Damn, it didn't seem like Syfy's The Magicians could out-do last year's chilling and intense season finale, but by the gods they managed it! In the words of Penny's favourite singer, Taylor Swift: "Everything has changed."
All Photos Courtesy Syfy
Let's get the crazy crap out of the way: Ember and Umber are dead, and the gods have cut off humanity's access to magic. It's kind of hard to imagine Magicians without magic, isn't it? But there you have it, no more spells on Earth. Our heroes are basically Muggles now. Or are they...
How did this all come about? Let's go back. Ember introduces the episode, "We Have Brought You Little Cakes", with a series-so-far recap that frames our entire story as his own reality show. It was a fun way to remind us of smaller things that had happened so far (including Quentin's encounter with the gingerbread house witch, which Umber promised will pay off eventually, albeit not in this episode), as well as show us how powerful and influential Ember truly was. As Alice tells Quentin after a bout of bacon-fuelled sex, the lower gods toy with the world... but they're not the ones filling the wellspring.
Eliot sets out on a quest to save Fillory, and magic in the process. It's great to see him finally embracing his role as High King, showing just how much he's grown and changed over the past season. You really see this in his scene with Julia, when he recruits her for his mission. Eliot reaches out to her to make amends, realising that he'll never understand what she's been through, and therefore shouldn't be one to judge her actions. It was a surprising and much-needed moment for the series, especially since those two have barely interacted before. Eliot also enlists Quentin in his quest, which is to get Ember and Umber reunited so they can resolve their differences and bring balance to Fillory.
Sadly, it doesn't quite work. Eliot and Margo (now missing an eye, thanks to a fairy encounter) manage to lure Ember to their royal sex party, thanks to some special "little cakes" baked by none other than our favourite drug dealer Josh. But once they bring in Umber, who's been busy focus-group-testing his crappy alt-Fillory with Quentin, everyone soon realises that there's no way to make this a happy family again. Ember instantly kills Umber for his betrayal, leading to Quentin ultimately stabbing Ember in response.
Everyone treats this like Quentin saved the day — except Niffin-turned-human Alice, who quickly deduces that all her friends are morons who've doomed the entire world. As Persephone mentioned during last week's encounter with Julia, there are consequences to killing a god. Because they have parents.
The higher gods send a Mario-style Plumber to every corner of the world to shut down access to the wellspring. Brakebills, Fillory, the Library, even that damn magic training outpost in the middle of nowhere — there's nowhere that humanity has access to magic any more, and there's no word if they will ever get it back. Brakebills' students and faculty try to get by, but in Fillory, the loss means chaos. This was a world that was built on magic, and without it the people have no way of sustaining themselves (as we saw earlier this the season with the brown-outs).
Now that magic is seemingly gone for good, Eliot and Margo are at odds with how to govern the people. Eliot wants to inspire them into a democracy, like when he taught the farmers how to grow crops, but Margo insists on ruling with an iron fist to avoid anarchy. This is just one of the ways we've seen Eliot and Margo grow apart this season, and it's clear we're going to see them even more at odds in the future. However, not right away, as their storyline ends with an invasion by weird naked fairies.
We also end on another major reveal: There's still one girl in all the world who has magical powers. In the final scene, Julia reveals to Quentin that she has magic. Not a lot, mind you (it's the sparks spell she could conjure very early in the series), but it's a hell of a lot more than anybody else has. Why does Julia have magic when nobody else does? As of this point, it's a mystery. It could be related to her book storyline, where she becomes a goddess, or it could be a lingering result of being impregnated by Reynard (although I'm hoping to Hades it isn't the latter). In any case, it feels like poetic justice that the one person who's been crapped on the most in this series seems to be its only hope going forward.
The Magicians hasn't been perfect this season, and last week's episode left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, but this season finale was a solid hit. The show has managed to take its most fundamental asset and remove it almost entirely, leaving its characters to fumble with the remains. And yes, this plot point was in the book series, but not everything can translate to television. The show has taken a pretty big risk, and I'm excited to see the results in season three.
- Penny spends a hell of a lot of time nearly dying. For gods' sake, can someone help this guy out? The Librarians certainly aren't doing a good job, making him work even though he has cancerous lesions on his spine.
- I still don't like how they handled Reynard's exit in the last episode, but this episode does smooth the lines a bit. We actually see the consequences to killing a god, so it makes logical sense for Julia not to have put herself in that situation. That being said, I still wanted Reynard to die.
- Ember's crappy alt-Fillory reminded me of that scene in The Matrix when Cypher has dinner with Agent Smith... except with fewer juicy steaks.
- Marlee Matlin's back! We teased in a previous article that her character, Harriet, would return in the season finale. Kady asks Harriet to heal Penny in exchange for being her eyes and ears to the Librarians. It's understandable that Kady wants to help Penny, especially after he confessed his love for her, but this kind of arrangement spells trouble for the both of them. Penny had trouble forgiving Kady for concealing her deal with the Hedge Witches, this feels like a "fool me twice" kind of situation.