REVIEW: The Magicians, S2E4 – The Flying Forest

With the Beast apparently dead, The Magicians opens with a power vacuum in Fillory. Alice became a Niffin and had to be defeated by Quentin’s (Jason Ralph) Keiko demon, leaving him in need of several surgeries performed by a Centaur. All of this, of course, means that Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margot (Summer Bishil) are tasked with getting all of Fillory to recognize their royal status without expecting them to die off tomorrow.

This story inspires a heartbreaking moment of humanity from Eliot, who wants to create a monument to their fallen friend and queen. And an even more heartbreaking response from Margot, who as always must be the voice of cruel reason. They’re rulers of an entire kingdom now, and can’t fall prey to their sentiments. But even the ever practical Margot can’t leave her best friend in distress – so when she rushes off to make a clone of Eliot so that he won’t be stuck in Fillory forever, it feels entirely appropriate and in character.

Penny (Arjun Gupta) learning about Alice’s death was another moment that hit home, reminding us without words that she was one of the few people he let his guard down around in The Magicians‘ first season. Once again, it makes perfect sense that he reaches out to Quentin in support, and it makes even more sense that their rivalry overwhelms their grief. Even so, Penny goes to Quentin for help when the “bronies” – a great name for centaurs if there ever was one – can’t fix him. And Quentin agrees, because even when they’re at each other’s throats they are a family. A family that chops each other’s hands off as an act of service, but a family nonetheless.

No matter the struggle, Julia can’t take her eye off the ball.

Meanwhile, Julia (Stella Maeve) is busy picking up the broken pieces of her last failed assault on Reynard the Fox, this time enlisting Kady (Jade Tailor) to join forces with her. While it’s difficult to see her rope yet another person into her dangerous quest, her need for vengeance and justice must understandably be avenged. It is here that The Magicians excels, because while the rules of magic in the series may sometimes be nonsensical and the plot convoluted, the characters always feel true to themselves even when they’re doing something we may not agree with.

It also helps that Kady feels guilty for running away after Julia rescued her from Reynard, and is just as willing to fight him as Julia is. And Julia didn’t hide what happened to Marina either – although I think we could all do without another glimpse of her frozen body – so there is no concern about keeping characters in the dark. It’s actually refreshing to see The Magicians move the plot forward without secrets, seeing as that’s a trope that sci-fi and fantasy series seem to love more than life itself.

The fact that a heart shaped pendant reading “Best Bitches” is what telepathically links Kady and Julia for the episode is entirely apropos, and a perfect example of the humor that The Magicians so successfully employs. On the other hand, Margot and doppelganger Eliot’s return to Brakebills begs the question: when do these students go to class? Every time the group shows up at their school, there is a party of some kind and until this week no one has questioned their absence. Do they have a special dispensation for hands-on learning at Fillory instead? Henry Figg (Rick Worthy) answers the dilemma immediately – providing them with a thesis assignment to properly rule a magical world. That’s sure to add some humor to the rest of the season.

Julia and Margot’s confrontation in the library is revealing for both women, and the talent of both actresses is on full display. It seems to be a running theme this week that the most adversarial relationships often invite the most insightful conversations. Speaking of adversarial, Kady agrees to defrost Marina – the woman who killed her mother – in order to learn the key to destroying Reynard. Marina only lives a few seconds longer, but they’re crucial to the witches’ understanding of their enemy and perhaps even give Kady some peace over her mother’s death.

Do Penny and Quentin make better partners or frienemies? You decide.

The heart of the episode is Penny and Quentin’s trek through the Flying Forest to find the White Lady (guest star Emma Dumont), a quest with a noble purpose that inevitably becomes a hilarious acid trip and then an exercise in dealing with grief. The emotional whiplash is a trademark of The Magicians at this point, proving Dean Fogg’s excellent point that “comedy and tragedy can coexist in the same sentence.” Penny wants his hands returned in proper working order while Quentin hopes to bring Alice back, but of course not everyone can get what they want. “You would find your way back to sadness,” the White Lady warns Quentin. “No matter how far you run from it.” It’s a powerful note to end on, and for perhaps the first time it’s clear how much our protagonist has learned. If only Alice didn’t have to die for him to grow.

How are you feeling about The Magicians‘ second season so far? Do you think this is the last we’ll see of Alice, or is there more to come? Let us know in the comments below!