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“The Magicians” 1.12 Review: I’ve Dug “Thirty-Nine Graves” But I Won’t Dig Another One

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Hi ho, hi ho! It’s off to Fillory we go! In this week’s episode of The Magicians, titled “Thirty-Nine Graves,” our merry band of aspiring spellcasters set off on a quest to get into the magical land of Fillory in order to escape certain death at the hands of The Beast. However—per usual—things don’t go smoothly. There are several challenging bumps along the road which run the risk of derailing our group’s plans. Ultimately, though, everyone, including Julia, arrives at their destination, setting up for what’s sure to be an intriguing finale.

As a whole, this episode did a great job of successfully moving the plot along without spending too much time indulging in the sticky dynamics of the Brakebills students after last week’s shocking threesome. Quite frankly, I’m glad that the writers pushed the relationship drama to the side and focused on the bigger picture. Nothing is more unappealing to me than turning a supernatural drama into a soap opera, and I feel like that’s what would have happened had the writers decided to deal solely with the emotional aftermath of the Quentin-Eliot-Margot hook-up in this episode.

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I was a little puzzled that Penny couldn’t figure out what was going on between the four of them, however. Isn’t he supposed to be a mind-reader? Why would he have to go to Alice for an explanation in the first place when he could just pick through their thoughts? It’s possible that Penny chose not to use his psychic abilities on them because he’s learned boundaries but I think it’s more plausible that the writers simply needed Penny and Alice to have that heart-to-heart moment to make their sex-capades happen and ignored canon in order to get them to that point.

Anyway, Quentin, Alice and the rest of the group begin their journey through the Neitherlands on less than good terms and are soon separated when Quentin is pushed back into the Earth fountain by Eve and her gang of disgruntled Travelers. Rather than mope about this unfortunate turn of events, however, Quentin seeks out Dean Fogg and doses him with truth serum in order to get some answers. And my, did he get more than he bargained for!

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This was arguably the most satisfying aspect of this episode because everything starts to finally make a lot of sense. To Quentin’s surprise, Fogg tells him that they are currently in the process of fulfilling the thirty-ninth revolution of a time loop engineered by Jane Chatwin, aka Eliza. Each time that she reset the loop, she changed something different, hoping that it will be the deciding factor that will bring about The Beast’s defeat. Since Jane is no longer around to hit the reset button, this is their last chance—so the pressure is on!

So, what exactly did Jane change this time around? Funny you should ask. As it turns out, Julia was right to feel like her destiny was stolen from her because that’s exactly what Jane did: she prevented Julia from getting into Brakebills with the hope that she would find a different kind of magic, one that was strong enough to bring about victory for them.

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For me, this was the perfect way for the writers to bring Quentin’s and Julia’s storylines contrasting storylines together. Ever since it was revealed that Julia was God-touched, I’ve felt like she was meant to be the main protagonist of this story—as opposed to Quentin who, for all of his geekiness in regard to magic, possesses no special abilities whatsoever. With the discovery that she is the key, I have to wonder what this means for Quentin in the overall narrative.

I do think that learning this humbled Quentin in a lot of ways. For the longest time, he saw his admission into Brakebills and her rejection as proof of his own specialness, but now he’s learning that it’s exactly the opposite. Nevertheless, he doesn’t lash out; instead, he apologizes and seeks out reconciliation with her, which Julia is only too happy to accept.

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I have to say that I was a little bummed that this episode paid cursory attention to the Free Trader’s summoning of Our Lady Underground. It’s almost as if they gave us a cliff-notes version: the Goddess came, granted all of their wishes and then left, but didn’t have enough time to give us an in-depth look. However, they did leave us with a sense of foreboding: the guardian’s warning that “they can’t unring a bell” seemed noticeably pointed, so I wonder if Our Lady Underground will turn out to have a darker side.

Hopefully, we’ll learn more about this in the finale, but I’m already anticipating that the main focus will be on Fillory and the Beast. With each group now in Fillory, a confrontation with the show’s principal villain is inevitable, and although they are currently separated by time, I don’t think they will be separated for long. I want to take a moment to applaud the writers for using such creative techniques to get all of our characters to where they needed to be for the finale. Quentin and Julia going back in time to the World War II era in order to follow Jane Chatwin into Fillory was exceptionally pleasing, since the Fillory books were a foundation of their friendship when they were younger. It’s only fitting that they experience Fillory together and I’m glad the writers gave them that opportunity.

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As for Penny and the others, their journey to Fillory was a tad less iconic but nonetheless eventful. I’m not surprised that they would turn to the Keeper of the Library for help—and I have to say that I got a giggle out of the librarian calling Margot “Janet,” and then implying that she was Janet in a past timeline. This coupled with the time loop discussion was an excellent way to weave the book storyline into the show as it’s very likely that the book one was one of the thirty-nine alternative timelines that we don’t get to see. I am a little disappointed that Eliot got them kicked out of the library for trying to burn Mike’s life book, but maybe this will finally clue his teammates in to the fact that he needs more than just time to come to terms with his past actions.

If that doesn’t work, then I’m confident that his consumption of the hallucinogenic carrot, which put the entire group in danger, will do the trick. Up to this point, I feel like they’ve been dismissive of Eliot’s trauma, but as this episode demonstrated, it could have disastrous consequences for them all moving forward. Therefore, it needs to be addressed.

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So, what did you think of “Thirty-Nine Graves”? Do you think they’ll defeat The Beast? Was that Julia-Richard hook-up awkward for you to watch, too? And how much did you love Margot in this episode? She had some of the best lines—for example: “People don’t get to be mad at me because I had sex with them. You’re welcome.” I feel like they’re finally giving her character the attention that she deserves, for which I am very grateful. With any luck, this new trend of giving each character the time to develop will continue in the finale and in the next season.

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

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