Wednesday, April 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Killing a God Has Consequences for the Entire World in 'We Have Brought You Little Cakes'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 2.13 "We Have Brought You Little Cakes"

Quentin, Eliot, Julia and Margo enact a risky plan to protect Fillory. Penny questions fate, while Kady makes a deal to help him.

It's simultaneously tragic and inevitable that whatever Quentin and his friends do magic will be wiped out from all of the lands. It's a serious threat that this season has built up. At first, it was deeply connected to the wellspring. The actions of The Beast and Ember diminished its powers. Magic was dying throughout the worlds. That's what forced Margo into making the deal with the fairies in the first place. And yet, fixing the wellspring didn't cure the worlds of their problems. In fact, things were seemingly only getting more problematic. Then, Sylvia came along with an ominous warning that something was about to happen that would change the world forever. The Library wasn't as all powerful and knowing as it previously was. Blank pages were appearing in books. Everyone believes the threat comes from Ember who has had his fun with Fillory but no longer sees the point of its existence. But it's also fantastic to see the show embrace the consequences of the characters killing a god.

The protagonists have been on the warpath with gods a lot this season. They now know how to enchant weapons so that they can kill these powerful creatures. Julia discovered that in her long and arduous journey trying to get revenge on Reynard. She made the decision not to kill him in last week's episode. As such, she was rewarded with her shade. Reynard was taken away to be punished by his mother, Our Lady Underground. When Julia made that decision, she was warned that killing a god comes with major consequences. She didn't know what they were but still spared Reynard's life. She's also willing to go along with Quentin and Eliot's quest to kill Ember because she needs something to focus on instead of feeling all of her newly discovered feelings again. The show set up all of these threats and warnings. Magic was dying and killing gods comes with a serious price. And yet, it also forced the characters into certain situations were these decisions are the only ones they can make to protect the people and worlds they are in. It just proves to have a disastrous outcome that way as well.

Of course, Quentin and his friends seem manipulated into making these decisions as well. It's clearly something that the fairies want. Margo and Josh traveled to their world to retrieve Fen and her baby. Instead, they just got instructions on what to do to stop Ember from destroying this world and all of magic. It's delightful to see Ember so in love with little cakes. They get him to come out of hiding when whimsy and chaos are no longer enough. It just cost Margo one of her eyes. That's certainly a new visual that will serve as a constant reminder for how brutal this world is capable of being. Of course, it's also important to note that the main characters are capable of being crafty and manipulative as well. They may not have the full story of what may happen once they kill Ember. But they know it's their only chance to save this world. Quentin and Julia are able to get Umber back in Fillory. He never wanted to return. He wanted to enjoy the comfort of Earth and Law & Order while building his new world. The audience even gets a glimpse of the world formerly known as Cuba. It's a very linear and precise world. It's Umber's version of a perfect utopia. It shows how boring life can be without the chaos that Ember thrives on. Quentin reunited Ember and Umber so that they could work together in harmony once. What happens next was truly unpredictable and shocking.

Ember kills his brother because he believes he betrayed him when The Beast took over Fillory. Umber bargained away his freedom for his brother's confinement. Ember spent all this time believing that his brother was dead and he was the only god left in Fillory. Sure, he had his fun along the way. But it's just gotten so boring now. Seeing Umber again only pushes these volatile emotions to the surface. When gods fight, it's an epic battle that mere humans can't interfere in. Ember is victorious but that only further shows the severity of the situation. He's growing more unpredictable with each passing moment and needs to be stopped. Julia has the sword but it's ultimately Quentin who kills Ember. That's a bold and decisive move. It's him taking action to potentially save the entire world. Usually, Quentin only acts for selfish reasons of the heart. He brought back Alice even though she's miserable as a human again. He did it because he loved her and didn't want her to live as a niffin. Of course, it was a selfish decision that she doesn't fully appreciate. But here, Quentin is acting to save the worlds and his friends. He's doing so because it needs to be done. It's him finally battling with a powerful magical creature that threatens his world. After being teased for so long, it's a very satisfying moment.

