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“The Magicians” 1.5 Review: Magic Can’t Solve Every Problem

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It should come as no surprise at this point that the limitations of magic is a recurring theme in Syfy’s hit fantasy series The Magicians, and the show’s fifth episode is no exception to that fact. Titled “Mendings, Major and Minor,” this episode tackles this theme with a renewed vigor, upping the stakes, so to speak, by focusing on the personal consequences of depending on magic to fix every problem. This time around, it’s Quentin and Julia who have to learn the lesson, although I think that Quentin absorbed it much more thoroughly than Julia did.

Looking back, this makes sense. Quentin and Julia are in very different places right now. Quentin, having discovered his path and committed to it, is much more open to other revelations and insights, whereas Julia is still consumed by the fact that her path keeps getting ripped out from under her feet. This prevents her from paying attention to the dangers and delicate details of living a life of magic. In many ways, she’s in love with the idea of being a magician and is slowly but surely learning that the image that she built up in her head doesn’t match reality.

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But, I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode opens with Quentin finding out from Alice, who returns from self-imposed exile, that his father is terminally ill, which leads him to look for any magical solution to save his father’s life. Considering the fact that the previous episode gave us an abrupt glance at the estranged relationship between father and son, I was grateful that we got the chance to spend some time with them in “Mendings, Major and Minor.” For all intents and purposes, the overriding impression is that Quentin’s father has resigned himself to his fate. The only thing that he wants now, he says, is for Quentin to be happy–genuinely happy, whether that means he spends his life doing card tricks or doing something else.

However, Quentin isn’t ready to give up. He begins to research magical solutions to the problem and, after discovering that his sorrow and pain amplify his power, becomes convinced that he can cure his father. He tests out his theory on the school’s resident Cancer Puppy–yeah, you heard me right. Cancer Puppy. A 150-year old dog that is cursed to stay a puppy forever but is riddled with countless diseases that come with old age, including cancer. Assisted by Eliot, Quentin tries to cure the dog and is horrified when he kills it instead.

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As a result, he is brought before Dean Fogg. After explaining his actions, Fogg, exasperated, tells him “We can fix some things. So we fix what we can.” Quentin seems to take this lesson to heart. Instead of continuing to try to cure his father via magic, Quentin gives himself something much more meaningful: the knowledge and reassurance that his son has found what he loves. This is one of the most profoundly touching moments of the entire episode, as well as the most heartbreaking.

Julia’s storyline, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. I’m sad to say that Julia is becoming more and more unlikeable as the series progresses. Maybe this is because she is also growing more and more selfish; Julia’s primary concern continues to be Julia, which comes at the expense of everyone and everything around her. After being kicked out of the hedge witches’ coven in the last episode, Julia is on the fast-track to self-destruction. She can’t give magic up. Fuelled by conviction, she tries and fails to find a new coven in which to foster her magical abilities. Desperate, Julia makes a deal with Pete to trade sex for magical information. Pete, who has always has a thing for Julia, naturally agrees.

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This is a particularly low point for the character, one that I found difficult to watch. What’s worse is that this decision results in Julia losing her last connection to her non-magical life: her boyfriend, James. Pete convinces Marina to erase James’s memory of Julia. I can’t figure out if Pete did this for his own selfish ends or if he was really trying to help Julia (I have a feeling that it was the former), but I’m almost positive that Julia is going to go to even more drastic lengths now that this last tie has been cut.

Altogether, this episode did a better job than previous ones to juggle its multiple storylines, although I do hope that it spends some more time in the future focusing on some of its other characters, such as Penny, Alice and Eliot. Penny’s storyline, in particular, is intriguing, especially since we saw him travel to Fillory and find that missing girl from the third year class. However, I’m confident that each and every character will get his or her time in the limelight.

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I also wish that Weltings game had served a greater purpose besides just to simply emphasize Quentin’s power in light of his grief. I feel that the game could’ve filled up an episode all by itself, and I would’ve liked the opportunity to see each of the character’s demonstrate their magical abilities. Hopefully, we’ll get another chance to see this in the future.

New episodes of The Magicians air on Mondays at 9:00 pm ET/PT on Syfy.

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