The Magicians – Season 1 Ep 5
I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who at one point or another hasn’t thought about what their life would be like if they were gifted with magical powers. In the midst of dreaming up the fantastical it’s almost assumed everyday problems that plague regular people would just be handled by a flick of the wrist or maybe a quick mumbling of a spell. One of the most interesting elements about The Magicians so far is the notion that this is very much not the case. In episode 5, this is explored in a more thorough manner than any other episode this season, and aside from that there is a lot going on, so let’s sink our teeth into the good and bad of Mendings, Major & Minor.
Julia is essentially off the hook as far as Brakebills is concerned, but she’s on a warpath as she storms over to Marina’s safe house demanding spells. We don’t get blessed with any actual Marina this episode, but she’s mentioned a lot so her presence is at least felt. The downside of that is we get Pete as a stand in, and really, who asked for that? Pete is the one to warn Julia that she needs to leave the safe house, and she does, she’s not so much dropping the issue and cutting her losses as she is going back to the drawing board. Julia is tough, resourceful, and desperate at the moment. But she’s also smart enough to know she can’t win against Marina.
Alice is back, and has been spending her time away from Brakebills laying low at her aunt’s house doing a lot of terrible gardening. Dean Fogg comes to see her and tries to convince her to come back to school. She agrees to give it a chance, at least for Alumni week.
Speaking of, Alumni week is the big event that frames most of the episode, and since it’s just a framing device I’ll forgive how flimsy of a premise it is considering both upperclassmen and incoming students get a chance to be selected by mentors. It seems that the only people who actually care about Alumni week out of our crew at least are Elliot and Margo who are on the hunt for the best mentor. For them, that just so happens to be Alice’s aunt Genji. For the most part they’re relegated once again to the comic relief, but since this episode is a pretty heavy one, levity of any sort is more than welcome. Besides that, Margo gets a bit of a spotlight later in the episode in a conversation with Quentin so I personally am all about it.
Penny also gets a mentor in the form of another traveller so apparently travelers have a trait of just being straight up unpleasant people, because Penny’s mentor is about as pleasant as Penny himself is. He opts to not give Penny the whole spiel of how being a traveler is a gift, but instead tells him it’s a curse. He also gives Penny a spell in the form of a tattoo that would keep him from travelling and stick strictly to astral projection. Penny and his storylines tend to be sidelined to B or C plots more often than not, and I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – what he can do is really important, and his abilities, especially in the first half of the series are often what gets the show back on track in terms of its overarching plot.
Quentin (and the audience) back at the physical kids cottage gets an introduction to welters, which is basically the Quidditch of the Magicians-verse, but the fact that it’s a sporting event played by magical beings is where the similarities begin and end. Elliot explains that it’s kind of like chess, but not really, which is weirdly accurate. Margo gives a more detailed explanation during the actual game scene, and essentially players are on a huge board, they roll a huge dice and cast a spell based on where the dye lands to take squares and clear the board. The mentors watch the game, so it’s a great way to impress if you want a good one, which means Margo is all over it.
The episode takes a turn for depressing when Quentin finds out that his dad has cancer. He goes home to see him, and this is the storyline that takes up most of the episode. Looking at it from an isolated perspective, it’s really good, but once it’s put into the context of the show as a whole? It’s not that great, and that mostly has to do not with the storyline itself, but what has happened in the show already and what happens after. It’s obvious that the news upsets Quentin and that his dad loves him, but their issues aren’t with a lack of love, but rather they don’t understand one another. Quentin’s dad is worried that he isn’t happy doing what he thinks he’s doing which is studying finance and he just wants to mend their relationship before he dies. He finds out later that his dad chose not to pursue any treatments and his doctors agree with him. Q can’t really accept that and turns to his mentor, a podiatrist, desperate to find a way to cure his dad. She warns him that it’s both dangerous and nearly impossible to cure something like cancer as it requires an enormous amount of energy. The best she can do is point Quentin in the right direction of some things he can read up on and warns him that he’s in over his head, but this is Quentin we’re talking about so it’s not like he listens.
Julia searches the internet for spells and finds one for invisible fire. It doesn’t go well because apparently Google magic is something any magician, even a hedge witch should know to avoid. She calls Pete over and sleeps with him for information about other hedge witch safe houses, something that is completely obvious but he totally goes for it anyway. Remember when Julia was just lying a lot in order to have access to magic and spells? Now she’s sleeping with people for it, so I’d say she’s circling her rock bottom.
The most energetic scene of the episode comes when we get to the welters match. It’s intro is constructed in a way that instantly got me pumped every time I watch it. Preceding the scene is a quick shot of Quentin absorbed in reading up on brain tumors, so much so that when Margo comes in yelling at him to hurry up and get to the match, her words are muffled. There’s a quick cut to a wide shot of the welters arena and this drum heavy music starts up as the physical kids step in with fans in the bleachers cheering and Margo explaining the rules in voiceover. It’s easily the highlight of the episode for me because it’s the most fun, especially juxtaposed against the heaviness of the rest of the it. Besides that I could honestly sit around watching them cast spells all day, especially magicians we don’t see do it often like Margo. Their uniforms are simple, but it’s really awesome to see each magician add their little personal flair to it. Margo goes for knee high tube socks, a sweater with a low cut V, and a skirt, Kady has short shorts and a varsity jacket, Quentin goes for long sleeves and pants with one leg rolled up (because he’s an LL Cool J fan maybe?), Alice opts for a dress, and Elliot wears a polo with a flask in his belt.
