Wednesday, March 14, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Julia and Fen Make a Deal with the Fairy Queen in 'The Art of the Deal'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 3.10 "The Art of the Deal"

Quentin and Alice search the castle for an important object while Julia and Fen work with an enemy.

"The Art of the Deal" features two stories that are phenomenal and profound. And then, there are two additional stories that feel like the show moving the pieces around for its end game. It's fascinating to see the balance because they are all important. Some just provide more glimpses into what's going on in this world and the characters that are engaging to talk about in reviews. And so, it's significant that Julia and Fen are teaming up with the Fairy Queen to free Irene's fairy slaves. It threatens to unravel the delicate balance of the world because so many people are relying on the fairy dust to have magic in a world where it no longer exists. It's brutal torture but The Library justifies their actions because it's too important of a time to be without magic at the moment. That's fascinating. The Library is making deals with several individuals in order to get control over the chaotic world once more. This is an hour that highlights the chaos while still digging deep into the characters to understand just how important this quest and magic really are. The Library needs magic. As such, they are perfectly capable of teaming with Irene for her family's services as well as supporting Alice in joining the quest to restore magic. All of the consequences be damned. It already seems likely that Alice will lose her soul because of this deal. And yet, she's so desperate to have magic once more that she's willing to do anything. Plus, this hour closes on the idea that perhaps The Library isn't that bad either. It's just misunderstood because it presents a fuller life than whatever humanity can have on Earth, Fillory or anywhere else in this world. As such, it makes the audience and characters question the very importance of the main premise this season. And that is very rich and important thematic material to work with.

Julia and Fen have nothing to do with the quest of the seven keys. Julia doesn't want magic but has been touched by the gods anyway. She feels her powers getting stronger the more good she does in the world. As such, she is becoming attracted to noble causes that need her help. She sees the horror of slavery and knows that she must do something to stop it. Fen hates fairies. She blames them for ruining her life. A deal was made on her behalf and it ultimately took her child away from her. At least, that's how she has always seen it - and rightfully so too. But she still has sympathy for these fairies because she sees the horrors involved in being held in captivity like this. It's still completely surprising when Julia and Fen return to Fillory to ask the Fairy Queen to travel with them to Earth to free these fairies. Each side both believes they are the last fairies in existence. The ones on Earth don't believe they are magical creatures. They don't see any life that is better for themselves than this servitude. They don't even want to entertain the thought of escape knowing just how severe the consequences would be right now. They don't want to be the next to be maimed. Meanwhile, the fairies in Fillory are completely aware of the violent history that led to their exile from Earth. They were being hunted and could only thrive in their own world in Fillory. As such, they are skeptical of any magician trying to lure them back to the place where so many of them have been killed.

And yet, the Fairy Queen still goes because she sees no reason for Julia and Fen to lie to her. It's such a fascinating dynamic as well. She understands the reason Fen is willing to help these fairies. But she needs to understand why Julia is willing to do so without having any previous interactions with fairies. She wants to know why she's special. Julia just happens to be selfless now. She shows her powers to the Fairy Queen in order to establish trust. It would be a huge demand for her to wear the collar that disrupts her magical abilities. And yet, she is willing to do so knowing that Julia has noble intentions and doesn't want to hurt her or the other fairies. As such, Julia creates a ruse for Irene and her family - which now includes Michael Hogan as the uncle who designed the collars and has the only machine that can remove them. It comes with an important history lesson as well. The McAllistair family made a deal with the fairies. They promised to never go to Fillory to hunt the ones that got away so long as the ones that remained would serve as their servants without any access to magic. The collars aren't really an invention by someone in the family. They were instead a fairy deal that can't be broken. That means these fairies will always be slaves. That's heartbreaking to the Fairy Queen. She came here to free her brothers and sisters. And now, she can only do that by breaking a fairy deal - the only thing that must be held above all else in order for them to maintain their reputation and respect. There is a way to do it. In doing so, the Fairy Queen puts her entire leadership into question. And yet, it's still the right thing to do. She saves fairies. And then, they immediately go on a killing spree. They kill the entire family that has enslaved them for years - except for Irene who, of course, gets away.

