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The Magicians - Six Short Stories About Magic - Review: “A Quest Of Surprises” + POLL

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Some of the best episodes of The Magicians have been the ones where they employ a unique storytelling plot, and this episode was no exception. Not many shows can manage the varying storytelling styles that this show pulls off with such ease. This particular episode had a very intricate and complex plot that could have so easily been confusing and incoherent, yet the way it was written and edited allowed everything to flow effortlessly. In a season that has so far been impeccable this one continued the trend. Aided by strong performances all around this was yet another standout episode. The way the story keeps flowing from episode to episode is really helping to keep the intrigue high and the audience excited for each episode. T

There was a multitude of storylines flowing throughout this hour, but it was the one revolving around Penny that was the through point for them all. When Penny arrived in the Underworld the race was on to find Benedict and get the key. In an interesting twist, there was nothing Penny could do to help or save Benedict. And in a desperate attempt to not be alone Benedict sent Penny on a fool’s errand search for the key. It was during this time that Penny came face to face with Cassandra who is the prophetic writer of the books. In the first of many surprises, Cassandra appears to be an older version of Alice. Olivia Taylor Dudley shines in this new role. She perfectly captures the troubled and frantic nature of the cursed Cassandra.

Penny was as shocked as the audience when Cassandra turned around. He spent most of the episode calling her Alice. The fact that Cassandra made her big first appearance in the same episode where Alice is up to some shady stuff at the library makes it likely that Cassandra’s story is just getting started. Alice seems on a path to get herself into a world of trouble and making deals with the library never ends well for anyone. It will be quite interesting to see how this plays out. Cassandra was adamant that she isn’t Alice yet there were certain moments where she looked at Penny where Alice shone through. We know that time moves differently in the Library, so could Cassandra be Alice in the future? This is such a brilliant twist with a ton of potential and they were very smart to entrust this storyline to Dudley.

While Penny was with Cassandra she fed him new pages pertaining to his friends. Through those pages, it is revealed what everyone is up to, including his friends who are supposed to be coming to the library to retrieve him and the key. The pages revealed that Kady and her team were having trouble upholding their end of the plan to get to the library to retrieve him and the key. The plan requires all of them in order to be successful, but Alice isn’t keen to help. Thanks to Alice’s unwillingness to help with the quest the team was forced to take some risks. Alice did inform them that for the portals Victoria opens to stay open without risking her life the calculations have to be exact. The problem is Alice is really the only one that can make those calculations and nothing Kady or the others say can convince her to help them.

With Alice unwilling to actually participate the mission was at risk of guaranteed failure until Poppy swooped in and stole notes from Alice to aid them. The notes do the job and Victoria is able to successfully open the necessary portals, but it comes at a big risk to her. To keep the portals open she has to constantly feed them her blood. As the episode draws on she grows weaker and weaker. To her credit, each time she had a chance to save herself she kept holding on trying to ensure everyone made it out. That is in stark contrast to the cowardly and increasingly untrustworthy Poppy who bailed the moment things got dicey. She even tried to convince Victoria to come with her which would have stranded the others. In the end, Victoria would end up paying a high price for her loyalty. At least she wasn’t alone in that moment. Both she and Harriet paid the price together.

This was a huge episode for Harriet with a massive reveal. It turns out that The Librarian is actually her mom! Harriet was estranged from her mom because she wanted the library to be more accessible to the masses. This new revelatory fact explains so much about Harriet. While that was an epic reveal, the best part of this segment was that it was done in near complete silence and when there was sound it was all the more impactful because of all the silence. That was such a beautiful way to honor the deaf community and expose more people to how amazing ASL is. Having this segment filled with sound would have done a disservice to Harriet’s story. The fact that the show understood that is absolutely no surprise. They consistently tackle topics that almost no other sci-fi/fantasy show will touch with a ten-foot pole and they do it in poignant and respectful ways.

With Marlee Matlin onboard they already had the odds stacked in their favor of successfully pulling this off. Then they went and cast other talented young actresses who helped portray Harriet throughout her life. Each of these actresses put forth great effort to move and act in the same way as Matlin. It was a brilliant way to tell Harriet’s story in such a condensed amount of time. This trio of actresses helped add even more charisma to an already enigmatic and charismatic character.

The three actresses came together to paint a full and powerful portrayal of a young woman with a mission in life. She was willing to give up everything in the name of doing the right thing. She knew of this blank period and instead of being fearful of it she wanted to solve the problem. And in all her wisdom she knew that the answer wasn’t in the library but in the combined minds of some of the best magicians. Instead of listening to her daughter The Librarian kept dismissing her. It was clear that she loves her daughter, but she thought she was doing the right thing. She raised a strong and independent woman with a streak of righteousness in her. She should have realized that one day she and her daughter would reach this crossroads. The fact that this storyline ended with Harriet and Victoria seemingly trapped, or worse, doesn’t bode well. However, The Librarian seemed shattered (literally) when Harriet was seemingly trapped. Surely with all her power, she will find a way to retrieve her daughter. If not, hopefully, once the group gets magic back, they’ll beeline it to try and figure out how to retrieve both women and Benedict as well. After all, each of them were causalities of the quest, and the quest would not have moved forward without their sacrifices, so the team owes each of them a great debt.

