Wednesday, March 6, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Penny Articulates That Everyone Is Extremely Important to This Story in 'The Side Effect'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 4.07 "The Side Effect"

Kady goes to the flea market. What's Zelda been up to? This one's about Fen, you guys.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Syfy's The Magicians.

"The Side Effect" was written by Elle Lipson and directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield

The Magicians has done a tremendous job over the years in making sure that every character is important. This isn't just the story of Quentin and Alice as star-crossed lovers. That would be the simplistic view of the world. It was the easy perspective to have at the very beginning of the series. And yet, this universe understands that everyone is the main protagonist of their own life. Everyone is just as important as anyone else. The priority may be on stopping the Monster from assembling its body at the moment. But that's not the only thing that is going on. There is a brewing conflict between the world and the Library because of the way that magic is being rationed and dispersed. There are two fundamentally different mentalities to the Library and its employees as well. This hour has the structure of the original Penny trying to get a newcomer to the Underworld division to understand the importance and significance of filing people's stories. They are never as simple as one would like them to be. They are all complex and carry massive consequences for the world at large. They are interconnected as well. Part of the fun of this hour is seeing how everything happening with Zelda, Kady and Fen enhance the world building that is actually going on. It's marvelous to watch because it is such precise character work. However, Penny is also preaching the importance of understanding the entire picture that is playing out in these people's lives without interfering in them. He understands that as someone who has really taken to this job despite passionately hating the Library in the past. But this division is largely about shelving the stories that have already been told. Meanwhile, the Library that has long been seen is an active participant in the ongoing story of magic. They are no longer just preserving their own history to ensure that magic survives and is written down throughout all of the worlds. Instead, they are the ones making the decisions. Their influence is now felt throughout the world. Magicians have been complaining about the low levels of magic. Meanwhile, some are getting special treatment simply because they can afford to be nice to the Library. But that painfully alienates the hedge witches. Now, this group of magicians has long been pushed to the side and treated as antagonists. They don't have the formal training. They are unorganized and many see them as disposable. That's not the viewpoint that Kady has any more. As she points out here, she should be angry with them because hedge witches killed her mother. She doesn't want to fall down the same path as she did. She wants to do better. However, she is going through an identity crisis because she believes her importance to the main group has always been because of her connection to Penny. Julia wants to assure her that isn't true. No one in the audience should think that either But it's still a crippling thought for Kady. Moreover, she's the only person who is ensuring that the friends can continue to stay in this apartment. That just leads to her unionizing the hedge witches in the hopes of pushing back against the Library to get the people in charge to take them seriously as people who don't deserve to be collateral damage in this expanding conflict.

Of course, Zelda is very distracted at the moment. Her story highlights how the people making these decisions with vast and far-reaching consequences often let their own personal feelings dictate their actions. She doesn't think it's a big deal to place these tracking devices amongst the hedge witches. She doesn't expect them to start dying because the magic doesn't mix well with the home brews they have created for themselves. After she learns that fact, she is willing to go against her boss' orders and team up with Dean Fogg and Alice to correct the situation. She doesn't want the war between the Library and the hedge witches to escalate any further. Too many have already died on both sides because of the bomb in Modesto. But she is also distracted by the idea that her daughter could still be alive in the mirror world. This episode has a lot of similarities to last season's fantastic "Six Short Stories About Magic." That was the episode in which Harriet was seemingly killed. And now, it seems as if she is calling out to her mother for help. That's such a tease because it's great to have Marlee Matlin back on this show. But it also may be a trick. That too may prove that there are many enemies of the Library at the moment. They don't know how to wield the power that they currently control. That may lead to the entire destruction of their organization as well. That's such a daunting and looming threat. One that they may not even be fully aware of quite yet. Zelda understands that some people need protecting because they have some grand purpose in this narrative. But that is also putting her in danger as well because she is spending more time on Earth now. But again, all of the decisions being made in this hour are going to have wide ramifications. That's the story that Penny is telling. He wants this new guy to understand the importance of this job. Fen is just as much the driver of her story as Margo is in Fillory. She may not be used to calling the shots. Right now though, she's the one getting these premonitions that may actually save the kingdom from whatever harm has currently befallen them. That too is an ominous tease that has no immediate answer to it. There is only the sneaking suspicion that Penny is about to come face-to-face with one of his friends sooner rather than later. When he gets his promotion after proving his worth, he is greeted by someone newly arriving to the Underworld. That is very enticing and makes it abundantly clear that the stakes of this world are just as high as every before. That can be true even when these apparent secondary characters take the focus for the main stories.