Just when you thought Syfy’s The Magicians was going to give us all the answers, it plopped another giant problem on our collective laps. A whole lot of things transpired in the season three finale, “Will You Play With Me,” but I wish we had a chance to breathe before diving head-first into season four.
We should have known they’d do this again.
The season two finale of The Magicians was just wrapping up its arc dealing with Alice’s niffin status and the Ember/Umber drama when it revealed a bombshell—the old gods were taking magic away. We actually got a decent look at what that new status quo looked like and it was fairly depressing. With that, and the last-minute revelation that Julie still had a magical spark, we were basically watching one big lead-in to season three. History repeats itself, I guess?
The magicians went on an Epic Quest last season to restore magic by collecting the Seven Golden Keys. After untold problems along the way, they did it. Sort of. While they’re figuring out the last details to get to the Castle at the End of the World, Julia gets distracted by messenger goddess Iris to take on a new title of Our Lady of the Tree (after her work in Fillory last episode). She grew the spark and is now the flame, a full-on goddess herself. But it means she has to give up the quest. She says her goodbyes to Quentin and gifts him one bit of magic in case there’s an emergency on the last leg.
Josh discovers an image in the Seven Keys book that’s similar to architectural work, which reminds Quentin of something Reynard told them. He realizes this person built the castle they need to get to and Alice brings up Calypso from the Greek myths, the nymph who trapped Odysseus on Ogygia. After a few Google searches, the questers discover Ogygia is an app company, keeping us all trapped in a new kind of prison—our phones. Calypso is “not a fan” of them but gives them information on the castle at the behest of the now-dead Prometheus. He said he would be able to create the jailers by starting a quest, using all his power to create the seven keys and leaving himself vulnerable. As Margo points out: “He horcruxed himself.”
Calypso shows them a drawing of Fillory before Ember and Umber arrived on the scene and to the magicians, it looks upside down (those who’ve read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians book series may have noticed something familiar here). An old dwarves’ tale from Fillory told of Castle Whitespire being based on something called Castle Blackspire. The Fillorian castle is based on the prison, so it’s been there all along, just underneath their feet. There’s one more warning from Calypso, however, that the prison holds something that can never be allowed to escape. Hmm, I wonder what will happen...
Quentin, being Quentin, uses the magic Julia gave him to contact the knight guarding this... whatever it is. This knight, Ora, agrees to help let them in the back door after he offers himself up as a replacement jailer so she can finally leave. When the magicians find out what he did they’re not happy. Margo and Eliot suggest using the god-killing bullet still hanging around to kill the monster but Quentin is resolute.
Fen, sitting on the Whitespire throne as acting High King in Margo’s absence, is privy to the fairy deal to end all fairy deals. The fairy Queen offers up her own body to Irene McAllister and the Library after discovering they were still hunting her people for their power. She’s not willing to wait on when/if the magicians succeed in bringing magic back and knows her royal marrow is too good to pass up. In exchange, they make a deal that “no fairy will be hunted by a non-fairy anywhere ever.” It’s a deal that will never be able to be undone. What this all means is, when the magicians get to the castle prison, Irene and the Librarian will be waiting to use the siphon to steal all the magic. But that’s not the only complication.
Finally at Blackspire, Ora explains to Quentin that her main purpose is to coddle the monster kept there, to love it like a child, but Margo and Eliot have their own ideas. Alice, ever the thorn in their paws this season, devised her own plan with Dean Fogg to erase her memories with a special potion of his so she’d no longer be tempted by magic once it was returned to the world. At the same time, Fogg was making his own renewed deal with the Library. Yeah, it’s... a lot. The monster doesn’t have a name, the gods created it to be simple, and so all it does is want. Just as it reveals itself and asks Quentin, “Will you play with me?” Eliot comes out of the shadows to shoot him with the god-killer bullet. A sparkling mist ejects itself from the body and heads straight into Ora.
But we’re not done fucking the plan up yet! Using some leftover fairy dust, Alice steals the keys and destroys them, anointing herself judge and jury for magic’s existence for the good of all. Julia, ignoring the other goddess’ pleas to forget them, goes to help her friends and, with her higher existence knowledge, tells Alice she’ll realize the mistake she made one day. Julia uses up all her new powers to recreate the keys, becoming human again. They all take a key and open the fountain of magic once more. Of course, that’s when Irene and the Librarian arrive to steal it all, with the added trouble of Fogg using his potion to steal the quester’s memories.
Magic is back, but now a glorified utility. The Library controls who gets it and how much. Brakebills is open once more, but struggling with limited magical resources. And the questers? They’re all living regular lives with no memory of magic. Well, all except Alice (I’m assuming Fogg pulled a simple switcheroo on the potion) who is trying in vain to warn everyone the monster from the prison is now loose and can jump bodies. She’s concerned for her friends because while they don’t remember magic, they’re still magicians, and a brief catch-up with all of them in their mundane existences (with new names) proves the monster is still interested in them. The monster, now in Eliot’s body, has found Quentin and wants to play.
- Some great things this season: an entire conversation in pop culture references (still dying to try this out on my own), a story told from the perspective of a character who’s deaf, and an ensemble performance of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” just to name a few.
- God, I love the Muntjac.
- What’s Poppy (Felicia Day) up to? In “Six Short Stories About Magic,” she splits off from Quentin as he’s trying to talk sense into Alice, heads back through the mirror portals and... that’s it. We knew she didn’t believe in the quest but I don’t expect that’s the last we’ll see of her, either.
- Huzzah for another Janet reference!
- Fen being able to not just make peace with the fairies after what they did to her, but also to show great compassion and concern for them in the end, was pretty powerful.
- Everyone just picking up with Timeline 23!Penny, like it’s no big deal, rubs me the wrong way. And considering how messed up she’s been over him, Kady was definitely too okay with it. It felt like the writers backed themselves into a corner after “killing” Penny off, and this was the easiest way to get him back into play.
- Timeline 23's Beast!Quentin warned Julia after having a vision of her using a key at the end of the world. He said she would open a lock and release a monster and... that’s exactly what she wound up doing. Gotta say I’m pretty disappointed in her losing all that power, as she was getting very interesting.
- All hail King Margo, may she return to her throne swiftly and may we get the chance to see her actually rule like we know she can. Gonna miss those snazzy eye-patches, though.