Wednesday, April 17, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Quentin Makes a Huge Decision to Save Eliot and Julia from the Monsters in 'The Seam'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 4.13 "The Seam"

Quentin and Josh get cake. Quentin reflects on his actions.

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 season finale of Syfy's The Magicians.

"The Seam" was written by Sera Gamble & John McNamara and directed by Chris Fisher

This finale is an emotional gut-punch. It does something that has never been done on the show before. It seemingly kills off one of the main characters for good. Of course, it may only be as effective as the willingness to hold firm to that decision in the future. This show has never killed off a major character before. It plays with huge stakes that consume the characters with life-or-death decisions. But it has actually grown its ensemble over the course of the series. Even when Penny was sentenced to work in the Underworld Library, the show immediately replaced him with a new version from a different timeline. Both versions of the character have remained active even though Penny23 has become more of a presence amongst the core group of friends on their adventures. Penny in the Underworld mostly presents as having a ton of information as to what is going to happen next while also guiding people through to the next stage of their existences. The season established that he would be greeting one of his friends at some point this season. It was completely unknown until this finale that it would be Quentin after he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the world from the Monsters. That is so devastating too. The final third of this finale is the most emotional the show has ever been. That's saying something because so many well drawn character and emotional moments have occurred across all four seasons. But it plays as an actual loss. It's more than just Penny losing his hands or magic being turned off or Margo losing an eye or Julia giving up her godly powers. It will have lasting implications for the entire ensemble because it's this grand goodbye to the central protagonist who started the entire narrative in the future. Yes, the audience can absolutely debate whether or not Quentin is the lead character of the show. The other members of the ensemble are all perfectly capable of leading their own stories. The show won't suffer creatively from losing that character. He still enhanced things in a meaningful way. He had relationships of merit and strength. His bonds with Julia, Alice and Eliot were especially strong. It's disappointing that he isn't given a private moment with Eliot before dying. Instead, the love they could have had together is coupled together with the grief the rest of the group is feeling. But the ensemble is making that active choice to live and continue to fight in his honor. Quentin doesn't know if he made this decision out of selflessness or if he finally found a way to kill himself. That question shows just how far he has come over the course of the series. His story this season has tracked that evolution. In hindsight, it's clear that everything was building to a major conclusion with him. There was the sense that his magical speciality of fixing small objects would play into the final action of the season. It does here. It just comes with the consequences of magic being done in the Mirror universe which immediately refracts it back to the people in the general area. That's the sacrifice Quentin is willing to make. His friends appreciate that and love him. They have certainly faced heartbreak and grief over the course of the series. This moment is just different because it may prove that sacrifice comes from saving the world. Quentin did that here by flinging the Monsters into the Seam - a place where they can never escape. It's curious why the Old Gods didn't just do that when the Monsters had to be contained the first time. But the disconnect between the Old and New Gods is strong as well and will more than likely only continue fueling the conflict to come.

Julia and Eliot are saved from the Monsters who possess them. It's actually surprising to see just how quickly those threats are eliminated. They are both caught by surprise and impaled by the blades that can force them out and into a new containment. It just means the entire world of hedge witches have to cast the spell at the same time in order for it to be effective. This whole story proves the bonds that connect communities with magic are strong. They all stand united in this cause even though they all don't have the necessary magic to make it work as a small part of the group. Collectively though, they are insanely powerful and can change the world. Everett wanted all of this power for himself. He believed he knew how to handle it because he has been studying gods and the mistakes they have made for thousands of years. He doesn't believe he would abuse those powers. He already has though by forcing his will onto communities suffering without magic. He took away the tool that could save lives. He created enemies out of organizations just doing their best to survive the new world order. Those problems still have to be fixed as well. It's not immediately better following this attack on the Library. Zelda still feels the urge to reform the institution she has loved so much. She joins the hedge witches in casting this crucial spell to defeat the Monsters. And yet, the show is also making the point that a God can't be the solution to defeating these creatures. This finale proves that the Old Gods are lazy and don't want to do anything. When Quentin and Josh travel to their realm, they are greeted by someone who can't be bothered and doesn't take their concerns seriously. They aren't too worried about what is going on with their creations. Those are minor problems to them. They have the solution that could end all this suffering. They just choose not to act. That is an important distinction. One that leads to even more sacrifice and destruction. It presents a situation where Quentin has to use magic in the mirror world in order to eliminate the threat from the Monsters and Everett. His skills fixing the mirror are vital to the solution. It just costs him severely in the process. That human sacrifice is so powerful and can be felt across the entire universe. The world doesn't stop moving just because he's gone. The show outlines the future plot complications for the rest of the ensemble - Julia becomes a magician again, Margo and Eliot discover new rulers in Fillory, Alice is seen as the rightful ruler of the Library, etc. Those are important details to set up for the next season which has already been ordered. But it's much more significant to live in that moment where Quentin receives full clarity about the life he lived and the influence he had on others. He died a hero who will be missed. And there is nothing better than him being memorialized in song. "Take on Me" has been used as the song for emotionally pivotal moments on television before. HBO's The Leftovers may have held the title for most effective use of the song so far. But it may be toppled here with the acoustic and simple orchestration that unites all of the characters together in their love for song. It doesn't erase their grief but it helps them put it into words that allows them to move on with their lives while still honoring what Quentin meant to all of them. That is absolutely beautiful and so powerful to watch.