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The Magicians - Twenty-Three - Review: "Game-Changing Quest" + POLL

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As far as game-changing episodes go this one ranks pretty close to the top and the surprises were mind-blowing. Just when it seemed like there was no way this show could manage to be even more epic this season they went and turned everything on its head. Credit needs to be given to Henry Alonso Myers and Mike Moore who wrote this incredible episode. They did a tremendous job making this alternate universe episode fit perfectly into the overall arc of the season. This brilliant episode also introduced new storylines that could very well forever change the dynamics of the show. This was a tightly written episode with profound performances and a strong ending. A lot of things will never be the same again after this hour.

What was a bit different for this episode versus the usual format of this show is that instead of having three or four storylines running throughout the hour they stuck almost entirely to this singular story. It was a smart choice because a lot ended up happening and this story needed a lot of breathing room to set up the impact that this episode will have on the overall series moving forward. This episode was headlined by Stella Maeve and Trevor Einhorn and they did some awesome work. Despite the serious tone of the episode, there were a lot of humorous moments weaved in throughout the hour. Einhorn, in particular, was responsible for most of those humorous moments as he pulled double duty for the first half of the hour. Early on Josh lamented that he had been looking forward to “a solo Josh and Julia adventure” and he was right to want that because it turned out to be epic.

The very existence of two Josh’s in the same place at the same time bantering with one another was pretty epic. Then they went and added the very unexpected addition of Marina (Kacey Rohl) to the mix and took things up several notches. Kacey Rohl was incredible in the first two seasons as Marina, but after Marina’s death early on last season, it seemed like that was the end of the road for Rohl and Marina on this show. But here we are with the tremendously brilliant return of Rohl and Marina to the core fabric of the show. Now would be a great time for the show to lock Rohl into a series regular contract to avoid losing her again because Marina is just too awesome to not have around on a more regular basis.

From nearly the beginning of their first interactions, Marina-40 had a bit of a soft spot for Julia. She did some horrible things and liked to enact her version of tough love on her friend, but there was always a bit of an undeniable spark between them. It’s hard to define what it was because they went back and forth between being friends and hating one another so often that it was hard to get a feel for what they truly considered one another. But there was always a tiny bit of what appeared to be flirting going on. Whether that was actually in the script or just the handy work of the actresses is hard to know, but there was always a little something there when they shared a scene. On almost any other show it would be nothing more than a bit of speculation to theorize that there could have been underlying romantic feelings. However, on this show, the writers have proven that labels don’t really apply. These characters love for the sake of loving and that is a beautiful thing. Quentin and Eliot are a striking example of that. Had Marina-40 lived could something have happened between them? No one will ever know since Marina-40 is no longer part of the picture, but Marina-23 seems just as flirty with Julia as her other universe counterpart was.

As tends to be the norm with any Julia and any Marina, they started off on rocky footing. But from the moment that Julia healed Marina-23 that fabulously flirty dynamic between these women returned. When the two women were alone on their quest to the haunted Brakebills-23 library there was some very obvious probing going on by Marina. Julia was giving off some very awkward vibes and Marina quickly picked up on that. She seemed to have a theory of why that was and she was pushing Julia for more information. The way Marina-23 transitioned the conversation from talking about sex with Fogg to wanting to know what her alternate self and Julia’s relationship was in the other reality was quite telling. She almost seemed a little disappointed when Julia played the story off as them just being friends with a complicated history. While that was true, Julia did leave out a few important details. The viewers know it was far more complicated than that, but without all the facts Marina-23 was left to wonder. And yet she kept flirting with Julia at every available opportunity. As opposed to some other innocuous encounters from prior seasons these seemed to be written into the fabric of the episode. It was very interesting to watch as their bond developed throughout the hour.

When Penny-23 arrived in the story it was clear that Marina-23 was a tad bit jealous of his arrival. After the surprise kiss, Marina was very quick to interject. She actually seemed a little indignant about the whole situation. She seemed to be happy having Julia all to herself and Penny was an unnecessary add-on. Now, there is a very real possibility that Marina is just infatuated by Julia’s power and it’s the power she wants to herself and not Julia, but there seemed just a little more going on than just a play for power. It could simply be the way Rohl plays Marina as a swaggering flirty character, but she infused something extra into her performance opposite Maeve’s Julia that wasn’t present with the others. When Penny-23 and Julia were having a nice little moment Marina was quick to intervene and remind Julia that they needed to get going. Marina didn’t seem amused when Julia pointed out that they needed him for his traveler abilities. Penny didn’t seem very amused by Marina either. There was a definite distrust between the two of them especially when it came to Julia.

