I’m used to watching shows and cataloguing reasons why certain characters are trash or why I don’t like them in my mind. From Zack Morris being basically the worst on ‘Saved By The Bell’ to to Archie Andrews being the most idiotic/mediocre white boy I’ve seen in a while on television, and yet everyone on the show treating him like he’s the greatest thing to set foot on earth in ‘Riverdale’; righteous indignation for or on behalf fictional characters is kind of my jam. Granted, characters aren’t perfect, nobody wants to watch perfect people, that’s boring, but examples of the aforementioned don’t come off as particularly intentional on the part of the writers or noticed at all it would seem.
That being said, I can’t think of a show in recent memory that calls out it’s own characters the way The Magicians calls out their characters, maybe this season more than any other. ‘All That Josh’, is not only a musical episode (you either love them or hate them, I personally love them), but it’s an episode in which the crux of the plot rests on our main characters being called out for their behavior, specifically one of their own — Josh.
Back from the mirror bridge, Kady and Quentin go back to the physical kids cottage and Alice is there as well. They have the fourth key with them now so they pull out the quest book ready tackle finding the fifth, only the text that reveals itself is written in a code Quentin doesn’t recognize, but Alice figures out that the code is medieval music. She plays it but nothing happens until Kady gives an assist. Turns out she and music go way back, and when she plays the notes correctly suddenly they’re still in the cottage, but there are a few details that have changed in a flash. For one, the keys are not longer on the table, for two there’s suddenly a party happening, and Josh is leading a musical number, a cover of Clooney’s ‘Wham-Bam’. That’s right, welcome to The Magicians’s musical episode, Fanbros.
Josh and Todd (who seems to be his right hand for some reason) explain the rules, or rather rule; don’t kill the vibe. The consequence of breaking the rule? Those random party goers turn into a big unruly mob real quick. Wherever they are, magic is back, and because of that, Josh sees it a reason to party, not ever asking how or why, he just goes with it.
At the same time, at the cottage proper, Fen and Julia come back after making their discovery about Irene McCallister and her ‘magic reserve’. Julia more than ever wants to help, but Fen still can’t bring herself to, even though she thinks what happened to Skye was awful. Julia won’t force Fen to help if she doesn’t want to and gets the idea to use the truth key so she can see Skye on her own.
In Fillory, Margo and Eliot are found guilty and sentenced to death. They do get the honor of choosing their own execution method and choose ‘infinite waterfalls’, which by its description doesn’t seem all that ideal, but Margo chooses it because it’s the only option that buys them time to figure out how to get out of being executed at all.
Back at the party cottage Alice, Quentin, and Kady realize that the only magic that can be done there are party tricks, and real magic like locating spells and battle magic don’t work. Kady starts to get angry so those party guests go into unruly mob mode until Alice starts to sing happy birthday and they back off more and more as Kady and Q start to join in. To try and figure out what’s going on Quentin and Alice go upstairs to talk to Josh while Kady distracts the party goers with a cabaret-esq rendition of ‘All I Need Is The Girl’ from Gypsy, reworked into ‘All I Need Is The Boy’.
Julia goes back to Skye and tells her that she wants to help her get out of there. Skye is reluctant to believe that the McCallisters aren’t good people who protect faeries, so Julia tells her that faeries can do magic, and if she can prove that Skye can do it, it proves that Irene has been lying to her, and that she and her family are bad news.
While Kady does her Gypsy thing downstairs, Quentin and Alice question Josh about what’s going on and tell him that wherever they are it isn’t real. Josh proceeds to tell them about themselves (narcissistically up their own asses, in his words). Apparently he’d called and texted everyone like crazy to join them on the quest, but the only one of them to actually text him back was Julia. Kady uses a ventriloquist spell to keep everyone downstairs entertained, and joins Alice, Quentin, and Josh upstairs. Alice pleads with Josh to leave with them, but Kady just wants to get out, not caring if Josh stays or leaves with them if he wants to stay.
Chained inside of The Muntjac on their way to the infinite waterfalls, Margo and Eliot see Tick’s true colors and boy does he not like them. He, like nearly all of the Fillorians hate Margo and Eliot, in fact, he thinks they’ve been the worst rulers to date. To boot, when humans weren’t ruling Fillory, Tick was the one calling the shots and he plans to do so again once Margo and El are dead.
