The Magicians – Season 1 Ep 3
It’s amazing what a second viewing of a piece of media can do for you. The first time I watched ‘Consequences of Advanced Spell casting’ I wasn’t all that into it, which I think has everything to do with the story line involving Alice and her brother. Watching it now though, I have to say I liked it a lot more than I remembered. The most enjoyable part of The Magicians to me is both the characters and the show’s ability to deliver amazing, funny and quippy dialogue; something that hasn’t been displayed much in the first two episodes, but really picks up here. Also, in my last recap I mentioned how it seemed like the show didn’t know what to do with Margo yet, but this episode starts to flesh her out more, which I, as a shameless Margo fan can appreciate.
Dean Fogg is back at Brakebills, ya’ll, minus two eyes, plus two crazy Iron Man looking type gloves, and he is not playing around. The students are being assigned to their disciplines, but he of course delivers a speech about what else? The consequences of advanced spell casting. Basically he explains that there’s a reason they do things the way they do at Brakebills,and that magic can either kill you or consume you,turning you into something else entirely if you’re not careful. The lecture is heard beautifully over both the song ‘Intro’ by The XX and shots of Julia doing exactly what Fogg is warning against. Her story line this episode is the more figurative embodiment of Fogg’s warning, while the story line over at Brakebills with Quentin and Alice is much much more literal.
No longer under the threat of being kicked out, Alice is still all about finding out what happened to her brother Charlie and she tells Quentin that she’s going to try another spell to contact him. Quentin agrees to help her with a different spell to locate Charlie’s spirit rather than trying to summon him through a portal like last time. The spell leads them to a fountain and while they don’t think they find anything, after they leave a hand rises up out of it and flips them off. Later, two students are attacked by what the school thinks is a spirit so the fountain is off limits,and after Alice finds a glass pony, she’s convinced it’s Charlie.
There are two reasons I don’t see it for this Charlie story line, and the first is because it doesn’t mesh with Alice’s character, who frankly is just so much smarter than her actions are making her look. I get it, she wants to know what happened to her brother, but if your first attempt at contact results in a monster from another world blinding the dean of your school and killing a teacher and the second resulted in two students getting attacked, why would someone in their right mind continue to pursue? Common sense would dictate that maybe it’s time to just chill on the whole dead brother quest.
Elliot asks Quentin to help him find the book that Kady had previously stolen back in the last episode, it’s easily the lightest story line in this episode but it’s a trap because it leads into some heavy territory once the book is found. Apparently books at Brakebills aren’t just books and they are in fact alive. The book Kady stole was volume one of two, which means the book has a mate who is eager to be reunited, so the boys use the book to lead them to it’s other half.
Elsewhere, Alice reluctantly asks Margo for help with finding out more about her brother. Margo doesn’t know a whole lot, but goes with Alice to find someone who does. That someone is Emily Greenstreet who at first they think is just a girl who knew Charlie since they were both physical kids, but after talking to her they found out she’s actually the reason he’s dead. Emily had an affair with a married professor at Brakebills who dumped her . She clearly hadn’t heard enough Dean Fogg lectures since she decided to use magic to fix the situation and tried to make herself more beautiful to get him back. The spell didn’t work out and she ended up messing her face up. She was going to kill herself, but Charlie wanted to help and started casting a spell that was too powerful for him so he became consumed by it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Charlie story line it is our first introduction to a pretty dope concept of something called a niffin. Basically, a niffin happens when a magician casts a spell that is too powerful. The magician dies and a niffin, basically pure magical energy is what replaces it. They aren’t human anymore, have no empathy and are apparently very dangerous. A niffin can only be contained, not destroyed and despite knowing all of this, Alice still wants to pursue contacting Charlie.
The highlight of this episode, of course involves both Julia and Quentin whose interactions are scarce, but I can’t think of a single one thus far that hasn’t been worth while. One of my complaints with these two is that there’s a lot of telling rather than showing when it comes to their friendship in the beginning, but there’s a saying that nobody can hurt you the way your friends can, and if that is true then Quentin and Julia are ride or die because the words they exchange are savage.
It’s been pretty obvious, but this episode is the first time it’s actually explained what hedge witches are, and basically they’re magical crack heads. Or at least that’s what Magicians at Brakebills see them as. There are a lot of aspects of Julia’s story with the hedge witches that is pretty much an allegory for drug addiction — In episode 1 she got her first hit, gets hooked immediately and craves more to the point that she doesn’t care about anything else. Episode 2 she’s got her own plug which takes her to some seedy places but she knows what she wants so she rocks with it. Now here we are in episode 3 and she’s hooked up, hooked, and magic is starting to interfere with her everyday life. So Quentin finding her there is like Ice T finding Pookie smoking rock in New Jack City.
There’s a story line in this episode involving Penny that falls pretty flat for me, but is worth mentioning if only because Penny and what he can do becomes important later. He incorrectly gets assigned into the psychic discipline, but after he accidentally transports himself to a different country he finds out that he’s something rare called a traveler, and not only can he go anywhere in the world, but he can also move between worlds in an instant. The episode doesn’t commit more than about two scenes to this, so there isn’t all that much to say about it regardless, but again, what Penny can do gets real important real fast.
Julia confesses to James that something is up with her, but she doesn’t tell him about magic, and instead that she’s addicted to Adderall a clever move by the writers here since the drug addiction parallels are so strong that they made the choice not to ignore something that it so clearly obvious and instead use it in the storyline itself. Besides that, her decision to lie to her boyfriend is a turning point for Julia as she has clearly made her choice about what’s most important to her.
Ironically, one of my other favorite moments comes when Alice tries to bring Charlie back (again) and in order to do that she has to invoke something personal, and that something personal is singing ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’. The moment is sweet and funny and a little heartbreaking all at the same time. It works and niffin!Charlie appears. Right away things go real left and Charlie tries to take Alice out then Quentin not long after. Using a niffin box he stole from Alice earlier in the episode, Quentin binds Charlie, which saves both their lives, something Alice is not at all grateful to him for. The episode ends with Alice packing her things and telling Margo she’s leaving Brakebills. This brings me to my other gripe with the Charlie storyline; it ends so abruptly and with no payoff. It’s the most anti-climactic ending and I can’t see how it serves to do anything for Alice as a character considering it certainly does nothing for the show’s plot.
By the end of the third episode the show in itself is starting to find it’s voice and further solidify the voices of it’s characters. The writing is tighter (niffin plot aside), the actors seem more comfortable in their roles, and the pacing even moved smoother than previous episodes. ‘Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting’ gives the best glimpse so far of what I love most about this show; the amazing balance of humor and seriousness. This episode still won’t go down as one of my favorites in season 1 in retrospect, but it has definitely gone up in my book.
So what did you think about this episode, FanBros? Tweet at me or comment below. Also be sure to read my recaps on any episodes you may have missed right here on FanBros.com!