If you were a big fan of the musical-extraordinaire Lesser Evils episode of Season 2, I have some good news for you. If not… well.
Quentin and Kady have made it back to Brakebills safety. But once Alice shows up, she confirms it. Victoria and Harriet were trapped on the mirror bridge when it shattered. The next Key now secured (and majorly distrustful of Alice), Q opens up the quest book to see where they’re destined for next. The next “chapter” isn’t a chapter though. It’s a bunch of medieval music notes. When Kady plays them on the piano, the three of them are transported to an alternate “party world” Brakebills. One where Josh is the “party king” and magic is back.
In Fillory, the people have ruled against Margot and Eliot. The only choice left to them is how they would like to be executed. They opt for the Infinite Waterfall method, which basically just equates to fancy drowning. Even Tick is on board to waterboard them. Except when they get to the Infinite Waterfall, the Muntjac won’t obey Tick. It plunges onward, forcing Tick and the Fillorians to jump ship. Abandoned to their fate, Margot and Eliot prepare for a long drop and an even harder fall.
Meanwhile, Julia is determined to help Sky, the fairy that Irene McAllister has kept enslaved. She catches Sky in the McAllister home, and convinces her to meet with her in secret. Julia believes if she can show Sky that she can do magic, she might understand that Irene has lied to her this whole time. Only the moment that Sky gets the knack of it, the necklace around her throat starts to vibrate, killing her. Panicking, Julia manages to stop time…with her new god powers.
Wherever Q and the gang have been transported, something isn’t right. First of all, there are musical numbers. Again. There might be magic, but the party seems to have a hive-like response to any “negative” party-goers. They won’t even let the three of them so much as start the question as to what’s going on without going rabid. So Kady stages a sexy burlesque musical number — yes, that’s what I said — to distract the party while Q and Alice corner Josh. Apparently, he found himself in this pocket world when a fake-Tod cornered him at the party god’s apartment. And Fake-Tod has the Key.
Luckily for them, they find the Key hidden upstairs while Josh runs distraction. The moment Q touches the Key, they all become linked up telepathically. I mean the whole gang. Eliot and Margot on their edge-of-the-world-bound ship. Julia holding Sky’s life in her hands in a frozen bubble of time. Even Penny, trapped in the Underworld Library. And Josh, who’s still a little sore about being left behind this entire season.
Sensing Josh’s anger, the party mobs him. The only way to save him? For the whole gang to sing Bowie’s Under Pressure in unison. Yeah.
Unified by the magic of music, Fake-Tod reveals himself to be a lesser party demon. He claims they “passed the test” and without any further explanation, ushers them out into the real Brakebills. And onto the next Quest.
Excuse you? Did you just blithely hamfist a line about Kady’s mom prostituting herself into a conversation, and immediately follow it up by having Kady strip dance for no good reason? Is this supposed to be empowering? Nothing about Kady having a secret strip dancer origin story out of the blue is girl power. You literally just revealed that she and her mother exploited their bodies not out of preference but necessity…and then forced her to do it again as a joke. There’s a lot to unpack there, and you seem to think it’s just a harmless party trick. Or let’s talk about how Kady’s mom was ruthlessly murdered only a season back, and we haven’t visited the trauma of that since?
There were so many things wrong with this episode, and that fact that they forced another bout of musical numbers into it was only one of them.
Look, John McNamara. It’s cool that you like musicals and all. But you only get the one shot to pull off the “so-jarring-it-was-actually-funny” trick. After a second time, it’s just overdone. The Magicians is not a musical show. While I’m certain many fans get a thrill out of seeing their favorite cast members belting out Bowie, this did not fit. Period. You got away with the Les Mis tribute. Let it die.
I’m just sad. While it’s canon that Julia becomes, in essence, a god at the end of The Magician King, and I think this season is attempting to pay homage to that in her storyline, they have fucked it up so royally. Once, again, I am here to announce that I am not the books’ number one fan. But in Magician King, Julia travels by Quentin’s side on the Quest for the Seven Keys, trapped in that soulless state we saw a somewhat-interpretation of in Season 2’s Shade-less Julia. She’s empty. Lacking some humanity. Reynard robbed Julia of the spark that made her… her. Only at the end of the journey does Julia find Our Lady Underground. Only then does Our Lady make Julia a dryad. Out of respect for her suffering.
By making Our Lady Underground complicit in Julia’s rape, any attempt at trying to resurrect the summary of this character arc is simply gross. You don’t get to have both. Our Lady Underground cannot be both cruelly amoral and graciously benevolent. Not unless you’re going to put the capricious nature of that duality into some context.
I had so much hope that this series could turn it all around. That it wasn’t too far gone to go back. How wrong I was.