That push and pull between this trio continued throughout the rest of the episode with each of them vying for Julia’s attention. Marina-40 might have been conservative in revealing her feelings, but Marina-23 is far less subtle. The writers set up a fun little triangle for this episode and it seemed like it would be confined to just this hour. But when Marina-23 and Penny-23 both went through the portal to Universe-40 it became apparent that the writers were setting up to play the long game with this particular story. To add to it, this trio with competing and complex feelings will be joined by a fourth in the form of Kady once they are all back in Universe-40.

Kady and Julia’s friendship has struggled ever since the end of last season. Julia has done a lot to try and redeem that friendship, but Kady is still keeping Julia at arm’s length. Now, Julia has not only come back with a version of Kady’s mortal nemesis in Marina-23, but Julia has also returned with a version of Penny that doesn’t love her and might not even know a version of Kady. To add insult to injury, this Penny loves Julia and not Kady. So now the setup here could be Marina-23 pining for Julia, Penny-23 pining for Julia, and Kady pining for Penny-23. As for Julia, she hasn’t given any clear signals where she is most swayed in this complex grouping. She hasn’t ever really had a serious relationship on the show other than with Richard and that ended very poorly. The writers seem to be aiming towards pairing her up with someone and this might be them testing the water to see where the best romantic chemistry rests. Stella Maeve has an incredible ability to portray chemistry with anyone she is paired up within a scene. All of the potential pairings could work, but it’s unlikely there will be any clear resolution before this season ends. This is definitely a setup for Season Four. What must be dealt with this season is where Julia and Kady stand after everything that has happened. Will this new Penny twist bring them closer together or push them even further apart? It should be pretty clear by the end of the next Julia and Kady interaction if their friendship can still be salvaged or not. Kady has been absent from the past two episodes so not even the audience knows what mindset she’ll be in when they encounter one another again. She’s likely going to be more unstable than ever having lost all contact with her Penny. In this scenario, Julia will have to work even harder to fix things.

Of interesting note regarding Kady, while in Universe-23 Julia was able to heal Marina-23’s facial scar along with her smoking addiction. If Julia can do that then why has she not dealt with Kady’s addiction yet? To be fair to Julia, she did mention that her powers have only recently spiked again as a result of helping the fairies, and she hasn’t been around Kady since then. Could that be in the works once these two reunite again? It would actually kind of be odd to see Kady not plagued by her addiction. Jade Tailor does such a beautiful job showing Kady’s struggle with addiction, but curing the addiction could open the way for a whole new set of issues for the character. With Penny-23 around she might be driven even heavier towards drugs. Julia might have to cure Kady’s addiction just to save her life.

This also leads to the topic of Penny. The last episode ended with Penny-40 seemingly accepting his place in the underworld. He gave up his one chance to leave and actually seemed at peace regarding his choice. Was that a final goodbye to Penny-40? If that is the case then Kady really got screwed over in this whole situation. She lost the love of her life without being able to properly say goodbye only to be taunted by his alternate universe twin who is love with her one-time “best bitch”. But now that there is a living Penny alive and well in Universe-40 there is nothing to say that the writers won’t eventually have Penny-40 inhabit the body of Penny-23. But it seems like before that can happen the show seems determined to play up the feelings Penny-23 has for Julia. This duo should not work, but the way Stella Maeve and Arjun Gupta played their initial interactions there was definitely some unexpected chemistry there. Bringing Marina-23 and Penny-23 back to Universe-40 is going to open all sorts of new complex and emotionally wrought dynamics.

Universe-23 had many other twists to rain down upon Julia and Josh. They were called in to help stop Universe-23’s version of The Beast. In this Universe, The Beast is actually Quentin who was brought back to life by Alice. She thought that because Alice-40 and Quentin-40 loved each other so much that her love would be enough to bring back her Quentin. Sadly all that came back was a shadeless monster who set about destroying all magicians. He also was the beholder of the seventh key, even though it is the actual sixth key that has been uncovered in the Quest. That key provides images of the future and it was a future that not even The Beast could permit to happen. In that future, Julia is able to restore magic, but the price for having magic back is that they let in a monster vile enough to even concern The Beast. Quentin-23 aka The Beast was doing everything in his power to ensure that Julia was never permitted to allow that monster in. The funny thing is the key didn’t show Julia any flashes of the future when she picked it up. Was Quentin-23 being honest regarding what he says he saw? He seemed pretty convinced of what he saw, so it’ll be interesting to see if the key shows any of the others any glimpses into Quentin-23’s dark future.