The time at the library not only helped the team retrieve the key, but it also shed some light on the mysterious powder Irene gave Julia in the prior episode. Kady and Harriet discovered a huge supply just prior to Harriet making a stand against her mom to give Kady time to get Quentin and get out. The Librarian might not have revealed the origins of the powder, but back on Earth, and with the help of Fen, Julia figured it out. In yet another big surprise, the powder is revealed to be harvested from fairies. Suddenly it’s evident why the Fairy Queen thought she needed to raise an army. That doesn’t justify all the horrible things she did in Fillory, but it does explain a lot.

Fen, of all people, has perhaps the most hatred for fairies, especially after the reveal from the last episode, but her path and their cross yet again. Coming into this episode Fen was already broken and disheartened over the loss of her daughter. She was also carrying a great deal of anger inside her towards fairies. That’s why she wasn’t necessarily really nice towards Skye (Anja Savcic) when they first meet. It’s understandable why she was less than cordial with Irene’s young slave fairy, but she seemed to soften to the young woman when she started to realize her plight. She wasn’t moved enough to want to step in and help, but Julia wasn’t going to let any more innocents get hurt in the name of magic. Could that also be why Julia claimed to not exactly be friendly with Alice at the moment? They had a confrontation, but by the end of the prior episode, the two of them seemed to reconcile what had happened. It’s curious that Julia went from that to claiming to be at odds with her. It seems more likely that Julia told Irene that to steer her interest away from Alice.

Julia has become a protector this season and it wouldn’t be out of character for her to go out of her way to try and keep her friends out of danger. Her protective nature came to the forefront when she and Fen discovered how Irene harvested the magical fairy dust and it appalled both women. Will it be enough to move Fen to want to actually help Julia save them? She’s angry now and her judgment is clouded, but deep inside she is still the same big-hearted woman who once nurtured a log. It’s not a stretch to imagine that Julia will convince her to help save the fairy girl and Irene’s other fairy slaves. The bigger question is will they be rewarded by the Fairy Queen should they help the fairies in Irene's servitude? That is something Fen should definitely think about especially with her husband and Margo in danger back in Fillory

Other than the loss of magic, this season hasn’t really had a true big bad. Even the Fairy Queen really only had a hold on Fillory. Irene, on the other hand, seems to have her hands in a little bit of everything. She seems a great candidate for big bad territory. She is so addicted to magic that she is torturing her slaves. Now, also an important question how did she manage to enslave fairies in the first place? These fairies are nothing like those from Fillory. This was a very interesting twist with disturbing consequences for the characters. The only good bit about the fairy dust is that long-term exposure has great consequences which have started to affect Irene. The fact that she has access to fairy dust at all puts them all in a bad position if she decides to use that magic against them all. At least Julia is now out from under her debt. But since she has magic she is still a subject of curiosity for Irene which might just aid Julia in getting better access to all of her slaves. It will certainly be interesting to watch what comes of this storyline.

For the most part, the Fllory story was relatively absent except for one small segment with Eliot. He was forced to go before a wombat to plead his case for why he and Margo should be spared. That story will certainly get more time next week so it will be nice to see what becomes of the dynamic duo of Margo and Eliot. The fairies got them into this mess so they better hope that Julia and Fen manage to forge a new and better relationship with the Earth-based fairies that may be able to help undo all the damage their Queen has done in Fillory.

Thanks to Cassandra, Penny was able to keep up with everything that was going on. He knows what they are all up to. The information he has access to helped him figure out that Benedict had the key the whole time. He ensures that Sylvia (Roan Curtis) will get Benedict a sweet job where he will be very popular in exchange for the key. Unfortunately, after helping him all episode long, Sylvia ultimately betrays him for unknown reasons, but not before ensuring that the book with the key in it is safely delivered to the others. It appears as though the library has finally cashed in on the debt that Penny owes it. The team retrieved the key but has lost him. That will not sit well with Kady who will surely launch some sort of mission to get him back. At least she knows where he is this time and she made it out seemingly safe. What isn’t clear is if Kady got out with any of the fairy powder that she discovered with Harriet. If so that could help them all as long as they use it in extreme moderation to avoid the side effects afflicting Irene.

This episode covered a lot of story dropping some big reveals. Harriet, Victoria, and Benedict all appear lost to the Underworld and the void. Penny’s fate is uncertain. Whatever happened to Kady and Quentin after they went through the portal is unknown. Poppy seemingly made it back safely and proved that she is an untrustworthy coward. Julia and Fen are trying to liberate some Earth-bound fairies. Eliot and Margo are on trial in Fillory. With the exception of Julia and Fen, most of the team ended this episode with precarious uncertain fates. All the uncertainty and upheaval should provide some terrific material for next week’s musical extravaganza, so be sure to not miss that.

Don’t miss the musical episode when it airs next Wednesday, March 7th at 9/8c on Syfy.

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. Will they save Penny? Did Quentin and Kady make it out safely? Can Harriet and Victoria still be saved? Can Julia convince Fen to help her save Irene’s fairy slaves? Will Irene be the new big bad?

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