The Magicians The Mountain of Ghosts Review

Grief is a lonely thing—something deeply painful and personal that can’t be fully shared with anyone, even if you’ve both loved and lost the same person. But even if grief can’t be completely shared and understood by another, it can be helpful to mourn with others. Alice and Eliot are the two characters on The Magicians who are suffering the most from losing Quentin. They both were in love with him, after all. And they are also the two who feel responsible for his death. 

Before this episode, however, (which is appropriately called “The Mountain of Ghosts”) we haven’t had the chance to see them grieve together. “The Mountain of Ghosts” gives us that chance, and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) deliver the moment in one of the most excellently acted and heartbreaking scenes of the entire series. 

The scene takes place at the top of the Mountain of Ghosts in Fillory, a mountain that has a hole on the top that’s so deep it travels all the way to the Underworld. Alice is going there to return the piece of Quentin’s soul left over from her ill-fated golem spell. She wants to go alone—it’s her quest—but Eliot insists on going with her because it’s Quentin’s soul after all, and it’s also clear she needs help. Their journey up the mountain is full of them bickering, trying not to get killed by the Takers, and inadvertently hanging out with (and in Eliot’s case, almost sleeping with) the Dark King. 

Eliot’s grief on this journey has an added complication—no one knows the alternative timeline he and Quentin had, how they had loved and grown old together. Alice, Quentin’s on-and-off girlfriend, certainly doesn’t know, and Eliot is torn whether to share that with her or not. The Dark King (before we knew he was the Dark King) urges him to do so, and when they finally get to the top of the mountain to return the missing piece of Quentin’s soul to the Underworld, he does. 

Life is messy, and Quentin was messy. And Alice isn’t surprised when Eliot tells her that he loved Quentin. She also isn’t surprised when Eliot also finally voices his regret about pushing Quentin away, by not telling him how he felt when they came back from that other timeline. She gives Eliot permission to forgive himself—he was doing the best that he could. And through tears and with a new understanding of each other, they throw Quentin’s soul and the time-stamped letter Eliot had written to him into the mountain. It’s scenes like this one that make The Magicians such a strong show, scenes that show the characters in all their complexity. As in real life, no one on the show is perfect; they’re all flawed and complicated and wonderful, and you can’t help caring about them. Three episodes in to Season 5, and this was the first scene that made me feel some closure about Quentin’s death. It felt right that this scene was here and not in the first episode—the moment benefited from Eliot and Alice grieving separately at first. And while I don’t think the characters will be able to movie on happy-go-lucky from here, it was pivotal juncture for both of them.  

The episode also moved along other characters’ storylines. First there’s Margo, Fen and Josh in Fillory, where the two women compete to be in the Dark King’s Centurion Guard. Margo and Fen are two of the winners, but because only one woman can be on the Guard, they must battle each other for the honor. Before their final fight, a double full moon reveals to Margo that Josh and Fen had slept together. In a werewolf-induced rage, Margo thinks she kills Fen in the duel, not realizing that the childs-play knife she uses to stab Fen in the chest are safe. Margo is relieved she hasn’t killed Fen, but she’s also tired of Fen and Josh thinking she’s their great savior, the one who didn’t give up on them. And so she sets them straight—she makes it clear to Fen that she didn’t know the knife wouldn’t kill her, and that it was Eliot who had the idea to bring her and Josh forward 300 years. Margo doesn’t want their gratefulness, and in that moment, she doesn’t even want their friendship. She’s hurt and is lashing out in response, which will make for an interesting dynamic as she tries to recapture the throne. 

Penny23 and Julia also move the apocalypse storyline along this episode. They get in touch with two sisters, one of whom, Daniella, is an expert on circumstances. Daniella and her sister Zoe are reluctant to help at first—they had already saved the world once, and their other sister died for it. Daniella, however, ultimately helps them—she’s figured out that there’s going to be a rare astrological occurrence in a few weeks that also falls into the window when a surge will likely happen. The death toll will be in the millions, and she says that she and her sister will help as they can (although her sister will reluctantly).

And so we move into the next episode of this season—Julia’s apocalypse has a deadline, and Alice and Eliot, after their unknown dalliance with the Dark King, are heading to Castle Whitespire to meet up with Margo. We still have Kady’s memory-wiping nemesis to deal with as well—how these storylines all intertwine remains to be seen, as always. And I look forward, as always, to see how it all comes together. 

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