“Being a magician has always been about, in part, accruing power. Power over yourself, the elements, the future. But power, as you all know, does not come cheaply.” This is what Dean Fogg tells a group of wide-eyed students who are awaiting being sorted into their particular houses based on their magical aptitude at the beginning of “The Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting.” And he’s right; in the world of The Magicians, there is a cost to every action and magic comes at quite a price, as many of our favorite characters come to learn by episode’s end.
However, this episode is about more than just exploring the consequences of magic. It’s also about the consequences that arise for each of the characters as they continue to advance down their chosen paths.
For Quentin, that path means having to deal with the uncomfortable reality of his undetermined magical proficiency. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; after all, as much as Quentin is toted as the Chosen One in this show, the writers also make a point to emphasize how strikingly unremarkable he is. Average in almost every capacity, I think is what the specialist told him in the last episode. Now, it could be that Quentin’s magical potential is so diverse that he could specialize in anything–a magical blank slate of sorts. However, I find it more interesting that this ordinary young man with no special skills is being thrust into a Messiah-esque role because it’s so different from what we’re used to in the fantasy genre. I’m anxious to see how Quentin’s storyline progresses as the season continues!
Despite being undetermined, Quentin is sent to live with the Physical Kids because they literally have extra space. Alice is sent to the same cottage due to her inclination for phosphormancy (the ability to bend light), which inevitably throws the two of them into cohorts again.
I enjoyed the chance to spend more time with Quentin and Alice since their interactions in the previous two episodes felt awkward and rushed. At the party in the Physical Kids’ cottage, I felt for the first time that the two of them were vibing with one another. In many ways, Quentin and Alice are a lot a like, which makes their relationship that much more interesting.
In the midst of the party, Alice announces to Quentin that she intends to keep searching for her brother Charlie, and Quentin agrees to help her. The two of them venture out to find his deceased spirit, which inevitably leads them to Brakebills’ enchanted, bottomless fountain, which is reputed to be “suicide central” on campus.
In my opinion, the episode should’ve ended here, with that creepy hand rising from the fountain and giving Alice and Quentin the finger as they walked away. It would’ve been such a wonderful cliffhanger to leave us at! Nevertheless, the episode plunges forward. The fountain is eventually deemed off-limits after the bad-tempered spirit residing in it tries to pull two students into its fathomless depths. Alice, however, isn’t deterred by the danger–especially after she walks into her room to find it full of glass horses identical to the one she made on the first day of classes, which was a spell that was taught to her by Charlie.
Unfortunately, their joint investigation is interrupted at this point by Eliot, who forcibly recruits Quentin to help him track down a stolen spell-book. I have to take a moment to state that Hale Appleman’s Eliot is a breath of fresh air on this show. His snarky attitude and one-liners always make each of his scenes memorable as well as entertaining. Anyway, Eliot tells Quentin that the stolen book is Volume One of a mated pair, and that Volume Two would lead them to her mate. And lead them it does–right to the headquarters of the Hedge Witches.
The confrontation that takes place between Quentin and Julia as a result of this is cringe-worthy. He basically calls Julia an amateur, a loser and a wanna-be, and encourages her to move on with her life, but not before blaming her for being too nice to him even though she knew that he was in love with her. Seriously, dude? Seriously? For a pair of friends with so much history between them, this blow-out could’ve been handled with so much more finesse. It also really didn’t do much for Quentin in terms of likeability and made me much more sympathetic toward Julia. I really hope she doesn’t continue to lie to James, though; that web of lies is bound to implode and I fear that it could mean the end of Julia’s last connection to something outside of magic.
Meanwhile, Alice reluctantly accepts the help of gossip-guru Margot in order to continue searching for Charlie. Margot informs her that a girl in Charlie’s class, Emily, took Charlie’s death hard and dropped out of school, but that she knows how to find her. This takes the two of them to New York, where they have a sit-down with Emily and learn that Charlie isn’t dead; he turned into a Niffin as a result of trying to help her reverse a spell that went wrong.
With this new knowledge, Alice and Quentin return to the fountain, and Alice manages to summon Charlie back to Brakebills. But something is terribly, terribly wrong with her brother. There doesn’t seem to be any of the old Charlie left; what comes to her is a maniacal, vindictive entity that wants nothing more than to hurt and kill the both of them. Nevertheless, Alice won’t give up on her brother. She begins to use every spell in her arsenal in an effort to save him in a scene strikingly familiar to the flashback of Charlie and Emily. Quentin, forseeing the danger of Alice’s actions, decides to take the necessary steps to prevent her from becoming a Niffin as well. He calls on the Niffin box and traps Charlie in it, much to Alice’s horror.
As much as I enjoyed this scene because it gave Quentin the chance to be a hero, it should have been postponed for a little longer. After all, Alice just started looking for Charlie–did they have to have them find him and defeat him in the same 43-minute episode? Nonetheless, upon watching the episode for a second time, I realized that the writers probably did this in order to free up Alice’s character to explore new storylines. What’s going to happen to her now that she doesn’t have Charlie to motivate her to do magic? Will she really leave Brakebills or will she find another reason to stay? As of right now, it’s all up in the air, but I for one am excited to see what happens.
There is one last storyline that I need to address: Penny’s storyline, which was poorly handled but intriguing nonetheless. Penny continues to remain one of the least developed characters on the show, but that has nothing to do with Arjun Gupta. He is obviously a fantastic actor and is doing the best that he can with what he is being given, much like Summer Bishil is with Margot. As of this episode, they remain one-dimensional because the show refuses to dedicate a sufficient portion of time to them, which is a pity because I like both of their characters. In this episode, the writers were gracious enough to allow us to spend a little time with Penny, giving us a chance to get to know him as a character. We learn that he’s very much afraid of his psychic abilities and what they could mean for his future. We also learn that he possesses abilities that even the school didn’t see coming–specifically the ability to Travel between worlds. Does this mean that he could go to Fillory in the future? I certainly hope so!
Altogether, this was a solid episode, if a little busy. The material here could’ve been spread between four, maybe five separate episodes, which would’ve given each character’s storyline a chance to breathe and grow at its leisure. In the future, I pray that the writers don’t endeavor to accomplish so much in one episode. Take your time, folks; we’re not going anywhere.
A new episode of The Magicians airs on Monday, February 8 at 9:00 pm ET/PT on Syfy.