It's also important that Alice is the one to detail the consequences of killing a god to Quentin. He seemingly gets everything he wants in this finale. He saves Fillory by killing Ember. He is then able to make progress with Alice simply by giving her some bacon and reminding her just how good sex can be. Those pleasures are enough to make her feel human again. She lived life as pure magic. She understood everything about the world and is fighting to maintain as much information as she can. It's impossible though. Every decision comes with consequences. And now, there's renewed tension between her and Quentin because he killed a god. That leads to the other gods turning off magic on Earth, Fillory and The Library. It's a brutal decision that shows how significant the loss of magic is going to be on this show. Quentin had no idea that this was going to happen. But it shows that a cataclysmic event still happened that would forever change the world. He is just now responsible for that. He acted to stop this from happening. And yet, it still occurred. He was too foolish to know any better but he was also placed in an impossible decision where he had a chance to make. At least this way he's still alive. He's just alive in a world with no magic. He once wanted to return to a world like this because it made sense following Alice's death. But now, he needs magic more than ever before.

Plus, there's the final tease that magic may not be gone forever. It's definitely different to see Brakebills without all of its magical protections. And yet, Dean Fogg is still teaching the curriculum. He's doing so in the hopes that magic will one day return even though there's no guarantee that it ever will. Of course, the show doesn't leave the audience hanging for too long. It's much easier for Julia to break into Brakebills now. She confides in Quentin that she is still able to create some magical sparks. It's similar to the kind of magic she was capable of doing the day after she learned that magic was real. It's small and doesn't last long but it's there. Moreover, the fairies have arrived in Fillory. At first, it's just amusing to see Eliot and Margo arguing over the responsibilities of being king and queen. He wants a democracy while she wants curfews and martial law. It's fascinating to watch them stand opposed to each other. And yet, they'll need to be unified against this new threat. This season has proven that fairies can't be trusted. They have an agenda that is still shrouded in secrecy. They wanted all of this to happen. But the why of it all will have to wait until the next season. All of these teases are an effective way to close out the second season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "We Have Brought You Little Cakes" was written by Sera Gamble & John McNamara and directed by Chris Fisher.
  • Penny is suffering from the radiation poisoning he got from stealing a book from the Poison Room for most of this finale. He's sidelined a bit too much. He just passes along the information to Kady and the rest of the team. He's dying and people will need to rely on magic to save him. It's just unclear if they did before it was ripped away.
  • It's also fascinating to see the tension between Kady and Julia. They've been friends and allies this season. They were strong because of their hunt for Reynard. But Kady isn't satisfied with how Julia chose to end things. She wanted Reynard just as badly and has to find a way to cope with Julia's choice just like Julia has to find a way to keep living now that her shade is back.
  • Kady also makes a deal with Harriet that includes her passing along every piece of information she gets from Penny about The Library if she and her friends heal him from this disease. That's great because it means more Marlee Matlin on this show. It's just curious how it'll work after magic disappears.
  • Eliot and Idri kiss despite not being married yet. So, it's clear that the rules of Fillory aren't as concrete as everyone was lead to believe all season. Marriage isn't a chain that locks Eliot into this world for the rest of his life. Exploring all of this could be fun as well.
  • Niffin Joseph appears to warn Alice that she is being hunted for something that she did as a niffin. She's weaker now because she's a human again. But a target is still on her back for the horrible things she did when she was pure magic. There's not a lot of context in this story yet. It should be fascinating to learn more.
  • In the opening introduction, Ember reminds the audience of that time Quentin gave his blood away to a local woman in Fillory to save his friends from their injuries from The Beast. He says it may even become important again. That was the reasonable thing to expect the moment Quentin did it. And yet, it doesn't suddenly reappear in this episode at all which is a little weird.
  • Syfy finally renewed The Magicians for a third season last week. That's great because this cliffhanger deserves to be explored in a meaningful way in another season of television. But overall, this was a strong season of growth for this show. The characters and pacing only continued to get better.