Wednesday, January 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Alice Confronts the Lamprey While Margo Negotiates with Pirates in 'The Losses of Magic'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 3.03 "The Losses of Magic"

Alice and Quentin visit her parents as Kady and Julia explore new methods to heal Penny.

Last week's episode of The Magicians was all about the new magical quest that Quentin and Eliot were on to restore magic to all of the lands. And now, that story is mostly just dropped. Yes, there's a convenient way for that story to pick up again immediately next week with whatever is currently going on with Eliot. That's exciting. He, Fen and Fray just magically disappear as their ship is being boarded by pirates. The first key they have is magical. When they are in trouble, a lock appears. It opens a door that will lead to some place new and exciting. "The Losses of Magic" doesn't pick up on that narrative thread again after it happens. But it's clear the key is leading Eliot to the second world where the second key can be found. As such, it presents as a new way to travel between worlds. That's very fortunate because this hour makes it clear that Penny may not be as helpful with traveling as he has always been. Kady and Julia are using all of their power in order to heal him of his cancer. But that too is a story that ends on a very ominous note of Penny dying that may just be pure manipulation but is certainly intriguing to see what the consequences will eventually be. The balance of story in this hour seems off a little bit. But the plots that do get the main focus are incredibly strong and tackle some really empowering and political subjects as well. That makes this a thrilling hour of television.

Quentin finds himself unable to continue on the journey to restore magic because he becomes possessed by the lamprey. That magical creature has been talked about a lot over these opening three episodes. It could be a longterm enemy that Alice would have to fight that keeps her dealing with the consequences of being a niffin. There still should be consequences to her time as pure magic. She shouldn't be the same person she was before. This show is completely aware of that and knows that the lamprey isn't necessary in order to keep those ideas going. Making Quentin possessed by it gives the story a more personal hook to it. Quentin is still desperately in love with Alice. Alice can't be with him because she's being hunted by the lamprey and because she is no longer the same woman he once loved. She worries that she can never be the idealized version that he always sees when he looks at her. He brought her back to life. She was furious at him for that decision. She still enjoys sex with Quentin. But it's much more complicated than that because Alice is in the throws of her own personal identity crisis. This hour helps put that story into better perspective by actually coming out and saying what Alice actually did when she was a niffin and how she can't forgive herself for those actions just yet.

And so, Alice seeks shelter at her parents' house. Of course, Stephanie and Daniel no longer have magic. So, their lives are no longer as luxurious as they have always been. They are truly struggling in a world where they actually have to be responsible. They actually have to work in order to have anything in this world. It's torture for them. Stephanie continues to just see her daughter as very overly dramatic. She doubts that the lamprey is real. But she's in the midst of her own personal mid-life crisis to be of much use here. Instead, that responsibility falls onto Daniel. That makes it all the more tragic when the lamprey takes over his body. Quentin gets it into the house. But it doesn't stay in his body for very long. That makes Alice suspect that the creature wants more than just to kill her. That's true. It actually wants to burrow deep inside its host and lay eggs. When those eggs hatch, they destroy the human. So, it's still a deadly creature. But the personal grudge with Alice is still large too. She killed its entire family. She did so not to study it and accumulate that knowledge but to enjoy the pretty lights that are produced when it dies. That's so monstrous. It proves just how different Alice was as a niffin. And yet, she can't just blame all of her actions on that. She was still in control of herself. She's still in control now. She wants to move on and build a life with Quentin. She helps him rid his body of lamprey eggs. But she also doesn't know how to be around him knowing what she has done. Moreover, her actions lead to even more tragedy because her father dies from a weak heart just like the lamprey warned. That will only send Alice further down this spiral of despair.

