The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 7: “The Mayakovsky Circumstances”

The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 7: “The Mayakovsky Circumstances”
Grade: B

Episode seven of the The Magicians had a lot of great things and a lot of not-so-great things, but it was still an enjoyable episode to watch that gave us a lot more magic-learning than previous episodes and some character development that worked just right. “The Mayakovsky Circumstances” gets a solid B—the lowest grade I’ve given The Magicians.

At the end of the last episode, everyone turned into geese and flew away to Antarctica. No really. My only dislike of that would be if the next episode didn’t hold up and do an incredible landing (pun intended) of that strange end. And this episode just didn’t do that. We had one shot of the geese flying through the the fierce winds and snow, then almost immediately jumped to them already transitioned back to human, dressed and standing in a room. For it to have worked perfectly, we needed to see their reaction of coming back to being human, in the snow naked—which arguably would have been difficult to shoot, but I just wanted that moment. Or some sort of moment. Instead we have Quentin and Alice talking about it afterward. Though a good insight into what they felt while birds…didn’t work for me. I wanted more.

Now that everyone is back to being human in some sort of magic school in Antarctica, all in matching white turtlenecks, they meet their new professor, Mayakovsky—an abrasive, often drunk man who looks like he’s been alone in a cabin in the middle of Antarctica for far too long. His job is to teach them how to do spells without using their voice commands. He silences them and they are instructed to do a spell by getting a nail into a piece of wood without bending it. They’re all in separate dorm rooms, doors open and there’s a great shot of Kady visiting Penny (who’s ignoring her) and walking down down the hall with all the students trying to accomplish the spell, and the music choice for the scene was incredible. There’s a moment with Alice and Quentin, staring at each other from across the hall trying to do the spell, and there’s so clearly tension there. I’ve read that in the book, this is where they start a relationship, so I was hoping for it—and it happened.

After the nails, they have to mind-control bugs, and Alice and Quentin suck at it. There’s a nice moment here where Quentin is terrified of the moths, as he should be, which was a great the Beast reference. So after they finally successfully complete it with fireflies, Mayakovsky forces them outside naked. And to survive the cold, they turn into foxes. And then do it. THIS animal transformation worked and was handled well—there was an actual transformation, actual foxes, and the moment was spliced with moments of them as humans again, getting it on. It was actually a great scene! And then they spend the rest of the episode that way, really.

Mayakovsky, after learning of Penny’s ability, spends time removing his tattoo (or at least that’s what it looked like, I didn’t really grasp that) and having him travel everywhere, almost killing him—he nearly burns after traveling right to a volcano. He goes to Kady, later, and forgives her after she allows him into her head and he learns about her mother. Penny makes a plan to steal something from Mayakovsky’s office that’s so big Marina would let Kady go. After he steals it, Kady is confronted by Mayakovsky, who informs her that her mother is dead and that she’s free from Marina—only, she’s not allowed back at Brakebills because of her stealing, even if she was forced. Kady is devastated and leaves on her own, hurting Penny again—my hope here is that she goes off to join Julia.

Meanwhile at Brakebills, Eliot and Margo are planning to go on a magic/drug vacation, but need to make magical gin first. Eliot meets a guy named Mike, bangs him and makes Margo jealous, and the gin spell they found is actually a Djinn spell, and they create a genie—that attacks Mike because he is mastered by Margo’s thoughts. There was also a random guy named Todd. While it was funny, the whole storyline just wasn’t as interesting as the Antarctic one, and I wish they’d spent a little less time with Margo and Eliot this episode—though I love them—because the whole episode was kind of a mess. I wanted more time in Antarctica with Mayakovsky, and wish they’d stretch it out a bit and allowed a few episodes there, because they immediately went back to Brakebills at the end of the episode, which was a bummer. I wanted more magic learning and more time in that space. It felt like we didn’t have a chance for Mayakovsky to have enough time to become a solid character. I want to know more about him and I wanted him to have more time with the students. In the end, the Eliot and Mike story actually did go somewhere exciting—turns out Mike is either the Beast in disguise or a minion, either way I’m glad to see more of the Beast, and it looks like the next episode will start getting more into that overall story of the season.

And Julia is in the episode for about three scenes, then disappears. She’s let go from the police after the incident with Kady’s mother’s death. Julia’s sister picked her up and decides to help her with her “drug problem.” That’s literally it. Julia’s storyline—which I like a lot—didn’t need to be included even a little. Easily, her story could have picked up in the next episode. It’s one of those instances where the show is bad with balancing two storylines—and in this episode, a third—and could’ve left her out for just one episode.

There was a weird pacing issue in this episode because of including both two and a half storylines at once, and to leave Mayakovsky this soon feels like a mistake. Two episodes in Antarctica would have been perfect. With Julia and Margo/Eliot out of this episode, they could have spent more time there, and a second episode then bringing Margo/Eliot and Julia’s storylines back, and the others still with Mayakovsky and then leaving would have worked perfectly. Although I still enjoyed the episode and it looks to be like we’ll be getting more of the Beast soon.


HIGHLIGHTS

Mayakovsky
was a fun character and I wish we’d had more time to explore with him and this side of the magic world.

A lot of good magic learning
was featured here and I’m glad for it. We need more moments of the students actually learning, which they do better with Julia’s storylines—though that may be on purpose, showing the nit and grit of learning with Julia and they easy ride that is Brakebills. Still, it lacks world-building.

Character development
with Alice and Quentin coming together and Penny and Kady splitting apart worked well. I’m excited to see where Kady goes.

LOWLIGHTS

The bird landing
was awful. I just wanted more there and they just glossed over it. It needed more.

Margo and Eliot’s story
worked and was funny and enjoyable—it just didn’t belong in this episode. More time with Mayakovsky was needed and going back and forth with Brakebills caused the episode to go unfocused.

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