Friday, April 14, 2017

The Magicians, Season 2, Episode 12: Ramifications

As we approach the last episode, it’s time for some storylines to come together and to close off some major themes. Some well and some… not so well.

Julia and Quentin now have Alice’s shade and go to Mayakovsky to try and bring Alice back. He’s not a fan since it will involve draining his batteries of magic he has spent so long developing. Quentin tries to appeal in the name of life which the cynical Mayakovski responds with “that assumes life has value”.

But this episode brings us Quentin who is willing to cut to the bone more than once. Here he hits on why Alice went to Brakebills – to learn about her brother, who became a Niffin to help the student who was badly hurt trying to win Mayakovsky’s affections which is why he was banished. That’s a big wad of guilt and it works

They put together the spell (also, noteworthy: Magic using words not just gestures. Is this the first time?) and manage to re-merge Alice

Alice is back! I have to say I always kind of suspected it. I knew Alice was going to be around for a while – and I did think that maybe that would be as a Niffin, maybe a humanised Niffin. But really the unrivalled power of niffinness made her too much of storybreaker for them to keep with that much power AND as actually part of the “hero group”

Still, either way, I’m really happy to see Alice, one of the two actual heroes of this story (the other being Julia) back in the show

And she is not happy with this at all. She was an all powerful Niffin who knew so much about magic and now, now she’s a nasty nasty human again. Mayakovsky advises Quentin go somewhere else for a time.

This leaves Mayakovsky with a despairing and raging Alice, desperately trying to record all the knowledge she is so rapidly losing. To which Mayakovsky wins several prizes with awesome cynical pleas for a better world from:

Niffin care only for their minds – a perfect life with no meaning

And when Alice says humans are weak shit he agrees: but that magic is a way of making shit better, even a tiny bit – and that is not weakness. More, if you hate the shit world that gives you an incentive to make it better.

I could grow to love this character, yes yes I could.

Quentin, meanwhile, is joined by Elliot who explains he has been banished from Fillory and is looking for a way back – which is a problem because Quentin traded the Fillory travelling button to the dragon of awesome. So time to follow some clues and Quentin’s encylopedic knowledge of Fillory to find another portal to get back since Elliot has a pregnant wife, fiancé and kingdom to get back to

Aside here – notice when Elliot was actually going to get into a relationship with a man, before it can even begin he’s zapped out of Fillory, his fiancé turned into a rat and we only have ONE episode in which to resolve this? Uh-huh. I see you Magicians, I see you all too clearly.

They find the portal - in a clock – in the possession of another Fillory fanatic (Elliot: “there are two of you!”) who, after much discussion is revealed to be another native of Fillory in exile

Umber. The horned god of Fillory who the beast was supposed to have killed – instead Umber faked his own death and now has gone into hiding in Canada.

Time for some hefty Fillory lore. Fillory was created by Ember and Umber, godly brothers. Umber is order and law and structure. Ember is chaos. With Umber now hiding from the Beast, Ember is now running Fillory like a reality TV show, doing random weird things for his own amusement

I can’t imagine what would happen to a nation run by reality TV star with a short attention span and an inclination to emotional whimsical decisions based on what amuses him. *ahem*

This is also why random people are turning into rats etc. Ember is bored. Elliot was banished because he bored Ember. And Umber is now making a second world – even as Quentin unleashes his second surprisingly awesome beat down of the season – he accepts he screwed up mightily on Fillory but also thinks that it’s doomed. He’s written the world off

He does give Quentin and Elliot the portal clock though simply because of shaaaame. Which means they can get back to Fillory. Though they have absolutely no plan (though Quentin describes this as “the same plan as the Beast.” What? Go to Fillory and fix it/survive/not annoy a god is the same plan?)

This is going to be a disaster

In Fillory, with Margo in fairy land, Josh is the only child of earth around which makes him king. He manages to deal with all of Fillory’s problems by ignoring them and getting everyone high. Until Prince Ess arrives looking for his father and stabbing people. And Margot keeps ghosting in to tear into him for not finding her.

In the end he also joins them in Fairy land chasing after drug-induced visions of Queen Fenn.

Fillory does not get more sensible

Over to Penny and with the awesome help of the very skilled Sylvia he manages to find the back door to the Poison room – the secured archives. He makes assumptions to why she’s doing this (for her mafia dad) to which she excellently snarks back that as a woman she can actually have motives of her own

This needs copying and pasting and sending to so many writers.

She’s concerned because every real person’s biography she’s read (which documents their lives) ends in 20 blank pages. All living people have their books end in 20 blank pages. And it’s going to happen very soon. She wants to go to the Poison Room to read her own book to see if it affects her as well

Of course, anything written in a book is unchangeable according to the Librarians. The Librarians have also reshelved Penny’s book 39 times due to time loops. So fate is set – but there are loop holes

SO into the Poison Room!