In their attempts to reach Quentin-23 they encountered Alice-23. Thanks to Julia’s previous encounter with this timid version of Alice there was a quick trust between them. Alice was quick to abandon her smuggling arrangement with the bunny crew in the hopes of finding a way to help save her Quentin. Marina-23 was quick to want to sacrifice her as bait until Julia made it clear that wasn’t an option. It was at that point where Julia was forced to confess what ultimately happened to Marina-40. Through some beautiful acting by Stella Maeve, it was obvious how much losing Marina hurt Julia. The two women had their issues, but at the same time, they had been through a lot together. What was interesting is the way that Marina-23 reacted. She was obviously shocked but didn’t seem to express any anger towards Julia and didn’t even appear irritated that Julia initially withheld the information. This Marina got it and understood why Julia did what she did. There appears to be a tiny bit more compassion in Marina-23 than existed in Marina-40. Not much, this Marina is still happy to sacrifice people, she proved that with Josh, Julia, and Alice, but she is ever so slightly more understanding.

Through this talk Marina-23 accepted that they couldn’t use Alice-23 as bait. But in an act of retribution or guilt or just plain hope, Alice-23 sacrificed herself as bait. It didn’t end well when shadeless The Best Quentin-23 killed her without a shred of remorse. She gave up her life in the name of the greater good. It was a sad ending especially when Quentin-23 was forced to face his feelings when Julia shoved her shade into him. Her shade made him face everything he had done as The Beast and it was too much for him. After telling Julia what he knew he took his own life. This suicidal act seemed like it was done out of a combination of guilt over killing his Alice and perhaps in the hopes of doing one final good deed, but it was still a powerful and sad moment. It was also a powerful gesture that Julia was willing to risk her own shade to try and help save Quentin-23. Julia knew she could survive without her shade and if it saved an alternate version of her best friend it was a worthy sacrifice for her. Living without her shade taught Julia a lot even though it cost her a great deal in the process. It was also a nice call back to last season. This entire episode was a great call back to past events.

Despite the fact that the story of this episode began in Fillory there wasn’t really much progress there. As was noted above, this episode mainly only had one primary storyline this week. We did learn that Margo, Eliot, Quentin, and Alice are all on Tick’s most wanted list. Interestingly enough Tick doesn’t deem Josh enough a concern to include him with the others. That ended up being a good thing because it allowed him to join up with Julia. With Tick now hunting the four of them that whole political mess is sure to only get crazier in the last two episodes of the season. But for this episode, the only new development for that storyline is the newly minted most-wanted posters.

The news that Julia was now friendly with the Fairy Queen did not go over well. Margo and Eliot are understandably still holding a grudge. One can’t really blame them since the Fairy Queen did royally screw them every which way possible. Will Julia be able to make a convincing enough case to help negotiate some sort of human and fairy treaty? The answer to that question is still unknown but Julia and the others have enough other things to deal with besides the fairy factor that a treaty would be wise. And since Quentin-23 revealed the potential existence of a monster vile enough to even scare The Beast it might be a really good time for humans and fairies to put aside their differences. An alliance might be all that saves them all from the monster that seems poised to arrive sooner than later.

There was also some follow-up regarding the McAllister family and Irene’s escape. Julia has laid claim to Irene’s house and reclaimed Brakebills. She handed the school back into Fogg’s custody, but as long as Irene is alive she will be lurking around to cause trouble. There is no way that a woman like Irene is going to just sit back and let the legacy of her entire family be destroyed without a fight. Julia might have dealt Irene a severe blow, but Irene isn’t out of this fight yet. She will almost certainly cause trouble in the future.

This episode also seemed to set up a lot of things. Penny-23 and Marina-23 seem around to stay for awhile, perhaps indefinitely, so look out for some fun stuff coming from them. With the quest still needing to be completed they likely won’t get too far into the complications from these two being in the wrong Universe, so that’ll likely carry over into Season Four. The prophesized monster will likely come to fruition in the season finale leading into some epic things next season. There are still a lot of storylines from this season that need to be tied up like Julia and Kady’s troubled friendship, Alice and Quentin’s distressed relationship, Alice’s actual ties to the Library, Penny-40’s ultimate fate, the political future of Fillory, Josh's lycanthropy, and the return of magic. Seems like a lot to cram into just two episodes, but if any show can do it and pull it off it’ll be this one. There is one thing for certain, this episode changed a lot. These next two episodes have the potential to be just as mind-blowing. Prepare for a wild ride as this fabulous season rushes towards its conclusion.

Don’t miss the penultimate episode of the season when it airs next Wednesday, March 28th at 9/8c on SyFy.

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. What repercussions will there be for Marina-23 and Penny-23 being in Universe-40? Will Penny-40 end up taking over Penny-23’s body? How will Kady handle the new arrivals? Will the group be able to retake Fillory? Can they get the final key and restore magic? What monster will be unleashed when Julia restores magic?

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