In Fillory, Eliot's ship is boarded by pirates. He got what he went on this quest to find. It leads him onto the next stage of the mission. But Margo doesn't know that. She hears of what happened and needs to rescue him. In order to do so though, she needs help from the Fairy Queen. That's always dangerous. But here, she is able to make a compelling argument in saying that having her and Eliot as queen and king is easier for her and whatever her ultimate goal is. That mission is still shrouded in secrecy. But the Fairy Queen is at least willing and susceptible to changing her mind when new complications arise. She normally wouldn't bother getting involved with this unfortunate misunderstanding. But she sends Margo and two of the royal advisors to the ship to negotiate. She makes the journey as well. That's an important distinction. Everyone on the ship can see the Fairy Queen. They can see her because they've all made deals with her. Those deals have carried some extreme consequences. But Margo is completely focused on saving Eliot. Of course, she's surprised that Eliot is no where to be found on the ship. And yet, she still feels the duty to protect a vessel of the royal fleet. The pirate king happens to be a woman - which is just such an empowering message and visual. She rules this crew and demands to be respected with the same title as a man. That's attractive to Margo. Their first interaction is all about these two beautiful and successful women wanting to sleep with each other in order to come to an agreement. It's played as completely okay and commonplace for both of them. That's special in a strong way too.

And then, everything turns in an instant to a poignant conversation about rape and consent. This show can often be ridiculous. This ship actually has a personality. All of the ships in Fillory do because of the wood used to make them. It allows them to appear much smaller than they actually are. But it allows them to have a perspective in any given situation too. They are alive. That's weird but sparks such a compelling conversation here. The pirates don't really want anything from the royal ship other than the opportunity for their ship to have sex with it. That seems like such a ridiculous and odd sentence to type out. And yet, it carries so much importance and poignancy to it. Even though this ship isn't a person, Margo respects that it's alive and will be forever affected by having to do this against her will. Right now, this ship is a prisoner to the pirates. Absolutely nothing can be consensual. The only way of escape is to submit to their demands. But that will only lead to more ongoing consequences. This ship will never be the same and probably have to be docked forever. As queen, Margo understands that it's her responsibility to have this conversation with the ship first before making any rash decision. She needs to let it in on deciding its own future. That's such a compelling plot point that is so moving to watch. It even motivates the Fairy Queen into action. Sure, it's convenient for her to kill all of the pirates in one fell swoop. She is so powerful when she choices to act. But it's also out of respect for how Margo chose to rule. And then, that power is quickly corrupted again with Margo's desire to reclaim her eye which leads to the Fairy Queen disabling one of the advisors. Margo's only act of power is to destroy this piece of herself. It's a brutal and small act. But it's an action of defiance and rebellion too. The Fairy Queen may not be able to spy on her that way but she's still the one ultimately ruling over this kingdom. That's abusive and oppressive while fitting into the overall themes of the episode as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Losses of Magic" was written by Henry Alonso Myers and directed by James L. Conway.
  • Penny dies but he's not really dead. The show certainly has Kady and Julia make the big reactions to such a tragic loss. It makes the audience believe he's gone for a moment as well. But then, it needs to confirm that he can still do astral projection. That means he will still be a significant character on this show. There is just speculation on what he can physically do now as well as how he can interact with everyone else.
  • Penny also notes how a world without magic is actually pretty good for him. He still has powers because he is a magical creature. That's in his DNA and can't change no matter what. Him dying from this super cancer is the only thing bad about his existence at the moment. He is no longer dealing with the constant awareness of what everyone else is thinking. His mind has been quiet and peaceful for once. So of course, he dies which is an immediate complication for him.
  • It's a little chilling to see just how casually the lamprey controlling Quentin is able to offer a reasonable excuse to Julia about why he isn't helping the search for Kady. He is just able to drop that his father is still sick and needs attention right away. Julia immediately understands. But that tease may also be foreshadowing that Quentin's father could pop back up this season as well.
  • Isn't it a little suspicious that the Fairy Queen doesn't want to see Eliot, Fen and especially her spy, Fray? She is aboard this ship while Margo is negotiating with the pirates. She is there to hear everything that is going on. And yet, she isn't seen having a reaction to the disappearance of those three. She isn't concerned and leaves Margo stranded on this ship for the next week. She can do a lot of damage back at the castle in that amount of time too.
  • So, the show name drops a pegasus being the only creature that can transport Margo, the Fairy Queen and company to the ship in time to actually help with the situation. The characters do take that ride too. And yet, the audience never sees the pegasus. That's not surprising because magical creatures like that can be expensive and this is still a show on basic cable. But it's also disappointing not to at least get a glimpse. Instead, we have to settle for the Fairy Queen saying that the bird fucks the horse in order to make a pegasus.