Episode 6 of The Magicians, “A Timeline and Place,” addresses the long festering question: what the hell is the original Penny (AKA the Penny from Timeline 40) doing? Last time we saw him was in Season 3, where—stuck in the Afterlife branch of the Library—he had a chat with Hades that convinced him to take on the role of a Librarian in the eternal (and infernal?) institution. Thankfully, actor Arjun Gupta has remained on the show playing the Penny from Timeline 23—a more subdued, melancholic version of the character who is also in love with Julia instead of Kady. Fans, however, miss the original Penny, and after many episodes we finally get a glimpse of him in his new Librarian persona. Even better, we get to see a conversation between 23 and 40, a trope that has been done on other shows, but is still enjoyable here, and even a little bit bittersweet when Penny 40 tells 23 to let Kady know that he still loves her, and that he’s sorry.
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The fourth and fifth episodes of The Magicians are slower paced than the beginning of the season, allowing viewers to marinate in some under-explored relationships and to circle back to some dangling storylines. The results are mixed, but the show’s quick dialogue and unexpectedly poignant character moments make both episodes—especially Episode 5—rich fodder that fans will enjoy.
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“The book was better.”
Even without context, those four words almost work as a manifest truth, one I have immortalized on a lapel pin and engraved on my heart. The book, by virtue of its being a story’s inception point, the very first version of a narrative where nothing’s cut for time and no grand ideas are scuttled for budget, is almost always better than any of its adaptations. And when the SyFy network first announced they’d be adapting Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy, the show felt destined to become one more example of this truism. How could SyFy, with its mediocre budget and (at the time) critically undistinguished reputation, do justice to Grossman’s dark, fantastical treatise on suffering and selfhood?
The answer: with panache.
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It’s three episodes into Season 4 of The Magicians, and the gang’s memories are back! Also, everyone wants to kill them. At the beginning of the hour, the immediate threat comes from evil Eliot, who wants to torture them to death (you know, for funsies). Margo, however, deftly distracts evil Eliot by setting the monster’s sights on Bacchus. While she, Eliot-Monster and Josh head off to Fillory to kill a god, however, the rest of the group still has murder problems—with Fogg’s glamouring spell lifted, the McAllisters will soon hunt them down and kill them.
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The title of this season’s second episode, “Lost, Found, Fucked,” is as descriptive as it is indelicately alliterative. At the beginning of the hour, our favorite memory-less magicians are indeed lost; by the end of the episode though, Julia—like an overachieving Jesus—has died and resurrected herself hundreds of times in order to break the magic battery keeping the persona-creating glamour alive. Julia’s death-inducing efforts work—everyone finds themselves again as their memories crash back into their minds. Most of the crew, however, barely have a chance to nurse their glamour hangovers before they find themselves fucked again, this time by the monster-controlled Eliot, who shows up to kill Penny, Kady and Josh because he’s jealous Quentin likes them more than him.
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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.
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Real talk: The Magicians is one of the most jam-packed series on TV and has been since it debuted in 2015. As die hard fans know, there’s always a wrench being thrown into the plans of the students at Brakebills, the home base of our core group of characters who’ve gone from young magicians-in-training to queens and kings to people who have grappled with personal conflict as they fight to save the world. To put things lightly, there’s been a whole lot going on—including fascist librarians, evil fairies, and wicked gods who continue to prey on the group in literally every timeline they visit (yes, time traveling is also a thing on this show).
And the ever-evolving plot continues to raise the stakes in season 4, which picks up where season 3 left off with Hale Appleman as the magician formally known as Eliot who’s now been possessed by The Monster. Oh, as for much of the group—Quentin (Jason Ralph), Julia (Stella Maeve), Penny (Arjun Gupta), Margo (Summer BIshil), Kady (Jade Tailor), and Josh (Trevor Einhorn)—their memories were wiped cleaned after they went against the powers that be to restore magic (which was consumed by the Library throughout most of season 3). So, for a moment at the beginning of season 4, these characters have no recollection of their magical selves and have assumed different identities.
Meanwhile, when we meet Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) in season 4, he’s dealing with the fallout of his students’ actions and their punishment. Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) has been imprisoned for disobeying the Library (a crime nearly impossible to not commit). Fen (Brittany Curran), who’s sort of still Eliot’s wife from the royal realm of Fillory, is now embedded in the group and their main objective (once things really get going this season) of getting Eliot out of the clutches of The Monster, unscathed. Man, that’s a mouthful.
Here are 10 more things we learned about season 4 of The Magicians from the Vancouver set.
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“Can you tell we were drinking tequila in the green room?” showrunner Sera Gamble asked at one point during The Magicians panel at San Diego Comic-Con.
The answer to Gamble’s question was yes, but it was a wonderful thing to see Gamble, her fellow executive producer John McNamara and cast members Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman and Summer Bishil enjoying each other’s company and having a rowdy time on stage. Tequila or no tequila, it was clear that they all genuinely liked each other, and the panel was full of jokes and laughter as they took audience questions and tried to avoid spoiling anything from Season 4.
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When it comes to broadcast and basic cable channels, television programming has always had to be more careful about what it says on the air. However, in recent years, basic cable has cared less and less about saving the sensitive ears of the viewing public. No, they’re not just swearing willy-nilly during daytime television, but some of the more late night programming on basic cable has started to care less and less about tiptoeing around language.
In fact, SyFy and USA, both networks owned by NBCUniversal (a subsidiary of Comcast), are now throwing caution to the wind and will be dropping f-bombs without censoring them on air, and they already started to let them fly earlier this year. Read More »
Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 by Angie Han
Our studies at Brakebills will continue for another year. The cable network has just renewed The Magicians for a second season, just three episodes into its first season. Frequently described as “Harry Potter for grown-ups,” the fantasy drama follows a group of graduate students attending the Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy in upstate New York. Read More »