Grief isn’t a simple process, and it can make you do weird things. In the season five premiere of The Magicians, the loss of Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) is felt in every moment as characters also deal with (or avoid) the chaotic state of magic that has put all their lives in even more disarray.
“Do Something Crazy” is about the two extremes of grief: doing too much or nothing at all. Losing someone is hard and it takes time to understand what you’re going through. Usually, that means either leaning hard into projects or sinking into isolation and sadness. (I personally tend to buy IKEA furniture after I’ve lost someone I care about.) It’s hard to continue a show after losing a main character, even if it was an intentional choice on the part of the showrunners. And I know some Magicians fans are still feeling bruised, or even betrayed, by the choice. But I feel the show has started on a strong foot by letting its characters (and audience) exist in their grief and process it in ways that, while not always healthy, feel human.
After Quentin sacrificed himself at the end of season four, some of our heroes (like Margo, Julia, and Kady) are striving to make sure they’re doing something worthwhile with their lives, fearing that otherwise, Quentin’s death was for nothing. Others, like Eliot and Alice, find their depression is making it hard to do anything except sit in their pain or try to drink it away. As Kady tries to help hedge witches who find themselves stuck with those stupid “no magic” tattoos the Librarians gave them, Margo is trying to find a way to turn back time so she can save Josh and Fen from being overthrown and killed (a fact she learned during a morality play attended by Fillorian cosplayers). She’s using a tough but attainable goal to distract herself from two impossible things: 1) there’s no getting Quentin back, and 2) she can’t get Eliot to open up about anything.
Then, there’s Julia. She’s not only desperate for a purpose to distract her from her grief, but yearns for someone else to tell her what that purpose is. At first, she tries to get advice from Quentin by holding a séance, but Alice refuses to perform one. Eventually, it gets to the point where she eagerly says yes to a quest from a random Fillorian creature just so she can have a tangible goal to achieve. Only problem is, that creature—played by Once Upon a Time’s Sean Maguire—is a literal sexist pig who refuses to let a woman do a “man’s job.” Julia realises that the only way she’s going to accomplish anything is by taking it on herself. It does come across like a coping mechanism to suppress her grief, which in some ways it is, but it’s not like there isn’t a major problem for her to solve: Magic is on overdrive.
The release of magic at the end of season four meant a huge surge in magical energy. The overload is leading to a lot of unpredictability and chaos. Alice’s mum can’t stop growing orchids, meteor shower art shows are becoming dangerous, and Brakebills University is now a glorified “state school.” Dean Fogg is livid at the number of students passing the entrance exams because there’s just too much magic (he’s also stopped drinking, which doesn’t help his mood). The extremely rare Travellers are no longer rare so Fogg tricks Penny 23 into becoming their new professor, something that I think will be a good fit for him (even if one of his new students is catching wind of something extremely dangerous).
The episode ends by showing us what happens when a character rushes from one extreme to the other. Alice started the episode in a state of depression, living in her mum’s house and barely able to get out of bed. But underneath the surface, she was brewing something drastic. Early on, Dean Fogg mentions that somebody stole the school’s supply of Living Clay. Turns out that was Alice, who has since stolen Quentin’s book from the Library and—along with an old book of his Julia gave her in a gesture of goodwill—starts enacting some kind of a spell. Most likely to bring Quentin back. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if she succeeds, but if Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me anything it’s that resurrections don’t usually go so well.