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The Magicians - A Flock of Lost Birds - Review: A New Mystery To Solve + POLL

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Welcome back to the world of The Magicians! When the group was last seen they were separated with no memory of who they once were. Thanks to them, magic was restored, but because of Alice's last-minute perceived betrayal the Order, specifically, Irene McAllister now controls magic with the aid of the Library. Dean Fogg also appeared to betray the group and is now back training future magicians at Brakebills. It was his magic prowess that secured the new identities for the team. This season launches seemingly not long after they were last seen in the final seconds of the Season Three finale. Now the race is on for all of them to remember who they are and reunite to reclaim magic and return it to the masses.

The Magicians does a lot of things right, but the one area where it has struggled is in giving equal evolution to each character. When one looks at the main cast of characters there is a definite lopsidedness in terms of how far certain characters have evolved versus others. That's not a dig at the writers, it is the unfortunate fact of existence for almost every ensemble show. Each season the writers must cover a certain amount of ground in a limited number of episodes and that means that sometimes certain characters don't really get to shine. The performer can be amazing, and the character can get decent screen time, but that doesn't always equate to good character growth. The very nature of the arc of this season opens so much incredible potential for each character. The very nature of an amnesia type storyline is to dive into who a character is in a very fundamental and profound way. Hopefully, that means that each character will get some defining moments this season.

Based off the arc of this season premiere, it seems like the writers may have taken a special interest in diving into Kady. Fogg's false identities all come from a graphic novel whose focus is Kady's new alter ego, Seattle Narcotics Detective Sam Cunningham. Kady has been a part of the team since the start and she has gotten some decent character growth especially in her Season Two arc with Julia but has never really been allowed to shine all on her own. The core focus of this episode was on Sam trying to piece everything together. Jade Tailor and Leanne Lapp, who portrays Sam's physical appearance, delivered a flawless tag-team effort in bringing to life the Kady/Sam storyline. They each brought a lot to who Sam is and delivered on showing her ferocious determination. It is that determination that has the potential to really lead the group of misfit banished magicians. Essentially these two actresses had to nail who Sam is for the rest of the storyline. It's hard enough for one performer to bring to life a single character, but to then have to share that character with another performer has a lot of potential for failure. Tailor and Lapp really delivered not just for Sam but for the whole show. A lot was riding on them pulling off this tough task and they did what needed to be done and did it without fault.

Most of the Sam storyline in this episode rested on her discovering the existence of magic and realizing that she isn't who she thinks she is. That then sends her down a rabbit hole that leads her to the discovery of A Flock of Lost Birds, the graphic novel that their new nightmare is based upon. It also revealed the fake identities of all Kady's friends. Of the whole group, she was able to track down Margo/Janet, Penny/Hansel, and Josh/Issac which still leaves them missing Eliot/The Monster/Nigel, Quentin/Brian, and Julia/Kim the Architect. It was surprisingly easy for Sam to convince all of them that magic was real, however, Janet likely played a big part in that after she had a front-row seat to verify everything Sam was saying. Upon Sam and Janet's first meeting, Sam tried to push through the magical veil protecting their identities and as a result, things started to explode around them. They were only protected by the pendant that Sam grabbed off the criminal Hedge Witch that she was tracking that was, ironically, sent to keep an eye on her and the others. Things didn't get much better for the four of them after they united. They weren't exactly subtle in their talk and triggered the security features of the spell a few times too many.

That fact forced the appearance of Marina-45 who was quite curious about this group. It was nice to see them bring Marina back into the story so early on, but not a real surprise. The writers, likely for scheduling reasons with Kacey Rohl, never really followed up on what happened to Marina after she came through the portal with Josh and Julia last season. She was always a great big wild card coming into this season. She was out there and was almost guaranteed to be a part of this somehow, it was just a matter of how. Kacey Rohl is utterly brilliant in this role. She plays bitchy to perfection, but she plays it in a way that one can see a tinge of heart underneath. Make no mistake, Marina is looking out for her own interests, but she also seems to, on some level, care.

Her involvement doesn't necessarily sit well with Sam which is a nice throwback to Kady and the original Marina's rivalry. Even not really knowing each other these two still have a tense feeling towards one another. Despite it all, they do end up at Marina's apartment that she clearly acquired through nefarious means. That's where Marina pokes too hard at the magical veil to the point it punches back sending them all to the floor. Unfortunately for Janet, it sent her a bit further than the floor. The consequence of the magic Marina tried to perform somehow landed Janet back in Fillory. That led Janet to her second trippy meeting with Ember. If Janet's head wasn't already spinning that second meeting could have perhaps broken her. The first encounter early in the episode was more confusing than anything for Janet, but it did let the audience know how badly Fillory needed Margo back.

The nature of Margo's story usually keeps her away from characters like Kady, Penny, and Josh, so it was nice to see that group together for so long. It also allowed for Sam and Janet to show the sparks of what could have been an interesting friendship. Sam was surprisingly protective of Janet, way more so than the guys. However, Margo's core storyline is in Fillory, so it was important for the writers to get her back there fast. It will be interesting to see how she handles this whole identity situation in a place so fundamentally foreign to her. Plus, this will better allow the writers to bring back in the characters, mainly Fen, whose primary existence is in Fillory.

