Wednesday, January 15, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Alice and Julia Struggle to Find Direction After a Devastating Loss in 'Do Something Crazy'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 5.01 "Do Something Crazy"

Penny and Julia go stargazing. Eliot and Margo forget a sandwich.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 premiere of Syfy's The Magicians.

"Do Something Crazy" was written by Henry Alonso Myers and directed by Chris Fisher

The previous season finale was incredibly divisive. Quentin's death was visibly upsetting. It could be an enraging action to some viewers. The creative team saw it as a potential way to examine new stories in this world. Quentin was long positioned as the chosen savior who could always reliably save the worlds from whatever threats tried to end them. He never did so alone. He always relied on his friends. In fact, some can say that the other magicians were much more vital to the success of those various quests. He had meaningful relationships with all of them. As such, it's fascinating to see them move forward with their lives without him. The worlds still need saving as well. He saved all of them from one threat. Magic has returned to the universe. It is free to all. And yet, there are these mysterious surges that may overwhelm the system. It may no longer be a secret anymore. Brakebills is so overcrowded with students that Penny23 has to become a professor to teach the new travelers. That was once a rare ability. It was only seen once in a generation. And now, it may be common enough to have its own course of study. The entire system is overwhelmed. That may prevent some people from dealing with their feelings about Quentin's death. Only a month has passed since that tragedy has occurred. None of them have really moved on. Of course, the show once again proves that saving the world from disaster may only awaken some new threat that throws it all in danger once more. Part of that comes from the imbalance within the system of magic. But there is also this vague threat of a pending apocalypse. That's something Julia has heard before. She is just as qualified to step up in Quentin's absence to serve as the savior the world needs right now. She feels it is the precise action that can give her life direction. Instead, she is rejected solely because she is a woman. That's the entire basis for this magical creature from Fillory's dismissal of her. That's incredibly insulting and disconcerting. Julia's value stands at the forefront of the series now. This premiere is perhaps more expositional than the starts of previous seasons. Everyone is adjusting to a new status quo while also detailing that things are a bit more depressing because this death still remains so fresh in everyone's minds. The loss is still real. And yet, they have magic and may feel that he isn't gone for good. Julia proposes having a séance in order to communicate with Quentin and receive some wise knowledge from him. Meanwhile, Alice may be more than willing to do something crazy in order to avoid these feelings altogether. That may not be a bad impulse. It's something the show has certainly set up the audience to expect as well. Alice and Penny have been killed off before. The actors have remained with the series though and have even returned as the same characters. As such, it's hard to feel as if Quentin's death is suddenly more permanent than any previous one. There remains the feeling that it should. That's just hard for Alice to accept. As such, she is constructing a body in her basement in the hopes of bringing him back to life. That could end in disaster. Or it could prove that the show really was just messing with the audience throughout the hiatus. That may be tricky to navigate because it has the potential to go wrong in so many ways. It either has to stick to this decision or not. Quentin found catharsis and relief at the end of his journey. He accepted death. Others may not allow him to because they still need him for whatever apocalyptic threat is now coming. Two characters use that word to describe the extent of the consequences of their actions. That means it's likely all of this drama points back to Fillory and the state of the world 300 years in the future as Eliot and Margo are now experiencing it. But that too contributes to an overall feeling that this premiere keeps everyone separate for the time being even though it's obvious that it all connects in a grand way as well. The show has established trust. It's just unclear if this truly is a new era or if it's just more of the same but with the characters having less fun on their various quests. The stakes of the storytelling can be dire without them also being bleak. That careful balance of tone has always been extraordinarily handled by this show. It seems to falter a bit here because of the seismic shift brought on by Quentin's death. Hopefully, it can recalibrate while also accepting that things have to be different now. Magic may not make everything better. It may make life worse for the protagonists constantly trying to save the world and losing themselves in the process.