Wednesday, January 17, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Eliot Sails to an Island While Quentin Saves a Life in 'Heroes and Morons'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 3.02 "Heroes and Morons"

Elliot embarks on a quest. Quentin, Kady and Josh continue their search for magic.

The premiere outlined the narrative spine for this season of The Magicians. It introduced a new quest for Quentin and Eliot to restore magic to their worlds. They discovered a book that details the journey they must go on to retrieve seven magical keys. It's a book that was blank for the most part. And now, it's clear that each key retrieved will unlock the next chapter and outline the next phase of this journey. It's a very clear structuring device for the season. With seven keys to track down, it will keep the protagonists busy for the majority of the season. That basically means they'll discover a new key every other episode. So, that makes it apparent that magic will truly be gone for the world at large this entire season. Even though that's the case, the show has still found a way to continue incorporating magic in its storytelling. It's just much more concise and purposeful now. Now, it exists through magical creatures or objects that have a limited amount of power to them. These are relics that everyone is chasing down because they are addicted to magic. The loss of it from the world has driven some characters mad. That's very enticing to watch. Magic has meant so much to this universe. It's changed all of the characters' lives. And now, they are faced with life without magic. It makes it remarkably easy to enlist new people for this quest. Everyone wants magic back. But it's not going to be as easy as the first mission to retrieve the key turns out to be.

The first key happens to be located in Fillory. That makes it convenient for Eliot to go and retrieve it. All he has to do is create a ruse to avoid any suspicion from the Fairy Queen. The narrative also outlines how it's a perilous journey to the far reaches of the kingdom. He is journeying out to an island that exists beyond his realm. He has no idea what kind of world he is walking into. He just knows he needs to do so in order to be a great king for his people. The show highlights the dangers that come from this journey. But in the end, it's not as perilous as all of the hype. That's a tad disappointing. But it's also just fun to see Eliot lead the charge by himself. It's up to him to retrieve this key from the magician using it to become the leader of this community. All he has to do is offer evidence of his deception. Eliot lands in this town and learns that its citizens are under constant attack by a Shadow Bat. It's a creature that exists but isn't alive which makes it impossible to kill. The only protection they have from this beast is the key and the magician who wields it. It's a story that does ultimately claim a life. But it's also a ruse in order to keep this magician in power. Once Eliot figures that out, it becomes fairly easy for him to turn the community against the magician while walking away with the key.

Of course, the larger problem may be how Eliot continues to be useful to the Fairy Queen while still embarking on this quest. She truly believes he's just on a tax-collecting mission. But she's also wise enough to send a spy who will report back to her. That introduces one of the more interesting developments of this hour. The fairy spy happens to be Eliot and Fen's daughter, Fray. She is no longer just a baby. She is now a teenager. It's a trope fairly common in science fiction shows - as Eliot and Margo once again discuss. They understand how ridiculous it seems for Eliot to be father to a teenager. But that's the reality they are now living in. It's a reality that everyone else has to take seriously because they don't know any better. Fray is completely loyal to the fairies. She has never known Eliot and Fen. And yet, that bond of a twisted family is established immediately. Fray is able to figure out that the Shadow Bat didn't kill the man on the island. But she also sees that Eliot went for a magical key and not money. She understands that that was a lie he told to her queen. He is being deceitful. And yet, all problems are managed for now simply through Eliot and Fen enjoying being able to say some parenting cliches - like "you must respect your father" and "go to your room." Eliot still has doubts about Fray being his daughter. But he does enjoy this mission being a success.

Back on Earth, Quentin and Julia feel the need to find a way to Fillory in order to help Eliot on this mission. That's their motivation throughout this entire story. And yes, a connection to Fillory will ultimately be necessary in this story in order to collect all of the keys together. But right now, Eliot is perfectly capable of handling this quest by himself. He doesn't even need Margo. She's left in charge of the castle while dealing with the fairy occupation. All of that is perfectly handled. Meanwhile, Quentin and Julia are trying to come up with enough magic to open the portal to Fillory that exists within the grandfather clock. Julia has some but it's sporadic and small. She can display her powers to bring others onto the mission. They recruit Kady to the cause because they need an expert on hedge witch hangouts. The only person they know who was storing magic was Professor Mayakovsky. He is no longer in the arctic. He could be anywhere in the world thanks to his magical abilities. But the protagonists eventually track him down to a bar where he is seemingly turned into a bear. That takes them on a mission throughout the city as they chase down a mysterious woman who seems to have the objects with magic stored in them. It's a mission that reunites Quentin and Alice as well. They are all after the same thing. They are in desperate need of magic in a world where it is increasingly fleeting.