Which is accurately named. Being in the room slowly poisons them and while they both get the books they were after Sylvia succumbs. Penny tries to help her – but she’s read her own book. The only way Penny can get out alive is if he travels out and abandons her.

Penny arrives back in Brakebills for

Damn it, I liked Sylvia. She had a lot of potential

Now to the biggy storyline – Julia and Kady. Kady isn’t exactly thrilled they’ve gone though what they have and Julia doesn’t have a shade. She’s also not happy with shade-less Julia anyway. But Julia appeals – yes she has no shade but that doesn’t mean she needs to become a monster like the beasty. If she has help

She asks Kady to be her moral brakes. Which is a much better choice than Quentin

With Kady, John and Julia they talk about bringing down Renard – specifically his obsession with Persephone/Our Lady Underground. They key, again, is to use John as a weapon – not by killing him but by training him. After all, he has demi-god powers, giving him battle magic skills may cut it. That kind of assumes demi-god will beat a god.

They also have a plan to use a magical storm to lure him – since these storms herald Persephone returning from the Underworld and she hasn’t been around for a while

But Renard has rumbled them – and when John returns to the office he sees his father. Who has a box with his wife’s ear in it. As well as his general sadism and viciousness, Renard seems to think this will help break John and bring him on side

Renard doesn’t understand humans very well

An emotionally broken John returns to Kady and Julia… unwilling to put Julia through any more pain. Or, rather – he doesn’t want Renard to win, Renard thinks he has broken Julia, turned her into a complete monster; John wants that not to be true. He compels her to leave. Then he compels Kady to do what must be done….

Brutally murder him to harvest his power for a weapon to kill Renard. Kady comes down stairs, covered in blood, absolutely plastered in it, to tell Julia they have the power for the weapon. Kady is utterly traumatised – and what stands out really well is Julia isn’t. After all, she has no Shade – but she still tries to support Kady (even if it feels surreally like she’s helping Kady clean up a spill)

Their trap is ready, they have one bullet and they’re all ready to kill Renard – complete with storm and Kady willing to distract him with the knowledge she killed his son. Julia has the gun pointed, at point blank range

And Persephone arrives to beg her to spare Renard, her son.

Julia is duly furious and asks if Persephone knows what Renard was doing… she clearly did. She confronts Persephone with her rape and shade-lessness and she asks Julia to let her deal with her son

Julia responds with “come the fuck on lady” and I agree heartily. Persephone has completely ignored her son’s rapes and tortured and murders. In what reality can we trust her to deal with him?!

Julia calls herself a monster due to her lack of shade and Persephone says she’s a survivor. And “don’t let him rob you of your capacity for mercy”

Julia spares her son and the gods disappear after Persephone tells her son she’s disappointed in him. Really.

Kady is naturally furious with Julia. But Persephone throws in Julia’s shade as some kind of sorry gift

Ok let’s address this. I’ve not really tried to capture the emotion of this confrontation because it is epic, because it’s also some bullshit

Throwing in a Black woman who has been constantly absent from the series as both the reason for Renard’s crimes AND to be his saviour is bullshit and gross

Appropriating “survivor” terminology which many victims of rape and sexual assault use, to try and save a rapist from the wrath of his victim is gross.

Having Persephone appear now to save him when she didn’t

Having his penalty be his mother tutting at him is beyond gross. He is not a 10 year old who broke the neighbour’s window

Having Julia’s season long quest to avenge herself and her friends, of the trauma she faced, the horror, the loss, everything all end with “I’m disappointed in you” is horrendous. Because this was always a black hole on Magicians – that Julia suffered abuse on abuse on abuse on abuse. That Julia, the far more interesting character, was so often sidlined. That Julia was fucking EMPOWERED by rape (even typing that makes me feel unclean) but through all of that she survived and she was COMING for Renard. This was going to be the moment that made that storyline better – not ok, not by a long shot – but it wasn’t going to be just the story of the rape: but a rape treated as traumatic and horrific with Julia rising up and through it without it ever being diminished or the evil done to her downplayed

This is not how that story can end.

Y’know what – if you need to do this it needs to be spun. Had Julia spare him not because it was the right thing to do but because it wasn’t – but she didn’t have a Shade and therefore was afraid she was about to be a monster. Spin this – had a now en-shaded Julia and Kady be righteously pissed at Persephone for exploiting Julia’s vulnerability, her fear she was becoming a monster, her fear she would turn into the Beast, her fear over what she nearly did to Quentin – have them furious that Persephone saw that and played on that. Have them be pissed that the gods use humans this way while clearly not giving a shit about them. Have them be outraged that Persephone and Renard consider the rape of children akin to fingerpainting on the walls.

 Have this decision be the wrong one. Don’t let it stand like this