillory to save the kingdom they both love so much. They do so knowing that it means they have to kill Ember and reign over this land. It's important for them to realize that's the same plan that The Beast had as well. That provides some nice thematic bookends to the season. Quentin and his friend defeated The Beast in order to bring better and brighter days to Fillory. And now, they find themselves following the same path as The Beast. Hopefully, it will have a better outcome. They need to believe that they'll be better as leaders. Eliot has really struggled with that but he now considers Fillory to be his home. So, this confrontation will be the focus of next week's finale. It will be an intense conflict that will incorporate the fairies as well. It should be very compelling to watch as anything could happen to these characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ramifications" was written by David Reed & Christina Strain and directed by Chris Fisher.
  • The fact that Josh is now high king of Fillory is hilarious. His motto is "Hakuna Matata" and he just wants to continue getting high with the rest of the senior advisors. That montage showing all of them relaxing with drugs is fantastic and very amusing.
  • Of course, it's not long until Prince Ess shows up demanding to see his father. Loria still has that master magician on their side who is able to quickly attack the royal representatives when they don't give Ess what he wants. That provides some nice urgency in this corner of the universe as well.
  • Plus, Josh is traveling to the land of the fairies as well. So, that means three characters will be there during the finale. This episode doesn't provide many details for what happened to Margo once she arrived there. It's just fascinating that Josh sees both her and Fen in his high state.
  • The Poison Room gets its name because the books are literally trapped with poison. So, Penny and Sylvia need to act quickly to get the information that they want. Penny is successful in that endeavor but finds himself in the Brakebills infirmary immediately afterwards as well. Meanwhile, Sylvia dies obtaining what she wants.
  • Sylvia also drops a curious tease for the future. She notes that the books of people still alive in the world mysteriously end in random spots with twenty blank pages following it. She teases that the Order foresees a disastrous event coming in a few weeks. That's ominous and likely sets up the story for once this confrontation with Ember and the fairies is over.
  • Quentin and Eliot run into Umber who is now living in Vancouver and collects every Fillory memorabilia he can find on Earth. He's the exact opposite of Ember because he loves control and is obsessed with Law & Order. He's the one who outlines the perils of the upcoming battle for Quentin and Eliot. And yet, they are undeterred.