We haven’t yet screened the first episodes of “The Magicians” Season 2 — but based on our reaction to these photos Syfy released today, we should probably find our chill before we even try. Here’s what we can glean, in the meantime:
All Isn’t Forgiven
- Flowy, goddess-dressed Julia (Stella Maeve, far left) and hands-free Penny (Arjun Gupta, far right) are a lot to deal with, right off the bat: Julia’s journey toward her destiny is the most disturbing in the books, and affecting in the show, so her Vermeer-esque expression makes sense in at least a few ways — looking into the darkness, and past that into something more — while Penny we can’t even talk about right now.
- The alliance between Alice, Eliot and Margo, (Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman and Summer Bishil) — with Quentin (Jason Ralph) once again on the outside — is an expected heartbreak, considering Q got everybody killed a few thousand times…
- But it’s the leg placement that really broke us — even after all this, Margo and Eliot can’t quite quit Quentin.
We also get a hint of more than the usual amount of carefully arranged sprezzatura from Eliot’s pose: After the most brutal breakup in history, a trainwreck of a threesome in the real world — and a forced marriage (to a woman!) that means he can never leave Fillory — we can expect our Mr. Waugh to start acting out in increasingly bizarre (and presumably decadent) ways, just to cover and maintain.
The “High King” Irony Continues
Here we see the Kings and Queens of Fillory, in all their royal grace:
- Alice seems unsure about this Fillory crap as usual — and hopefully not flagging up the occasional casual coldness we have reason to fear may one day come to define her. She doesn’t have the protective plumage of Eliot and Margo, nor the starry-eyed romance of Quentin — which is a point in her favor, of course, but makes her the most vulnerable and out of place in this new circumstance.
- High King Eliot & his Queen Margo — those SHOES — making the most of every moment as usual…
- And Quentin, on the outs with his friends and the universe, also as per. And still doing his pretzel-body Death Note yoga poses, too. We really hoped he would be a little more comfortable with himself by now.
(Or maybe Alice is just still ticked about that huge glass of semen Quentin was too chicken to drink, and ultimately didn’t really do much?) Either way, the toile and lace cutouts would almost be too “Final Fantasy” for us, if we didn’t have this pic to provide context:
…We get it. Fine. Looking like that, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Eliot hooking up with yet another Young Republican, or whatever Fillory’s equivalent is — and this time it won’t be a horrifying trespass of consent. (RIP, knob-licking Mike.) And if not, there’s always the fauns.
But that crown does look heavier than he probably expects, and Eliot’s not great with responsibility of any kind. We’re reminded of the old changeling or Rip van Winkle stories, where you eat one piece of fairy bread or a few pomegranate seeds, and you get stuck one place forever. We’re left wondering just how scary, or at least weird, it’s gonna get…
Same Old Tricks
…Seems to be “pretty weird.” Eliot and Margo have always treated the world like a mysterious trap they fell into together, and have clung onto each other beyond all reason (or honestly, health). It makes sense they’d shift their cool-kid vibe into overdrive, given that they may never escape their new life in Fillory — or forget the price they paid to get there.
Is this more of their posing? Is it possible that sex with Quentin Effing Coldwater was just so very enjoyable that they’re permanently adding “threesomes with hapless dopes” to their bestie repertoire?
Well. Based on Jason Ralph’s dance moves — and absolutely otherworldly charm — in Season 1’s most notorious scene, we can almost believe it:
Or maybe we’ll find Eliot acting the part of Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and going full Ramsey Bolton on himself to reveal the sweet kid underneath. Anyway Here’s a roundup of the best Physical Kids pics:
The Girl Who Told Time: Julia Wicker
After the brutal conclusion to her often very beautiful pursuit of meaning and a relationship with the divine, Julia can have our sympathy, if not our forgiveness, for finding a kindred spirit in fellow sexual-abuse survivor The Beast (Charles Mesure). Killing a God never seemed like such a good idea, even with such a bad dude under her temporary power. (If you need a refresher, Syfy has also created a 4-minute recap of Season 1.)
Book readers know Julia has a long way to go to find redemption, and we were hoping to see her storyline cross into Quentin’s more often this season — but we have our doubts. Here we see Julia’s next adventure, which begins pretty infantilized — but if “The Magicians” has taught us anything, it’s that it’s capable of turning the most mundane or offensive storyline into something transcendent. In this case, we wonder if the ball-pits and crazy-straws aren’t a key to the Beast’s arrested emotional state; like Alice, he seems trapped at the age of his trauma.
It’s clear that hanging out with somebody called The Beast won’t end well, but it’s a lock that Julia will use him to take out her attacker — the trickster God Reynard (Mackenzie Astin) — once and for all by season’s end, freeing up the Physical Kids to take out the Beast and save Fillory, for at least a little while.
On the Twin Harbors
But where we completely lost it — just as intended, given how many of these pics made it into this first set released — was this lovingly crafted scene: The crowning of the Kings and Queens of Fillory.
Fillory rewards neither earnestness or cynicism, because what it wants is bigger and better than both. Quentin needs to get over himself, and Eliot needs to get into himself; Margo and Alice care too much and too little about other people’s opinions, respectively.
So just like spellcasting back home at Brakebills, the trick is to act like it’s real even when it’s embarrassing, but never so much that you yourself become embarrassing. The high points of Season 1 all had to do with this little bit of not-so-sympathetic magic, watching each of our leads negotiate with the painful awkwardness of existence just long enough to accomplish miracles.
To see the group taking their roles — and each other — so seriously and respectfully brought a serious tear to our eyes, here at Screener HQ. In the end, these are the only people they have. And it is nice to see them act like it, even if it’s just for a little while.
There has ever been a show that so simply nails the heightened emotion of young adulthood — that freshman year feeling when every week feels like a month, every painful moment like a death, every sexual experience like a magical new world opening up — the way “The Magicians” does. Rapturous, torturous, hilarious and deeply painful, unafraid to tackle the unspeakable questions beneath the unspoken ones, and leaving just enough room for the rare possibility of grace.
The show’s oversaturated, lush look is a perfect match for its emotional immediacy, and the attention to detail — from sets, to costume, to the unscripted moments that find their way into the edges of every scene’s edit — makes it one of the most artistically successful television programs in recent memory.
Based as it is on a book series with which the majority of us seem to have a, let’s say, complicated relationship, “The Magicians” is a consistently compelling, impressive program — but the comparison doesn’t really matter one way or the other. We have Grossman to thank for these characters, and Lewis for this world — let’s be real — but the show is a thing of unparalleled beauty, and we feel honored to be invited along for Quentin & Co.’s journeys — into Fillory, and further.
“The Magicians” finally returns Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.