A few thoughts on The Magicians season two finale, and the season as a whole, coming up just as soon as I look like Jack Sparrow if he were played by a man…
“Why can’t anything just be fixed?” –Kady
It’s funny that these last few episodes started treating Ember and Umber less as gods who had created a magical kingdom than as bickering showrunners(*) who were much better together than apart, because Magicians season two felt far more cohesive — and more like a confident TV show than a literary adaptation unsure of which pieces to use, and when — than it did during its uneven but at times thrilling first year.
(*) This also allowed the show’s writers to comment on various cliches they had employed, like noting that “The person nature of (Julia’s) story subverted Quentin’s hero’s journey nicely.”
Just compare the respective finales, which have mirrored names — “Have You Brought Me Little Cakes” then, “We Have Brought You Little Cakes” now — but very different sorts of resolutions. Season one builds and builds to the showdown between Quentin’s group and Martin Chatwin, only to leave nothing resolved due to Julia’s decision to recruit Martin to help her kill Reynard, and the whole Beast arc doesn’t really conclude until a few episodes into season two. This season, though, neatly and interestingly resolved most of its major arcs — Julia’s unwanted pregnancy and her quest to kill Reynard, Alice becoming a Niffin and Quentin seeking to cure her, Eliot and Margo’s struggles to rule Fillory and deal with the various requirements to Eliot being High King, the fouling of the Wellspring and its effect on magic everywhere, and Ember and Umber’s attempts to destroy Fillory — while leaving a few others (Penny’s hands and whatever is going on at the library, for instance) open, even as the finale set up an entirely new direction and status quo with the “Mario Brother of the gods” arriving to turn off all access to magic throughout Earth and Fillory.
This is a show that, at its core, is about the consequences and responsibilities of adulthood — the metaphor made most explicit and powerful in the finale when Eliot reminds Quentin, “Fillory needs you. You chose to be a king.” — and of course the things they do have to have repercussions. Penny taunted the river guardian, so his hands don’t work. Margot started a war with the neighboring kingdom out of a fit of pique, and as a result had to offer up Eliot and Fen’s baby as a sacrifice to the Fairies. Julia and her hedge witch friends dabbled in magic they didn’t fully understand, and she got raped while the rest of them got killed. Quentin de-Niffin’ed Alice, only to find her grieving all the power and knowledge she had lost, and resenting him for doing it to her. Every short-term decision made, no matter how well-meaning, makes things more complicated in the long haul. So of course killing off a god would come back to bite everyone, terribly(*), and the quest to restore magic — not to mention the explanation for why Julia still has some of her powers — provides an interesting place to go next year.