It's a surprisingly rousing moment too. The Fairy Queen has always been positioned as the big bad of the season. She was a magical creature tormenting Eliot and Margo's lives in Fillory. They couldn't lead because the Fairy Queen was the one running the show from behind the curtain. Everything she did was apparently to build a stronger army for herself should the rest of civilization ever turn on her. She feels powerful because fairies are the essence of magic. She feels superior to the trivial concerns of those in Fillory. She was always capable of seeing multiple steps ahead and outsmarting Eliot and Margo. But here, the show gives dimension to the character through showing her sympathies and fears. Fairy deals are the trademark of her people. Without them, they would be seen as irrelevant. The only people who know that she broke this one are Julia, Fen and Irene. And yet, the Fairy Queen views that as enough to put her people into harm's way. She comes out of this experience with a newfound respect for Julia. She sees her as the best of humanity. If more magicians were like her, then the fairies never would have had to flee. But they did. In doing so, they were gifted one of the keys that helped create their world. They were able to build an alternate dimension for protection because of the magical components of this key. Quentin, Alice and Josh are at the castle in Fillory looking for it. It's only after awhile - and when Josh gets high - that they realize it's in the fairy dimension. So, they have a seemingly impossible task ahead of them. They only care about retrieving the keys to restore magic. But for Julia and the Fairy Queen, it's much more personal. Losing the key means losing the fairy world. The Fairy Queen can't allow that to happen now because of all that has changed. She respects the quest that the main characters are on. She wants to do right by Julia. But she can't because she needs to put her people first. As such, she'll be positioned as the villain once more. But it will be much more personal and tragic to see what the outcome will be.

Meanwhile, Penny is faced with the question of if his devotion to the quest is even worth it. He is so desperate to get back to his friends on Earth. He has always vilified The Library for being secretive and forcing him into this billion year contract. He's mad at Sylvia for betraying his trust. She did so to write off a million years from her own contract so that she could reunite with her family sooner. And now, Penny is presented with an opportunity to escape this world. He has the potential to get a ticket out of here. It only takes a little charm to do so as well. But he is stopped by a god. Hades appears before him to question why he is so stubborn about avoiding his fate despite always seeming to return to it. He views life on Earth as limited. Yes, it comes with several perks for Penny as a traveler. But his service to The Library provides him with the greatest sources of information in the entire universe. It's his chance to build a real and genuine life that is meaningful for him for a very long time. Life on Earth is always going to be finite. Meanwhile, the quest for magic may not be all that important. It may just be the gods continuing to trick the humans to make them feel important so that they don't focus all their time and energy on hunting the gods down and killing them. Magic was turned off because of the death of a god. And now, the people who killed Ember are the ones in charge of restoring magic. But Hades contests that magic will always return to this world. The gods always keep it around in order to entertain the humans so that they feel their lives and journeys are important in life. It's a profound statement to make at this point of the season. It seems that Penny really buys into the argument as well. He is seen relaxing into this life at The Library. He joins a book club and makes new friends. He feels less of a pull back to Earth and the quest. Of course, it could still be a ruse. If it's not, he's completely disregarding his feelings for Kady. But it should be really interesting to see what will happen as soon as Quentin and Eliot collect all seven keys. Will it be all that they were promised? Or will it be a let down simply meant to distract them for a little while.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Art of the Deal" was written by Christina Strain and directed by Rebecca Johnson.
  • It's very important that Eliot and Margo are making deals with the leaders of Loria and the floaters under the assumption that magic will return shortly. During their time away as rulers, war has broken out in Fillory. The Lorians are preparing to march on the floaters. Eliot and Margo can bring Idri and the Stone Queen to their ship. But it's through exploiting their intrigue in magic that gets them to come to a tentative peace. Of course, all of that could change depending on what happens with the quest.
  • It's a little awkward how characters just randomly show up on the flying ship that is now carrying Eliot and Margo around. She is their only protection. She supports them in a way the citizens of Fillory do not. They have been released from their responsibilities as king and queen. And yet, they still feel the need to lead and govern. But how do newcomers board this ship to have these negotiations? And why does no one in Fillory seem to notice a flying ship?
  • Are the fairy babies still an ongoing concern? It seemed like the Fairy Queen only tried to conquer Fillory to grow an army for herself. She was trying to restore her people to their former glory. But it's been awhile since that field of mushrooms has been seen. Is it still there or has it been a casualty of this war? If it is, then it still represents a huge complication that could get in the way of the quest.
  • Quentin and Alice's story is really lackluster. Yes, Alice gets an interesting and empowering moment where she calls Quentin out for his poor behavior. Of course, she's being pretty destructive and selfish as well. She blames Quentin for not allowing her to grieve after her father's death. But she is also right to call him out for his desire to be the only person who can be depressive and secretive.
  • It continues to be so much fun seeing how quickly Fen has adjusted to life on Earth. She just completely blends into that world now while still being amazed by things. This week she seems to have mastered emojis and gifs. Of course, it leads to the inevitable question of how to pronounce "gif." By the way, Julia has it right and it shouldn't even be questioned at this point.