What happens when you take two awkward yet endearing characters and put them in the frozen tundra under the tutelage of an overbearing Russian magician? Oddly enough, love blossoms in beautiful and slightly hilarious ways, which is exactly what happened in the seventh episode of Syfy’s hit fantasy show The Magicians. Titled “The Mayakovsky Circumstances,” this episode takes Quentin, Alice, Penny and Kady on a field trip to the South Pole, where they are forced to endure another test of their magical abilities. However, this time, it’s not Eliot and Margot dishing out the challenges; it’s a crass Russian magician named Professor Mayakovsky, played by guest star Bryan F. O’Byrne, who seems more interested in getting Quentin and Alice to finally act on their feelings for each other then in teaching any of them–with the exception of Penny–anything useful.
And he succeeds! With a blunt finesse that I’m sure many shippers would love to be lent to their favorite shows, Mayakovsky encourages Quentin and Alice to hook up not once, not twice, but multiple times, one in which they were in the form of foxes. However, it never felt like he was forcing them together. It was more like he was putting them in situations in which they would feel free enough to finally let go of their anxieties and go for it.
I am still curious as to why Mayakovsky took such an interest in Quentin and Alice’s relationship. I personally believe that it went beyond simply wanting them to get the sex out of the way so that they could focus. I think that he realized even before they did what a powerful team they make; together, they were able to get through the mind-control challenge with ease, something that I’m sure Makakovsky noticed. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if he was trying to prepare the two of them for a greater obstacle on the horizon–one that will take their combined powers to overcome. The Beast, perhaps?
Quentin and Alice aren’t the only ones who undergo a relationship test of sorts; Penny and Kady are also forced to work in close proximity to each other after the explosive revelations of the previous episode. It seems that, despite Kady’s lies and manipulation, Penny is willing to forgive her and even offers her a chance for them to move forward. Nevertheless, Kady’s inability to forgive herself for her actions gets in the way. When Mayakovsky delivers the news that her mother is dead (which he does with a tenderness that surprised me), Kady takes his advice to flee before Brakebills can deliver their discipline, which Penny sees as another betrayal.
Therefore, things aren’t looking good on the Penny/Kady front, but at least Penny is starting to grow into his powers a little. When Mayakovsky discovers that Brakebills bound Penny’s traveling abilities, he is outraged. He removes the rune preventing Penny from Traveling because, as he puts it, “it’s like teaching an eagle to be afraid of heights.” Then, he sits back and watches as Penny stretches his traveling wings, journeying to his hometown in Florida, to the desert and–just as Dean Fogg predicted–inside of a volcano. Nevertheless, at least he’s getting the chance to embrace his full self rather than inhibiting it.
To be honest, I wish that this entire episode had focused on the Brakebills’ Southern Retreat storyline, but that’s not because I didn’t enjoy what was happening on the main campus. On the contrary, I found the Eliot-Mike-Margot storyline to be humorous and engrossing in all the right ways. It’s just that I felt like there was still a lot of ground to cover in regard to these four characters’ visit to Antarctica, ground that could’ve spanned one or even two more episodes.
Nevertheless, this episode ping-pongs between three separate storylines that are each interesting in their own right. I especially enjoyed the time that we got to spend with Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margot (Summer Bishil), the latter of which got more character development in this episode than she’s received in the season so far. Watching her struggle to accept Eliot’s new boyfriend (and kudos, The Magicians writers, for giving Eliot such a dashing love interest) was cute as well as telling; it was obvious that she and Eliot have a close relationship and that she isn’t open to sharing his time with another person. Her jealousy reaches its comical plateau when the two of them accidentally conjure a djinn instead of magical gin, who reads Margot’s inner desires and follows her every order–much to Mike’s dismay. The best twist, though, occurs at the end of the episode, in which we find out that Mike, Eliot’s new beau, is connected to the beast in some way. Could he actually be the Beast in disguise, sent to infiltrate the school? Or is he being mind-controlled? The possibilities are endless, which means that things are about to get very interesting.
Last but not least, we have Julia’s storyline, which wasn’t as eventful as the other two but was nonetheless intriguing. We learn a lot about Julia’s family history, including her issues with her domineering mother, her mentally ill father and her placating sister, who shows up to warn Julia that she will be committed to an asylum if she doesn’t get straightened out. Sadly, this story thread didn’t get nearly the amount of attention that it deserved, but I am confident that the writers will expound on it more in future episodes.
New episodes of The Magicians air on Monday nights at 9:00 pm ET/PT on Syfy.