And the season ends with both bangs and whimpers. Quentin has always been on a quest—at first, that quest was to save his own bleak life through magic, and then through magic to save his childhood fantasy of Fillory from itself. In fact, the whole thing reminds me of the Disney version of Hercules. Remember when Phil sings in “One Last Hope:”
So, ya wanna be a hero, kid?
I have been around the block before
With blockheads just like you
The audience feels a little Phil-ish until, of course, the series’ OWN Phil shows up. But I digress.
When our band of magicians reunites in Fillory, Quentin has Julia in tow. Seemingly, this is the dream team: nobody can stop these guys! They’ve got magic oozing out of them! Everyone has a cool and different strength! But, as Margo reminds us, Quentin’s fantasy OF fantasy (this whole episode gets pretty meta) is bleak and horrific.
I’d given up hope that someone would come along
A fellow who’d ring the bell for once
Not the gong
The kind who wins trophies
Won’t settle for low fees
At least semi-pro fees
But no—I get the greenhorn
Deception is the watchword of this episode. The gang gets hoodwinked when they commission a magical dagger that will allow them to kill The Beast. In true magical-world style, they forgot to also request the ability to wield it. Apparently, that privilege is only available to a master-level magician (a level of skill none of them have yet achieved). Similarly, Julia keeps getting stopped by Fillorians who observe that she has a crude memory block applied to her brain—and tragically, it’s patching her encounter with the trickster god Reynard. The Free Traders Beowulf did not, in fact, summon Our Lady Underground for a love-fest. They accidentally summoned Reynard the Fox, a horrific, rapey, murdering god who is totally P.O.’ed that a bunch of pseudo-hippy magicians tried to tap into the mainline of power.
This is where I think The Magicians, the books,
and The Magicians, the TV series, converge.
Julia had Marina rescue her afterwards with a mind block—zapping the memory of Reynard’s murder of all her friends, her own rape at his hands, and the fact that Kady got away while Julia stood up to him. This all comes rushing back to Julia when she and Quentin run into Ember the Ram and discover he’s actually a gross old satyr who doesn’t seem to possess any of the power they’d hoped to tap in order to stop The Beast. Ember is essentially Phil from Hercules: mostly interested in what benefits him. When he rips out Julia’s mind block, the entire quest seems doomed.
I’ve been out to pasture pal, my ambition gone
Content to spend lazy days and to graze my lawn
But you need an advisor
A satyr, but wiser
A good merchandiser
There goes my ulcer!
The gang is also deceived by the identity of The Beast, who isn’t Christopher Plover, it turns out, but instead his victim Martin Chatwin. Just as in the books, Martin reveals himself as the Beast and all is uncovered. No niffins—at least, not yet. They have returned to the Plover house where Martin’s worst memories reside, and where he was deceived by a seemingly kindly writer who unleashed, well, The Beast inside him. No wonder he can’t let go.
And this is where I think The Magicians, the books, and The Magicians, the TV series, converge. Everyone is fighting identity crises where they struggle to see themselves as the world sees themselves, but also to realize a version of themselves they try to keep hidden from others. If you’re able to grow into a new identity, one that you take charge of and help forge, then you end up functioning better. We see a little of that with Eliot, who is given his destiny as High King of Fillory and decides to stop fighting the terrible things the world has brought him. The revelation of the 40 time loops helps Julia realize that, as long as she cherished Brakebills as her greatest dream, she would never have the hunger to truly plumb the depths of magic. And Quentin, who is simultaneously writing the episode and participating in it (see, I told you it was meta) realizes that, although he wants to be the hero, he might be of better use just being himself. He starts to get it when he and Julia run into Jane Chatwin and wonders which of them is the witch and which is the fool. And Q’s growth, over both the season and this episode in particular, help him to be just slightly less of a whiny little fool.
It’s safe to say we could all have used an extra hour for the season finale. There was a lot of story packed into a tiny package, so here’s hoping they extend the season premiere so we can see what’s up. Because that was a hell of a cliffhanger: Alice and Quentin look done for, Margo and Eliot are about the same, and Penny’s hands have been severed a la the books. The surprise? Julia has stolen the moonstone dagger from Alice (whose use of Ember’s nasty semen-power smoothie didn’t seem to help her at all) and gets the jump on Martin. What sort of a deal does she want to broker with this crazy, power-thirsty maniac? Will she use Martin to get her revenge on Reynard? We’ll have to wait until next season to find out.
HUGE thanks to all of you who have tweeted with me this season! Your wit and wisdom have been much appreciated. I look forward to the next season of The Magicians and to talking with you all again soon. That said, are there other book-to-television shows you think we ought to be covering here at The Booklist Reader? Let me know in the comments.