REVIEW: The Magicians, S3E13 – Will You Play With Me?

The Magicians delivers a creepy and intense (if somewhat unsatisfying) finale with “Will You Play With Me?”, which explores theme of sacrifice but doesn’t necessarily follow through on it. The episode opens on Quentin (Jason Ralph) reading the eighth chapter of the Magic Key quest, complete with another beautifully-rendered visual representation of the story that’s either full of plot holes or paradoxes. It’s a nice metatextual jab at the show itself, as especially apropos for a season ender that raises way more questions than it answers.

Thanks for that heads up, Calypso.

While the rest of the group is planning the time they have left before the Library readies their syphon, Julia (Stella Maeve) is called away by the messenger goddess Iris and informed that nurturing the spark inside her has made her a full-on goddess. She regrets not being able to finish the quest by Quentin’s side, but during their sweet farewell she grants him enough magic for a one-off spell. Which he, of course, almost immediately spends on communicating with the Knight who guards the Castle at the End of the World. A castle which is the precursor to Whitespire and is located quite literally underneath Fillory.

Granted, he learns about Blackspire after the rest of the team tracks the architect Calypso down by brainstorming every god they could think of, so it wasn’t that immediate. But given how expertly The Magicians paced the earlier parts of the quest, and how difficult they were at the time, it was a bit jarring how quickly they uncovered the metaphorical key to their final destination. And while Calypso talks a good game about the sacrifices Prometheus – and the Knight who is trapped in the castle eternally guarding a monster who must never escape – made in order to protect magic, it feels at times that few characters other than Quentin have learned the lessons at the heart of “Will You Play With Me?”.

When a god-appointed knight tells you no funny business, please listen.

To my point, Quentin makes a deal with the Knight to stay in her place in exchange for being granted access to the castle. He considers this a necessary sacrifice, echoing Calypso’s sentiments about magic requiring the hard road instead of shortcuts. And yet Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) are so against him taking an action for the good of not only the group but humanity that they bring the god-killing bullet along with them against Quentin and the Knight’s express wishes. While it’s human to fear losing a friend, the sacrifices they themselves have made for the good of Fillory this season should have taught them a little more restraint. Although perhaps it’s partially that neither the book of the magic keys nor Calypso’s tales of woe painted a very clear picture of the monster in the castle.

Alice (Olivia Taylor-Dudley) is another character who is done taking the hard road, though she might be forgiven due to how much being a Niffin messed her up. She asks Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) for a hit of a special potion that will wipe her memory so that she won’t be tempted to use magic once it returns, or even remember it exists. She does, however, share a nice moment with Quentin reaffirming her love for him. Their romance has been muted for most of the season, but this feels like a fitting way to conclude what they shared at the start of The Magicians. So long as it doesn’t reinvent itself along with the show, that is.

Mad at the Fairy Queen but still gonna miss her.

Fen (Brittany Curran) has her plate full during the journey to the castle, as she is Acting High King of Fillory in place of Margo. Though not much time is spent here, it is crucial the plot of “Will You Play With Me?” and once again calls back to the theme of sacrifice in a hollow way. It’s great to see how her dynamic with the Fairy Queen has grown from mutual loathing to respect, and Fen goes out of her way to track down Irene and her fellow fairy hunters in order to both protect Fillory’s newest citizens and give her friends a head start. After all, the reason Irene is kidnapping faeries is to use their juice to power the syphon for the Library. Unfortunately the Fairy Queen chooses not to play along, even though Fen and the humans have proven themselves in the past, and instead offers herself as a sacrifice to Irene. She secures an unbreakable promise that no creature will ever be allowed to harm a fairy again, which will surely come into play next season, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was a cheap way to ensure that quest wouldn’t proceed as planned.

Once the group makes it inside the castle, the Knight Aura explains to Quentin that the monster needs to be coddled like a child and is currently engaged in a game of hide and seek. It turns out that the gods’ worst nightmare is a young boy who asks “Will You Play With Me?” while inching forward, so Eliot can be forgiven for trying to end it all with a single bullet. Quentin’s cry as the shot rings out is just about the scariest thing that happens, though, because the Knight simply disappears when the boy dies. Not to be outdone, it is then Alice who grabs the keys and stops The Magicians from fulfilling their quest. She begins to destroy them as all her friends try to stop her, and while she claims she’s doing it because everyone is selfish in different ways it really seems like she’s the most selfish one of all. Or at least the most inscrutable. Thankfully, our favorite would-be magicians are saved by a deus ex Julia.

They don’t deserve you, love.

Julia has been learning the godly ropes from Iris this whole time, but she keeps being distracted by the connection she still feels for her friends. Iris urges her to focus on the bigger picture, such as building a new world where faeries can never be harmed, but her personal concerns weigh more heavily on her than the greater good. But while Julia being too drawn to Quentin’s pain to pursue a larger goal ( one that may have stopped the Fairy Queen’s bargain and therefore the Library’s rise to magic, mind you) could be termed short-sighted, it’s still a reflection of how loyal and self-sacrificing she is. So she apparates to the castle and uses her magic to restore the keys just as Prometheus once did. Guess now we know why she was given god powers in the first place. The sequence is fiery and intense, and Penny (Arjun Gupta) and Kady’s (Jade Tailor) horrified faces mirror the audiences. By the time all seven keys are created, Julia’s no longer connected to anything and is simply human once more. By the way, speaking of Penny, why didn’t we get any resolution on the two different versions of him? Are we really replacing our Penny with 23 permanently? Guess that’s another sacrifice.

Nevertheless, Julia’s save is void when Irene and Dean Fogg show up to syphon magic away for the Library. While Fogg’s betrayal was seeded earlier, it lacks impact because he’s been so disconnected from his ex-students all season. The glimpse into rationed magic in the episode’s final moments is rather interesting, with teachers unable to even assign homework because of the limited power they possess. But what’s even more interesting is that none of the protagonists remember magic, each other, or even their own names – except ironically for Alice, who has been locked away by the Library for breaking their arrangement. (Sidenote: Margo’s name is now “Janet,” like in the books!) When Henry visits her, she reveals that the monster from the castle can hop bodies and is inside one of them right now. Soon enough it’s clear that one is Eliot, who stumbles onto Quentin and gleefully asks “Will You Play With Me?”

It’s certainly an unsettling note to end the season on, despite not quite reaching the shock levels of last season’s loss of magic. But aside from feeling like a regression for several characters, my biggest issue with the finale was how many threads it left dangling. Penny’s fate, Margo’s rule of Fillory (is Fen High forever now?) and the Librarian’s reaction to losing Harriet were the most notable for me – but I’m sure I could scrounge up several more. That being said, the season as a whole was thrilling and inspiring and I look forward to what wonders season four will bring.