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“Magicians” Review: In “The Source of Magic,” Quentin Finds Himself in Hot Water

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The second episode of The Magicians, fittingly titled “The Source of Magic,” picks up right where the show’s explosive series premiere left off. In the aftermath of The Beast’s grisly attack on Brakebills, the school is in a state of panic. The Beast was driven off, which is shown to us through a series of stunningly orchestrated flashbacks, and now, school officials, representing by Professor Pearl Sunderland, are determined to figure out the cause of the incident and expel the persons responsible, which doesn’t bode well for Quentin, Alice, Penny and Kady. Out of sympathy for the students’ trauma, the faculty also decides to cancel all classes until the investigation is complete. Of course, when they return, there will be a quiz–because isn’t there always a quiz?

For the most part, this episode takes a much leisurely approach to storytelling, focusing on fleshing out the characters rather than the world in which the story is taking place. Quentin finds himself facing the horrifying reality of possibly being expelled from Brakebills and losing the sense of belonging that he has achieved, while Alice has to contend with the uncomfortable necessity of socializing and making friends. The three most interesting character struggles in this episode, however, are the ones surrounding Penny, Kady and Julia. In a startling revelation, we learn that Penny, the resident psychic and Quentin’s roommate, has been hearing the voice of The Beast his entire life. What this means for Penny and the others is uncertain at this point, but Penny seems so scared of the possibilities that he’s willing to abandon Brakebills and everything that it offers. Luckily, Kady convinces him to stay.

Meanwhile, Kady is harboring secrets of her own. Early on in the episode, we see Julia undergo a hazing ritual for newbie witches: she is locked in a freezer with another girl, Marina, and has to utilize every skill that she possesses to get out. Once Julia succeeds, we discover that meek little Marina is actually the leader of the hedge witches, a level 50, who is impressed with Julia’s tenacity and accepts Julia into her coven. Moreover, we also learn that Marina has connections inside Brakebills which, lo and behold, turn out to be Kady. Apparently, Kady owes Marina a debt of some kind and is pilfering materials from Brakebills in order to pay it off. Something tells me that this could spell trouble for Kady, who is on thin ice at Brakebills as it is.

The other big revelation in this episode is that Quentin isn’t the only person who has seen Fillory: Eliza, the paramedic who gave Quentin Fillory and Further: Book 6, has been there, too, and has faced down The Beast. In a fascinating scene, Eliza rattles off all the reasons why Quentin is far from remarkable and why it’s perplexing that The Beast set his sights on him. Nevertheless, she says, The Beast has done just that, so it’s up to Quentin to either step up to the plate or crumble under the pressure. “There is no destiny,” she declares. “No born heroes.” Ultimately, she lets Quentin off with little more than probation, urging him not to jump back on the garden path like some little lemming–whatever that means.

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The real magic of this episode, though, resides in the exploration of the characters’ relationships, most notably that of Eliot and Quentin. I’d been wondering since the beginning just why it was that Eliot was so interested in Quentin, since the two seemed like polar opposites. In this episode, I came to the realization that Eliot may have been drawn to Quentin because he sees him as a kindred spirit. Eliot, for all his flippant hedonism, possesses his own insecurities and fears, which he sees mirrored in Quentin. I especially loved how supportive and caring Eliot was toward Quentin regarding his potential expulsion from Brakebills. I sincerely believed that he would do whatever it took to make the loss of Brakebills easier on Quentin, and that makes me think that their friendship could grow in the future.

Quentin and Alice’s relationship, on the other hand, has yet to surpass the awkwardness of the pilot episode. We do see the two of them bond over Fillory, with Quentin divulging to Alice his theory that Fillory may be one of those other worlds which bleed into their own. However, I don’t feel that Quentin and Alice have reached a point in which I could say that they are friends, which isn’t worrisome. This is, after all, only the second episode. I expect that we will see the two of them begin to relax around each other as the series progresses.

Last but not least, I was impressed by the fact that the writers maintained the parallel storylines between Quentin and Julia. It was especially poignant that Quentin found himself in a situation similar to Julia’s in the last episode, and I hope that this helps Quentin understand Julia’s struggles to a better extent. In the long run, I’d like to see their plots converge again, since I think that both of them will prove to be crucial to story later on. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy their separate journeys, with the hope that they don’t end up on opposite sides down the line.

The next episode of The Magicians airs on February 1 at 9:00 pm ET on Syfy.

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