Fen doesn’t have a complete change of heart in regards to faeries, but she has one enough that when Skye shows up to meet Julia, she is there too. They have about an hour while Irene is eating dinner and Julia tries to teach her how to do magic, which turns out to be a fail. Fen helps, telling Julia that faeries are magic and don’t do the finger tutting to perform it so they change gears and ask her to visualize a flower in order to produce one. It takes some trial and error, but she does it, and when she does, suddenly she’s bleeding out of orifices, mostly her eyes and choking. Julia’s power levels up in that moment and she stops time for everything around her with the exception of herself and Fen and she realizes it’s the necklace that Skye is wearing that kills faeries the moment they do magic.
Finally, Josh tells the trio how he’d gotten there in the first place. Once Baccus’s party was over (episode 1 of this season), Todd approached him and told him that magic was back and basically took him to the cottage where he quickly learned about the good vibes rule and he accepted that because in this world, he was the center of attention for once, and it was a non stop party; basically paradise for him. He also mentioned that Todd has the fifth key, but he hid it and Josh didn’t really care because as far as he knew, magic was back anyway. Alice figures out that Todd isn’t actually Todd, but a shape shifting demon who feeds off of people’s happiness by putting people in a pocket universe where all their fantasies come true.
Josh buys them some time to figure out what to do with what else? Another musical number. This time it’s a cover of ‘Car Wash’ by Rose Royce. They find the key hidden in a piano upstairs, and once they pick it up there’s a door produced that tells them to enter it.
Margo and Eliot make a last ditch effort to convince The Muntjac to not listen to Tick, but The Muntjac doesn’t go for it. Margo gives Eliot another pep talk in which they resolve that whatever happens they’re doing it together, and they have yet another one of their famous understated, yet heartwarming Margo/Eliot moments. When Tick comes in to tell The Muntjac to stop so they can throw El and Margo over, it seems the boat had a change of heart and doesn’t listen, leaving him no choice but to abandon ship.
While he’s distracting, Josh pretty much gets sick of the singing and dancing, knowing now that none of it is reality. At the same time, suddenly all eight of the questors realize that they can all hear each other from their respective sides of the world/realities — the fifth key links them all up. They’re all dealing with some crazy situations. Josh gets even more agitated with all of them in his head and Quentin concludes that all of them need to work together. Josh gets attacked, and the mission is clear — save Josh together. How can they possibly work together on different planes of existence might you ask? Through the power of song of course. More specifically, through the power of Bowie and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’.
Kady and Eliot do most of the heavy lifting in terms of the song because their actors are the most vocally inclined (they both have backgrounds studying musical theatre and Jade has some great cover videos on YouTube worth checking out), but everyone gets in on the action. The number as a whole is a treat to watch from the moment the first iconic note starts playing to the last, and by the end of it everyone’s gotten out of their mess (with the exception of Penny who’s still stuck in billion year servitude to the library. Sorry dude, keep having fun with that short end of the stick). It’s cheesy and hopeful and serving up all kinds of Deus Ex Machina realness, but what else do you expect from a musical?
Before team Brakebills go back to the real world, the demon mentions that someone put him up to creating Josh’s pocket universe in the first place. Someone who told him that he knew they would succeed in getting out. He doesn’t say who, but I’m sure that little tidbit is going to come back into play later down the line so I figure it’s worth mentioning now.
The connection is lost between the eight questors, but the ending of the episode isn’t a downer. It’s actually one of the few that ends of low key upbeat note. Julia comes back to the cottage and chapter 6 in The Tales of the Seven Keys appears.
The sixth key awaits.
If the show’s willingness to make bold moves in terms of storytelling is my favorite thing about this it, then my second favorite is easily the level of self-awareness in the writer’s room. The show roasts itself in one way or another at least once an episode and it makes it that much more enjoyable to not only watch, but ups it’s re-watch factor by a lot. Of course, Buffy’s ‘Once More With Feeling’ is the G.O.A.T. when it comes to musical episodes in science fiction shows, which is low key becoming a trend (looking at you musical episode of The Flash), but ‘All That Josh’ didn’t do a bad job at throwing their hat into the ring as a contender. Musical business aside, pretty much all of our mains have bossed up in one way or another and the closer we get to the finale and the collection of the seven keys, the more anxious I am for the next episode to see how it all will end and here they’ll end up by this season’s conclusion. The narratives always split between several places, this season more than any other, so seeing most of them together is always a nice change of pace and always means something epic, disastrous, or both is on the horizon. Regardless, as this episode re-enforced, in order for the quest to be completed, all eight questors need to come together and with only 3 episodes left in the season that’s got to happen sooner rather than later.
What do you think about ‘All That Josh’, Fanbros? Are you glad to see Josh back or nah? Who do you think put the demon up to creating Josh’s pocket universe in the first place? Where will you be when the faerie uprising happens? Let me know down below in the comments, and keep it right here on Fanbros.com for more The Magicians goodness and recaps.