While all of this was going on the other characters weren't forgotten. The episode did touch on the location of Julia/Kim, Quentin/Brian, and Eliot/The Monster/Nigel. Quentin/Brian is stuck with the murderous Monster/Eliot who just wants to be his friend. The brief time spent with them in this episode showed just how evil the Monster can be. However, his childlike quality is still in place, making it even harder to really get a good grasp on who he really is. Even in the brief time he had in this episode, Hale Appleman showed that the audience is going to be treated to some phenomenal work from him this season. The way he brings the Monster to life within Eliot is eerie in the best possible way. The writers have thrown a lot of crazy stuff at him over the seasons, but this is definitely high on the list of crazy, and he's knocking it out of the park.

In a touch of true irony, Julia/Kim ends up at Brakebills and accepted this time despite having basically no magical ability at all. It isn't super clear that Fogg knows that she is Julia at first, but he clearly knows by the end of the episode. It was interesting to watch Fogg put so much care into trying to nurture Kim, whereas, he just dismissed Julia. He seems to have learned a few lessons from that massive error in judgment. Kim's story is very limited in this episode so it will be fun to see how the veil will eventually start to lift around her. Julia sacrificed a lot to restore magic, so if anyone is owed a debt in the aftermath of last season it's her. It will be curious to see if he continues to treat her differently especially in relation to how he is currently treating Alice.

It is Alice who is the biggest wildcard of them all. She broke her deal with the Library and betrayed her friends and now even Dean Fogg won't come to see her in her Library prison. She truly has nothing left to lose and those are the most dangerous type of characters. At the end of last season, she lost everything and everyone. Even if she manages to get back to her friends and they remember her they may want nothing to do with her. She is completely and utterly alone and that can break even the strongest of people. Well, not entirely alone, she does have Nick who is in the next cell over. Their chats through the wall do seem to provide Alice with a tiny bit of hope. When he revealed that he is Santa that did perk Alice up for a moment. Hearing him tell her that he knows, and has known for a long time, that she is a good person was something she desperately needed to hear. Alice has made some questionable choices over the seasons, but she always seems to be coming from a place of trying to do the right thing. She needed to hear from one other living being that she wasn't beyond saving. It is a sentiment that would be repeated by the Librarian Zelda later in the episode.

Unfortunately, Nick also shared how he once tried to escape imprisonment through suicide. While he told Alice the story to try to stop her from going down the same path he did, it had somewhat of an opposite effect. She ended up slitting her own wrists in what looked like a suicide attempt. Alice would later go on to claim that it wasn’t, and she was just trying to find a way out, but it's questionable as to the validity of that statement. She is in a dark place and hurting in unimaginable ways, so one can't help but wonder if she had made her peace with the alternative. Ultimately, thanks to Nick and even Zelda, Alice did survive and was sent to the infirmary to recuperate. That's where she made her case for not necessarily being out to die, but honestly looking for anything she could use to escape. She did find a magical roach which she hid away in her mouth, so it should be fascinating to see just how she plans to use that.

While in the infirmary, and with the roach in her mouth, Alice did have a visit from Zelda. The Librarian claimed that Alice wasn't being punished, but rehabilitated. Perhaps that's what Zelda believes she is helping to facilitate, but she's going about it all wrong. Her tactics won't do anything but drive Alice to try more dangerous things to escape. There is an interesting comparison to be made here. Zelda and Alice really aren't all that different. Both always believe they are doing the right thing, but their actions are sometimes misguided. The big difference between them now is that one is currently employed by the group in power and the other is an outcast. Zelda does seem to genuinely care about Alice, so given some time perhaps maybe these two could forge some sort of an alliance.

This whole imprisonment storyline could actually do a lot of good to help advance Alice's overall character growth. She has needed some time for self-reflection and this whole ordeal is certainly giving her that time for better or worse. One thing is for certain, Olivia Taylor Dudley delivered a truly heartbreaking performance. Alice is defeated and that was evident in the almost empty look in Dudley's eyes as she took Alice through this ordeal. Yet, at times, there are these little sparks of hope. And compliments must be paid for her performance in the infirmary. She spent that entire scene basically having to just act with her eyes because Alice's mouth was occupied with the roach she was trying to smuggle back to her cell. Even without words, it was very clear where Alice stood with Zelda and she harbors no trust for her jailer. Dudley is a very expressive actress and that served her well in that scene. This storyline has already given her some great material to work with, so hopefully, that trend will continue.

The Magicians is blessed to have a group of exceptionally talented performers bringing these characters to life. The story arc the writers have set up for this season will hopefully give them all equal opportunities to shine and further develop their characters. This was a great way to launch the new season. Now all the audience can do is buckle up and prepare to go along for the wild ride ahead.

Don't miss the next all-new episode when it airs nextWednesday, January 30th at 9 pm ET on Syfy.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on this episode. Did you like the new identities that Fogg made for them? How long will they be stuck in these false identities? Will Alice ever get free of her prison? Will the others be able to learn to forgive her?

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