After last year’s finale, The Magicians had a lot of weight to shoulder going into the Season 5 premiere. Last season ended with the death of Quentin, who sacrificed himself to save Eliot and bring back magic. It was a divisive decision, especially when it came to the Quentin/Eliot relationship, and now Season 5 has to prove that it was worth it.
Wednesday night’s season premiere, “Do Something Crazy,” takes place about a month later. Quentin’s death was technically successful — but maybe too much so, because now the world is plagued with powerful “magic surges” that have been killing magicians. Or, as a newly sober Dean Fogg puts it, “There’s too much goddamn magic.”
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One welcome aspect of Quentin’s death is that it allows the series to spend more time on the others, particularly Julia, who is often underutilized but who will hopefully have a larger, more attentive run this season. Julia is perhaps struggling the most, not only because she’s known Quentin since childhood but because Quentin’s death granted her magic again — as we learned in the finale, magic comes from pain. “I only have magic because I lost Q,” she tells Penny (after they go on a date!). “I just have to find something to do with it that’s worth that.”
An answer potentially comes in the form of a literal sexist pig who visits from Fillory, looking for Quentin. The pig creature is on a “mission of dreadful importance,” explaining that Quentin needs to save the world from the apocalypse. (All normal Magicians stuff, to be honest.) Julia offers to do the quest herself; after all, she was once a goddess. But the Fillory pig won’t accept her help because she’s a woman. Luckily, during a later conversation with Penny, Julia realizes that she can choose her own quest and chooses to figure out what’s causing the apocalypse and stop it.
Meanwhile, in Fillory, Margot and Eliot have a pretty lackluster storyline so far. A magic surge messed with the timelines, landing them 300 years into the future and the throne has been taken over by a “dark king.” They attend an annual ceremony celebrating “The Unshackling,” complete with a fun little play expositing what we’ve missed and cosplaying as our heroes. There’s only a short, unsatisfying conversation about Quentin where Eliot refuses to open up — he doesn’t remember much from when the monster took over his body, and he doesn’t “really want to talk about” Q’s death — and Margot accurately calls him out on being “gloriously medicated and in some textbook denial.” But before we can get more, the duo’s mission once again turns to figuring out to save Josh and Fen from death (in the past), time travel, and take back the crown. Again.
As for the other characters? Kady is still teamed up with Pete in the hedge witch world, helping to heal a man who had his arm blown off when trying to remove his Reeds mark. Though the marks were supposed to be removed, the library — which has its own host of problems — hasn’t gotten to it, and hedges are becoming increasingly desperate to use magic again. So her and Pete go on a mission to find a way to remove them which, I assume, will take a few episodes.
Then there’s Penny. Dean Fogg reaches out and explains that because more and more people have been discovering their magic potential, more have been accepted into Brakebills, causing overcrowding. It also means that there are more students from the rarer disciplines like traveling, which causes Dean Fogg to recruit (and trick) Penny into becoming a Professor. Penny is hesitant, worrying that one of his students will die under his watch. “Without your instruction, one of them will absolutely get killed,” Dean Fogg replies. Merritt, one of Penny’s new students, tells him about these traveler “signals” she’s been hearing which causes Penny to travel against his will. It’s somewhat interesting, but I wish it was more connected to the rest of the storylines.
Finally, there’s Alice, who has been in a depressed (and I suspect unshowered) funk since Q’s death, holed up in her mother’s house. She gets roped into a small mission helping the library, declines to participate in a seance with Julia, and takes up smoking just because Quentin used to, sometimes. Her mother offers advice about grief, stating “No one gets to tell you how to grieve … If you need to do something crazy to get through it, do something crazy.” Which, unfortunately, is maybe not the best advice to give someone like Alice — the episode ends with her making a Quentin Golem which surely isn’t going to end well.
All in all, the Season 5 premiere was fine, welcoming us back to a fun world that’s more of the same. On the one hand, the things that work for The Magicians — the quests, the relationships, the fun Fillory world — are still in place and great to see. On the other hand, it’s hard not to wish that there was something more, something different enough that really explains the purpose of Quentin’s death and introduces us to how exactly the season will work without him.
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