And in the end, it may all just be setup. When Quentin tracks down the woman he believes is causing all of this chaos, he learns that it's Professor Lipson. She is going mad without magic and without Mayakovsky reciprocating his feelings for her once more. It's once again proven that Mayakovsky is a philanderer who loves and abuses women. Lipson helped him store magic. But now, she has only one of the objects while Mayakovsky is a bear. She didn't do that though. Instead, it was Emily the student he fell in love with and married despite his love for other women. And yet, the narrative is still teasing an additional mysterious woman going around the city using magic and teasing other magicians with it. Lipson was responsible for the sex magic in the park. Emily was responsible for turning Mayakovksy into a bear. But no one is taking credit for bringing a dinosaur to life. No one is really asking that question because they get so distracted. Lipson is ready to kill herself and only survives thanks to Quentin. He protects her because he knows the importance of the quest he is on and how it can save Lipson's life in the future if she just waits for magic to return. And then, Kady takes off with the magical object because she needs it in order to heal Penny. Of course, a traveler is a much better way to go back-and-forth between worlds. These objects could only fuel one trip through the clock to Fillory. So, saving Penny should be a priority. But right now, Kady is on that mission all by herself. Meanwhile, Alice is still running away from the powerful niffin hunting her down. That entity is still a big mystery for the season. It possesses a construction worker but isn't able to track Alice down. But then, it possesses Quentin. That's an ominous tease for the future. It comes right as he received the second chapter in the book. Eliot was successful in retrieving the first key. That's a victory. The niffin makes sure to pick up the book as well. So, there really may be more going on with this story than there initially seems. Either way, there is going to be a big confrontation between Quentin and Alice next week. That's going to be very exciting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Heroes and Morons" was written by John McNamara and directed by Chris Fisher.
  • Throughout Quentin's search for this mysterious woman using magic, it was clear that it was going to be a familiar face to the characters and the audience. As such, the speculation starts as to who it could potential be. Lipson makes sense even though she has never really been all that important. She worked at Brakebills as the healing professor. That's an important role. But this appearance is much more active and important for her.
  • Alice was so incredibly skeptical about the alert system she had to retrieve to warn her about the niffin getting close. And now, that skepticism is earned through it being a cat. When that cat starts meowing like crazy, it's a little surprising that Alice just stands around doing nothing. Perhaps she's seeing how much time she has before its arrival. But it also means the cat explodes and Quentin has to clean up the mess for her. That's a pretty amusing punchline.
  • The show makes good use of animation at the top of the hour as Quentin reads from the newest book outlining this new quest for the seven magical keys. That should be a recurring thread throughout the season that embraces new animation styles to match the tone of those stories. Here, it's very Disney-romantic about a young woman trying to rescue her father and prove her worth. Eliot's journey isn't like that at all. But it's still a lot of fun.
  • That sex orgy in the park is a somewhat bizarre visual. Magic allows it to happen. It pulls in and affects anyone who gets too close. The more people entranced the more powerful it becomes. But it's also completely realistic that the police show up. Plus, it's great that Julia is attracted to two men kissing just as much as Quentin is attracted to two women kissing.
  • Kady and Josh are such a strange character pairing. They team up right after Josh is disappointed he won't be investigating the sex orgy in the park. Instead, Kady is the one leading the charge to find this dinosaur. That seems like a somewhat random plot that is bound to have more importance later on. The show wouldn't tease a dinosaur without eventually showing one.
  • Time has proven to be an important plot device this season. Penny's super cancer is moving much slower than expected because The Library exists outside of time. When he's there, he doesn't age nor does the disease progress. Conversely, the fairy world compounds time and allows Fray to be a teenager despite Fen giving birth just two months ago in the show's timeline.