A review of tonight’s The Magicians — my favorite episode so far of what’s turned out to be a very strong sophomore season — coming up just as soon as we swap fingers…
Who doesn’t love a good heist story? Capers, when well-told, are so fundamentally appealing that it’s hard to blame shows having little or nothing to do with crime from trying their hand at one. It makes sense when Breaking Bad does a train robbery episode, but it’s also hard to blame Mad Men for going into heist mode when it was time for Don and the others to start up a new agency.
The Magicians isn’t a show that inherently screams for a caper inside a bank, but Quentin, Eliot, and the others are already outlaws in the sense that magic allows them to operate outside many of the written and unwritten rules of society. So with Fillory needing money to fund its war at the exact same time Julia needed to pay for a very expensive magical abortion of Reynard’s spawn, why wouldn’t the gang all get together and try to knock off a magically-guarded vault?
This one was a delight, giving various familiar tropes — say, Penny having to make like Tom Cruise in the first Mission: Impossible film and not touch the vault floor, or Kady and Quentin needing to acquire the fingerprints of bank employees through unusual ways — fun magic twists (outstanding makeup or CGI work on the mismatched fingers). And rather than put the season’s various story arcs on pause for the sake of this adventure, “Plan B” instead used them to create added complications and solutions for the crime, like Alice stepping in to rescue Penny when all hope seemed lost, in exchange for getting an hour a day to take control of Quentin’s body.
(As I alluded to at the start of the season, killing off the version of Alice that we knew and replacing her with this amoral, power-hungry Niffin has done the same favor for Olivia Taylor Dudley that turning Angel into Angelus once did for David Boreanaz. She never seemed right as the awkward genius, but I completely buy her in this mode.)
As per usual with the group, every solution brings with it several more problems, including Eliot’s Earth host body getting killed by the bank guard and Julia’s abortion having a magical complication. That quicksand-storytelling style can get frustrating if done wrong (among the many problems of Sons of Anarchy’s later seasons was the way that Jax and the others always made decisions destined to make things worse, even if it seemed out of character for them), but there’s a lightness and bounce to the way The Magicians has laid out this year’s stories that lets the show get away with a lot.
This was the last of the screeners Syfy made available before the premiere. I’ve since seen the next three, all of which are fun — one has an elaborate Fillory musical number —and have me very eager to see where the season lands.
What did everybody else think, of both “Plan B” and of season two so far?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org