'The Magicians' Season Premiere Review: The Wildest Fantasy On TV Is Off To A Spellbinding Start

At San Diego Comic-Con last year, The Magicians co-creator Sera Gamble said the show strived to end on a cliffhanger each season in order to keep the fans (and the writers) guessing what happens next. The end of Season 3 was no exception, where the magicians we know and love successfully bring back magic only to have Dean Fogg wipe their memories and give them magic-free identities and lives. On top of that, the Library (for everyone's own good, of course) has seized control of the newly restored magic and, oh yeah, Eliot has been possessed by a murderific entity that even the gods are scared of.There are, to put it mildly, a lot of moving pieces. Season 4's premiere episode, "A Flock of Lost Birds," however, does an excellent job addressing each in turn while giving fans much-missed time with the characters they love, even if most of those characters, in a metacommentary for the ages, are thrust into personas that Dean Fogg pulled from an obscure comic book.The comic book, which was written by James Tiberius R. Martin no less, is just one of the many pop culture nods this episode provides; characters (mostly Margo) name drop icons like Taylor Swift, national treasure Jeff Goldblum, Banksy and even Santa Claus. It's these references that give the show so much of its charm, a delightful juxtaposition with the fantastical challenges they face, even when most of the characters no longer know that magic is real.But even though they might not remember who they are, four of the mind-wiped magicians—Kady, Penny, Josh and Margo—are able to find each other thanks to the gumshoe sleuthing of Kady (AKA Sam Cunningham, the detective hero of the comic book). They quickly figure out that magic not only exists, but that the lives they've been living are a sham. This reunion is fast paced, but that's a good thing—these four now have direction, a mission (with the dubious help of hedge witch Marina) to break the enchantment and reclaim their lost identities.Julia and Quentin—the two other glamoured magicians—have different paths to follow at the moment. Julia's story gets more time this episode, where her persona Kim D'Antoni receives an invitation to Brakebills. While taking her admissions test, she is discovered by Dean Fogg, who can't find it in his heart to keep her out of the school even though his spell makes her fail all the tests. Fogg's discussion with Julia/Kim is the most endearing moment of the episode, revealing a rare glimpse of Fogg's care for her while also hinting that the dean may soon consider undoing the spell he felt he had no choice to cast.And then there's Quentin (AKA an English professor named Brian), who is quietly resigned to his abduction by a possessed Eliot. The Eliot-monster drags Quentin along on a killing spree (with breaks for ice cream, of course) and lets us know that all of Quentin's friends are on his to-be-murdered list.And finally there's Alice, the only member of the gang with her identity intact and with the knowledge that there's an evil monster on the loose. She's a prisoner of the Library now and, like her cell neighbor Santa Claus, she's determined to escape. In another "a book impacts real-life actions" moment (her jailkeeper Zelda gives her a copy of The Metamorphosis), she sneaks a cockroach she grabbed off the floor of the infirmary (she was there healing after an apparent suicide attempt) into her cell by hiding it in her mouth (her mouth!!!).And so the stage is set, with two major evils teed up to threaten and thwart the crew. The obvious evil is the homicidal monster currently wearing Eliot's body, of course. But there's also the more insidious threat of the Order of the Library, of how an authoritarian regime, even one that thinks it's doing good, can cause great harm. The stakes, as always, are high and seemingly insurmountable, and "A Flock of Lost Birds" reflects this by ending the episode with Margo/Janet screaming "Fuuuuck!" at the top of her lungs at Fillory's two moons.After watching "A Flock of Birds," my mind screamed as loud as Margo/Janet, albeit out of excitement rather than sheer terror. The Magicians is back, and we have an entire season to watch the gang unfuck things and then, if Gamble follows her rule, fuck things all up again with another juicy cliffhanger. I, for one, can't wait for the ride, especially knowing that I get to do it all over again next year with the already-greenlit Season 5.