The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 5: “Mendings, Major and Minor”

The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 5: “Mendings, Major and Minor”
Grade: B+

Another great episode. The Magicians is quickly becoming one of my new favorite shows.

The beginning of the episode felt rushed, sort of quickly fixing everything that went kind of wrong in the episodes before. Alice comes back after some convincing of Dean Fogg—which didn’t take very much, nor did it take long. It didn’t feel like Alice left at all, so that story kind of went nowhere. I would have loved to see more of Alice, maybe coming back at the end of the episode, finally convinced. Something other than just coming back, barely any time passing for the audience. (Last week, Alice was gone, but still in the episode in Quentin’s head, so for us it felt like she’d been there the whole time.)

Quickly, Alice seems to have forgiven Quentin and she gives him a note that says his father is sick. He visits him, learning that it’s brain cancer. This storyline came at a good time, giving some great insight into Quentin and his father’s relationship—which seems a bit strained, his parents clearly divorced. A lot of their scenes connected some dots of last week’s episode, his father showing up in his nightmare/spell-induced delusion. Quentin spends the majority of the episode worried about his dad and wanting to fix it somehow with magic. He does his best, searching for answers, and experiments on Cancer Puppy, a 150-year-old forever-puppy riddled with all kinds of diseases, and the cutest most adorable thing on the planet. With the help of Eliot, they try the spell, and end up killing the puppy. He must see Dean Fogg for experimenting with the spell and killing Cancer Puppy. There’s a lot of good dialogue here, learning why Dean Fogg chose not to fix his eyes. Quentin asks, “What’s the point of magic if we can’t fix real problems?” Quentin then returns to his father, showing him what he’s been up to and that he is happy, using his magic to fix his dad’s model airplane that he’d broken as a child. Quentin’s storyline with his father worked in a lot of ways, showing some backstory, driving his character forward, and learning a bit more about magic.

Speaking about learning about more magic, the whole episode is (supposedly) set around a magical tournament of a game called Welter’s. The game is like a giant board game, similar to chess (kind of) where you have to roll a like a dice/ball to land on a square and you must do the magic of the square perfectly to “take” the square. It looks fun, Margo is intense about it, and I was all in. But the game was mentioned once, then the scene actually playing was brief. I wanted more of the actual game. They could’ve done some incredible stuff with it, but it sort of fell flat and wasn’t integrated well into the episode. But it was still fun and I want more of that in the show, more of the magical world their in. During the game, Quentin is distracted and he creates a giant storm/black hole that freaks everyone out. He’s able to do this incredible thing (winning the game) because magic comes from a place of pain, like Eliot said in episode two, and Margo reminds him of afterward. I’m really glad that Margo is having some more screen time and I loved her intensity about Welter’s.

And speaking about learning magic and intensity, Julia is desperately trying to find a way to learn magic/keep her boyfriend from being suspicious of her. Julia resorts to “Google magic” to keep learning and creates invisible fire, burning herself and going to the guy who found her at the bar and brought her to the hedge witches. She sleeps with him to get the location of more hedge witches to join. The group he sends her, but they can’t do much and they know less than Julia does. She goes back to the guy (seriously people, I’m terrible at names) to get another group, but they were the best, other than Marina’s group, in the city. He wants to run away with Julia, but she loves her boyfriend and tells him no. Julia goes to meet up with her boyfriend and he doesn’t know who she is, doesn’t even recognize her. Julia thinks it’s the guy she slept with getting back at her for turning him down, but he says it was to help her cut ties, to be able to go wherever she wants to learn magic. And now she finds herself completely cut off from everyone. Though Julia’s story doesn’t connect with the rest of what’s going on in the show, it works well and is just as interesting as what’s happening at Brakebills, and I can’t wait for the two storylines to converge, even though what she’s going through is one of the best parts of the show. She shows the desperation, the seedy underground of trying to get magic, and that works as a great counter to the glorious, magical Brakebills.

I think one thing that this show is doing poorly is constantly going back and forth with Brakebills and Julia. It works for the most part, both just as interesting as the other, but it’s causing a poor balance of trying to fit two stories in an episode at once. The previous episode did it well, converging the two storylines to create a full episode, but most of the time the two stories are too divided, causing a difficult pace. Cutting Julia’s storyline for this episode, using it in the next episode, and solely focusing on Brakebills would have been a better way to feature the Welter’s Tournament more. It felt too quick, too rushed. Shows like this, that show multiple stories at once, take a break once in a while to show just one side of it for an entire episode, then revert back to sharing in the next (The Walking Dead does this well.)  I’d love to see them do that here—I’d love to see a completely Julia-centric episode, too, just to let the show breathe a little.

At Brakebills, the hunt is one for mentors, and Eliot and Margo have eyes on the same mentor: Alice’s aunt. This added a lot of humor to the otherwise low storylines of Julia losing everything and Quentin dealing with his father’s cancer. They try getting on Alice’s good side and, at one point, when Eliot bakes for Alice’s aunt and Margo gets her hands on a rare bottle of sake, he says to her, “It’s war, bitch.” In the end, Alice’s aunt chooses neither of them.

Penny’s visited by Mad-Eye Moody—I mean his new mentor—and is instructed to get a magical tattoo to stay grounded and not end up on the top of Mount Everest and need his leg amputated because of frost-bite. While trying to come up with the tattoo, he constantly has a young woman’s voice in his head, asking for help. After he astral-projects (the safest way to Travel) he ends up in a dungeon where the young girl is being held—turns out to be another Traveler and one of the students that had mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. She’s chained up, unable to see that Penny is there because of the astral projecting, and before he can do anything else, The Beast arrives, the girl’s captor. He speaks to her (I honestly don’t remember what was said because I was freaking out that The Beast was there again) and looks right to Penny and says, “Hello.” Penny freaks out, returning to his body, and after some sketching of a symbol that he’d seen while in the dungeon, he and Kady tell Quentin and Alice what had happened. Quentin immediately recognizes the symbol and shows an illustration in one of the Fillory and Further books, stating to Penny, “I think you were in Fillory.”

Two of my recent complaints were that Penny’s story didn’t seem to fit well with what was happening and that The Beast all but disappeared from the show. And those two converged, finally, into something that seems like a longer season-long arc and that excites me.

This episode of The Magicians, while not as fantastic as the first, nor as great as the previous, felt like it was finally getting into a groove of what the show is and setting an arc involving The Beast, which is desperately needed to keep the story moving—while individual episodes are nice, a long-game type of story is necessary to keep the pace strong.


HIGHLIGHTS

The Beast made a brief appearance
and the continuation of what looks to be an interesting season-long arc involving Fillory and The Beast, a much needed pace-setter.

Welter’s Tournament
looked like a fun game, added some more world-building and made for a fun watch, as brief as it was.

LOWLIGHTS

Welter’s Tournament
should have been featured more, spending more time with the game and even playing it should have been more than two quick scenes. This is one of those times that suspending Julia’s storyline (though great) for one episode wouldn’t hurt to make room for a solid start-to-finish storyline in one episode, similar to the previous episode.

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