Last season's The Magicians ended with a hell of a cliffhanger, and it looks like this year is going to be no different. In fact, the Syfy series has gotten the ball rolling early, with a penultimate episode that not only saw the very surprising return to two characters, but finally put an end to one of the most disgusting villains of the series. Unfortunately, it did it in just about the worst way possible.
The penultimate episode of the second season, "Ramifications," achieved the seemingly impossible: Alice is back from the dead. More specifically, Alice's Niffin was reunited with her shade, which Julie had brought back from the Underworld instead of her own. Those who've read the books knew Alice's resurrection was coming, or at least a version of it, but for everyone else it was definitely a surprise.
After Quentin, Julia, and Mayakovsky performed the reunification, a ritual that had never successfully happened before, we were left with a woman seriously scorned. Niffin Alice is not happy being stuck on the mortal coil again. She spent the entire episode struggling to write down everything she learned while flying around the cosmos as an infinite being of pure magic — that is, when she wasn't glaring at Quentin like a pissed-off demon. It's clear the original version of Alice is gone, and she'll probably never come back. It's a little disheartening, as she started out as my favourite character, but I'm going to give this new Alice a chance (at least for the reason of the season, which is only one more episode).
However, twist! Alice isn't the only character this episode brought back from the dead — because it turns out technically the other guy was never actually dead to begin with. Yep, it's Umber! You know, Fillory's other goat god, the one we never saw before because he was supposedly killed by the Beast? Surprise, he wasn't murdered, he faked his death for an easy way out.
Quentin and Eliot discovered this after tracing Fillory's portal clock to Umber's Vancouver home. There, they learned that Ember is the one behind all the chaos in Fillory, like turning half the court into rats, since the two brothers originally created the magical realm. Umber, the voice of reason, was the yin to Ember's yang, the (Law &) Order to Ember's chaos. Without him, Ember's been running Fillory like his own twisted reality show, creating twists and turns for no reason other than boredom. Umber doesn't really care, because he's building his own "way cooler world," but it leaves millions on the brink of annihilation. Speaking of which, everyone might die next episode. Because of those two stupid-heads.
If there's one theme in this episode, it's that gods and their families are fucked-up arseholes. The brothers Ember and Umber are locked in this eternal power struggle that puts the entire source of magic at risk, for basically no reason other than godlike pettiness. Then, of course, you've got the other crazy family connection — the one that still makes me feel uneasy, several hours later.
This episode seemingly ended Reynard the Fox's reign once and for all, though not in the way any of us wanted. Still-shadeless Julia discovered Reynard was obsessed with Our Lady Underground, a.k.a. Persephone, so she devised a plan to lure Reynard out with a little trickery and kill him... using his senator son's demi-god magic. Unfortunately, Reynard emotionally broke his son, John Gaines, after butchering his wife. So, John used his powers of persuasion to force Kady to perform a ritual to cultivate his powers into a bullet... brutally killing him in the process. Watching Kady walk down the stairs, coated in blood and shaking, was incredibly heart-wrenching — especially when contrasted with Julia, who acted like she was fixing a broken mug.
Julia and Kady succeeded in luring out the Fox by faking a storm, and had him at their fingertips. Just as Julia was about to pull the trigger... in popped none other than Our Lady Underground herself. She begged Julia not to kill Reynard, because, get this, Reynard was her son. Holy hell. That means Reynard was raping and murdering a shit-ton of people because he had fucking mummy issues, and she was totally cool with ignoring it... at least until he faced actual consequences.
So, at Persephone's behest, Julia let Reynard go — royally pissing off Kady in the process. You could argue that Julia's shadeless self made the decision that killing a god came with too many risks, or she inevitably chose empathy over revenge, but in the end all it was still a man raping someone and facing zero consequences.
This really doesn't set well with me, especially as someone who's defended this storyline. I rooted for Julia for a long time, even against criticism that the show was exploiting her victimhood, because I respected the show's honest portrayal of consent and abortion. I honestly don't know how to feel anymore.
Reynard should be dead right now. Having Persephone show up out of nowhere to save his life wasn't compassionate, it was unwelcome. It made her look like one of those judges who gives a male college athlete probation for rape because he deserves a "second chance." Reynard had his second chance. Actually, he's an immortal god — his whole existence has been nothing but chances. I know vigilantism should be cautioned against, but in this specific case it was the only way justice could be served. Persephone isn't going to fix Reynard, and she has no incentive to. What's going to happen when she gets bored in a century or two and decides to take off again? I'll give you a hint: The exact same fucking thing.
Then, Persephone "thanked" Julia by restoring her shade. Gee thanks, give her the one thing that will make her feel the pain of your son's rape again. That will make up for the dozens, nay hundreds, of people your son quartered because you wouldn't return his phone calls. This is all seriously fucked up, and it's a terrible way to end an emotionally traumatic storyline that's spanned over half of the series so far.
The Magicians' second season ends next week, and it's been confirmed for a third season. I am curious to see how this brotherly battle of the gods plays out — although it's going to be hard to care about any of these gods after that whole "Reynard is her son" bullshit. The gods are dicks. If they all ended up dying, I wouldn't care one bit.
- One of the things I admire about The Magicians is how it sets up pieces that don't pay off until much later. Case in point: Mayakovsky's magical batteries, and how his teacher-student love affair led to Alice's brother becoming a Niffin. Glad to see how all those elements came together in this episode. It was really well done.
- King Josh was hilarious, and pretty damn effective. Who knew hardcore drugs were the one thing that could unite and save Fillory, and help the court get its groove back? Maybe Eliot should stay banished.
- I already miss shadeless Julia.
- Penny's teenage librarian supervisor left as quickly as she came — so much for that whole "you make your own destiny" thing. It's too bad, I kind of liked how her brashness bumped up against Penny's. Also, is anyone else curious for an official The Magicians' life book on Kanye West?
- So... a Senator of the United States was murdered, and the evidence is literally lining the walls of Brakebills. I'm not sure how much magic can get rid of that problem.