When Quentin is up, he lands on a complicated square, and he casts a spell that ends the game in a spectacular fashion. By now it’s been iterated several times over that magic comes from pain, and right about now Quentin has a lot of it. Afterwards, of course there’s a victory party at the physical kids cottage, and Quentin and Margo have a conversation about the nature of magic and life in general as Quentin is obviously not in the partying mood. It’s a real character building moment for Margo who up until now has only been depicted as a gossip, opportunist, and manipulator, here she’s just giving a friend some advice. I’m a sucker for the development of side characters, so any Margo development for me will always be a good thing.
Julia is pissed when she finds out the safe house that Pete sent her doesn’t have spells that are even close to being as powerful as the ones Marina has. Pete proposes her leaving with him to find better safe houses and Julia shuts it down immediately. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was so creepy when he was introduced, I’d almost feel bad for Pete because he didn’t even see that he was getting played. He warns her not to tell James anything about magic but she threatens to anyway unless he gives her more powerful spells.
Elsewhere, Penny tries meditating and hears a woman crying and screaming for help. He astral projects to where she is, which so happens to be some creepy dungeon where she’s tied up in chains. She can’t see him, but he notices she has the same tattoo that his mentor had given him so he deduces that she is also a traveler. The Beast makes his return and urges this girl, Victoria to talk. Penny thinks that The Beast can’t see him until he turns to look right at him and says hello. Penny gets out of there because he’s one of the smarter characters on the show tbh, and finds his mentor in a bar. Turns out the girl in the chains was part of the missing 3rd year class that was mentioned in the first episode. Obviously, she is very much alive despite what everyone, including Penny’s mentor thinks. Penny asks for help to get her back but his mentor wants nothing to do with it and leaves. He’s not a great mentor, you guys.
Did I mention that this episode features something called Cancer Puppy? Well, it does. It’s probably pretty self-explanatory but basically Cancer Puppy is an unofficial physical kids mascot. He’s a puppy who in actuality is 150 years old that the students keep young and alive through spells and charms even though he has cancer and just about every other disease that comes with old age. Quentin finds a spell that could cure his dad’s cancer, but wants to try it on Cancer Puppy first. Spoiler alert: It does not go well and Q kills Cancer Puppy instantly, which earns him a lecture from Dean Fogg. In all fairness, the lecture does incite a good conversation about the point of magic if a magician can’t fix real problems. They go back and forward a bit, but Dean Fogg sums it up nicely when he says, ‘we can fix some things, so we fix what we can’.
What Dean Fogg told him somehow seems to sink in because Q goes home and does what he can. Earlier in the episode, Quentin’s dad pulled out a model airplane that he loved and that Quentin broke when he was 2. His dad put a lot of time into trying to fix the plane, but he only ended up breaking it more. Quentin takes the plane pieces and fixes it with magic in front of his dad. I’m not going to lie, that moment gets me. It’s the first time Quentin can do something to make his dad happy, and by Quentin exposing himself to his dad as a magician, his father knows that he’s not off somewhere miserable, but is in fact doing something he loves. It’s a beautifully constructed moment, which is why it’s so disappointing that it’s all for nothing. Quentin’s dad is maybe mentioned once before this episode and as far as I can remember isn’t mentioned again. The before I can forgive, but the after? Not so much. Why spend this time introducing the protagonist’s parent and giving said parent a terminal disease only to forget he exists altogether for the remainder of the series? Maybe Q’s dad will make a return in season 3, but it doesn’t seem likely, which just leaves me with a feeling of ‘what was the purpose of any of this exactly?’ Granted, he learned a lesson, but it’s not far off from anything he’s learned in past episodes, how many times does it have to be iterated to him that having magic isn’t sunshine and rainbows?
Julia’s story line this episode ends with her seeing James in a coffee shop and him having no idea who she is. Marina wiped his memory of her and Pete says it was for his safety because Julia is out of control. All I can say is, he’s not exactly wrong.
Alice’s aunt convinces her to give Brakebills a chance again and rejects both Elliot and Margo in rapid succession, something they brush off quickly, and come to think of it, there’s another plot that pretty much amounts to nothing but filler this episode. It’s worth it though, because we end this episode wrapping up Penny’s storyline. Kady convinces him to go to Quentin and Alice after he sketches out what he saw in the dungeon and Quentin recognizes the seal Penny drew. So where was this dungeon that The Beast is keeping an entire human being locked up like some TV version of Hellraiser you ask? FREAKING FILLORY.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that hard to see that last little plot twist coming, but it’s still exciting to have storylines coming together, and be honest, all of that mention of Fillory and Further in the first few episodes, you almost can’t help but be excited about the prospect of seeing more of it.
Did you enjoy The Magicians – Season 1 Ep 5? Are you as excited as I am to see more of The Beast and the world of Fillory and Further? Let me know in the comments.
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