Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Lesser Evils or Lesser Misérables?

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The Magicians go Broadway in the Lesser Evils episode this week, but are we looking at a Les Mis level of tragedy here? The lives of Eliot, Quentin, and the whole of Fillory hang in the balance, and the only way to save the day is, of course, to sing it out.


Fogg and the Brakebills gang have Quentin locked up tight under the school, leaving him to make a choice. Box Niffin Alice, let her go, or keep her trapped inside until her essence consumes them both. Quentin’s clock is ticking.

Thanks to Julia’s talking-tree killing spree last episode, Eliot and Margo’s soldiers are deserting left and right. The odds against them beating back Loria aren’t exactly stacking up. There’s only one other option. Single combat, with Loria’s king.  Despite never having held a sword in his life, Eliot takes the gig, convinced he can save the day with some help from a little magic. Fen even conveniently pops in with just such the magicked sword to help Eliot win this fight. There’s only one snag. The Well Spring is still caput, and if even so much as one magical brownout occurs during the duel, Eliot is royally fucked.

Kady and Penny bust Julia out of Fillorian prison to join them in kidnapping Reynard’s demigod son. But New York’s big-shot Senator Gaines has no idea that he’s a demigod, let alone that magic is real, until the three of them bust down his office door. Julia’s ready to get Sweeny Todd on Gaines neck, but Penny and Kady hold her back, whisking him away to Brakebills instead.

Eliot’s not doing too shabby with his new enchanted sword, but as the duel looms closer, his nerves are a mess. Nothing a little Les Misérables number can’t fix, am I right? With a little bit of magical cohersion, soon the entire Fillorian royal court is joining in, belting One Day More all the way to the battlefield. At first it seems like Eliot’s actually got the upperhand in this fight. Until King Idri bolts for the woods, and Eliot is forced to give chase.

Back at Brakebills, Julia visits Quentin only to find that Alice is in the driver’s seat, as per their word as bond. Before Quentin passes out from the strain, Alice begs Julia to free her from Quentin, and in return Alice will help Julia defeat Reynard. Who just so happens to be waiting outside the Brakebill wards, attempting to communicate psychically to his demigod son. Looks like Reynard is in luck. The Well Spring craps out. The school wards are down, and magic is dead in Fillory.


Eliot hightails it up a tree, leaving King Idris to try in vain to chop it down. The Brakebills students make a beeline for the school lab, the only place remaining with emergency wards in place, while Reynard roams the grounds. Headcount: looks like Julia and Quentin are missing. Turns out Julia’s dragging Quentin around the school in search of Reynard herself. She throws Quentin outside the wards, right at Reynard’s feet. If Quentin doesn’t let Alice go now, he’ll surely by evil god mincemeat.

Back in Fillory, Margo is meeting with the fairies to strike a last-second deal in order to fix the Well Spring once and for all. The catch? In return they want Fen and Eliot’s baby. With Eliot and the land of Fillory in mortal danger, Margo takes it. The Well Spring gets a good, magical pool cleaning, and magic is back on.

Right as Reynard is about to rip the hearts out of Quentin and a heroic Penny, Senator Gaines comes to the rescue. Now that he’s got what he wants, Reynard apparates the two of them away from Brakebills. Looks like they’ve lost the only card they had to play. And it’s all thanks to Julia. Considering she just tried to feed Quentin to Reynard, Kady and the others decide it might be for the best to put Julia into a magic-free timeout.

Looks like Eliot’s charm is his greatest weapon. He returns from his duel unscathed and blood-free – and with a new fiance in tow, Idris, King of Loria. Turns out royalty in Fillory are allowed to take one of each, a husband and a wife. I guess they’re all going to be one big, happy, polyamorous family. Oh yeah. Except that Margo sold Fen’s kid to the fairies. And now they’re collecting.

Quentin can’t take it anymore. He can’t box Alice, but he’s at the end of his rope. He lets Alice go free, and she takes off seemingly without even a second thought. To wreak havoc? To go on harmless Niffin adventures? Only time will tell.


Let’s just say I’m glad SyFy didn’t take this opportunity to make this an entirely musical episode.

That being said, I was surprised to find I enjoyed the little Les Misérables number for what it was. A bit of a gag, a bit of narrative parallel. And very obviously a ploy to let the singing cast members of The Magicians show off their Broadway chops.

Despite so much happening this episode, the whole thing feels very stagnant. Probably due to the fact that we’re right back where we started, barring Niffin Alice’s new free flyer status. As quickly as we got Senator Gaines, we also lost him, and the direness of Eliot’s big single combat fight turned out to be a complete red herring. This whole plot revolving around killing Reynard just seems to be spinning pointlessly on its own wheels, and I’m not sure where it’s going.

Props to The Magicians for going for a polyamorous relationship, but the true test will come in the upcoming episodes. How will they choose to portray this? Is it going to become some big, stereotypically jealous wreck? Or will they go for a more grounded approach, taking the good with the bad? I’m certainly curious to find out. As far as I’m concerned, this is uncharted territory. I’ve yet to see a polyamorous relationship be portrayed in TV at all.

Hopefully with some time in magical isolation, we’ll get back a far less sociopathic Julia. Seeing Quentin in Reynard’s clutches, right in front of her eyes, must’ve struck a chord somewhere in there? Right? But for Quentin and Niffin Alice, it surely can’t be that simple. Judging by next week’s sneak peek, Quentin isn’t handling her departure well, but that comes as a surprise for none. Is this really the last we’ll be seeing of her? Any number of things could be in the cards. Maybe she’s going back to the Friar, to become an all-powerful, immortal Niffin. Maybe she’ll break her word and spill some blood for funsies. What does an overpowered Niffin girl even do on her time off, but wreak havoc and destruction?

Unless of course, Quentin was right about her. Unless Niffin Alice is looking for a way to become less Niffin and more Alice.

First bank heists, now Les Mis musical numbers. What’s next? An elevator episode?

Please don’t answer that.

Images courtesy of SyFy


  • Shailyn

    Shailyn Cotten is a New York-based novelist, screenwriter, and undergraduate studying film at the School of Visual Arts. If you can’t find her perusing used bookstores, or buying up games in a Steam sale that she likely won’t ever play, you might be able to find her doing something productive, like writing articles for The Fandomentals, creating content for her YouTube channel Shai, or writing blog posts for her website, shailyncotten.com.

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