Jason Ralph and Abby Miller were outstanding in their portrayals of grief-stricken magicians with their masks of normalcy and underlying guilt.
Eliot is finally seeing some true growth by overcoming his fear of being a father and desire to set a good example.
Fen has finally gotten a storyline of her own, and it's juicy juicy juicy!
Although it is a timely and important topic, the somewhat skewed perspective on Julia's abortion storyline might turn off some more conservative viewers.
Instead of offering closure on some of the many story threads that have already come up so far, we got more questions.
Two unexpected announcements, one stunning connection, and one surreal shower in The Magicians 2X05 “Cheat Day”
Syfy‘s The Magicians started out this week’s episode, “Cheat Day,” by putting us on a speeding train with no brakes. In the first half hour alone, we have two major revelations, an assassination, a surly Russian, and a rebound night with smoke art.
Julia has enlisted Kady to search for any evidence of the confrontation between the mystery magician and Reynard 40 years ago, only to discover that she has a more pressing concern – she’s pregnant. Eliot has two terrifying surprises of his own when he finds out that Fen is pregnant with their first child and is the victim of an assassination by a native Fillorian (wait for it) foo fighter. Meanwhile, Quentin has resigned himself to a mundane life, but finds that giving up magic is much harder than he thought. A reunion with Emily (of Charlie Quinn fame) turns into a bizarre rebound night that leaves him more disillusioned than before. Penny continues his quest to get his hands back, and after Dean Fogg sends him to see Professor Mayakovsky. He unties knots, turns a table into sawdust, and discovers why the Russian is trapped all in one trip.
We spend the first half of the episode on the edge of our seats, and the second trying to sort through the drama. Julia eventually attempts to get rid of her pregnancy, but it results in a dead body and the revelation that the demon child already has powers. After being advised by everyone, and we mean everyone, to execute the attacker, Eliot decides against killing him. Quentin is sinking further and further into depression, and Penny is no closer to getting his hands back than before. Of course, there’s also the questions. Will everyone find the answers they seek? What can Julia and Kady do to ? Does Eliot make the right decision with Bayler? With so much going on this week on The Magicians, let’s take a closer look at the jaw-dropping revelations affecting our characters this week!
He’s a FU fighter, but sadly not the musical kind, but the deadly kind.
When Eliot (Hale Appleman)received news that he’s about to be a father (from a talking bunny, no less), his world world collapses on him. As if that isn’t enough, a brazen attempt is made on his life by a native Fillorian named Bayler (Rhys Ward) belonging to a group called the FU fighters. While Margo (Summer Bishil) is infinitely amused by this, he is stuck passing final judgment on his attacker. Despite advice from all of his royal counsel and a history lesson from Margo all pointing to execution, he promises his high queen that he will do what he must. After a late night visit to dungeon, however, he ultimately chooses to let Bayler live. Margo throws an epic fit before admitting that she is worried about his safety and stalking off, and his decision pleases no one but Fen (Brittany Curran). We soon find out the reason why. She is a former FU fighter, and apparently secured her position in order to infiltrate the court and further their goal.
Were we expecting two surprises within minutes of each other? No, but boy did it get this episode off to a running start!
We were still reeling from the news of the pregnancy right along with Eliot, so having a second bombshell dropped on us so soon was shocking. Although we suspected that the royal curse might have been more complicated than paranoia-inducing thrones, it was surprising to hear not all Fillorians want Earth rulers. More than a few of us snickered along with Margo over the chosen name for their resistance, but clearly the threat from Bayler was real. Who didn’t think of ex-lover Mike when Eliot said he didn’t want the burden of another death at his hand?
Margo: “So this is what the patriarchy smells like? It’s not the freshest. You’re a king, act like it.”
Eliot: “I’m not just a king. Fen’s pregnant. I’m going to be a father. And I would like to raise my child in a world that does not just kill its problems away. We hear them, and we address them accordingly.”
Margo: “That is f*cking stupid. You want to rule a kingdom, guess what? People are going to die either way. Just try to make sure it isn’t you, okay?”
While we are glad that Eliot chose to take his first step to becoming a true ruler by sparing this man’s life, it might be his first big mistake. Not only does Bayler have clear hatred for him, but we find out that he had a romantic relationship with Fen in the past. We all know the line about a woman scorned, but an assassin gutsy enough to attack a king in his own castle?! He’s dangerous, and Eliot needs to tread lightly. As for Fen, the revelation that she is not just a simple farm girl made her all the more interesting. Do you think she’s really turning her back on her past, or will she ultimately deal Eliot another painful betrayal?
Two seemingly different situations turn out to be connected in a tragic way
We know from past experience that The Magicians has a way of bringing things full circle, and that’s exactly what happened this week. Previously, our magicians had trained briefly with Professor Mayakovsky (Brian F. O’Byrne), who hinted at his cold assignment as being involuntary. We also discovered that Alice’s brother Charlie niffined out because he was trying to save his friend Emily (Abby Miller), who later left magic behind for good.
Penny ends up back in Mayakovsky’s home in search of a solution to regain his hands, the two of them end up sharing many bottles of liquor. In pushing Penny to divulge his feelings about magic and urges him to quit, the professor inadvertently reveals that he is trapped because of a past action. He eventually tells him that in his younger years he had been rather amorous with the female students, but got involved with one that turned out to be his downfall. Meanwhile, Quentin is back on Earth and working in a specially chosen company, working alongside Emily in the office. After some tense exchanges over magic, they end up back at her house, drunk and determined to use their magic for their own needs. An illusion spell reveals Emily’s most desired person is Mayakovsky, and we finally understand the whole story.
As many shockers as we had in this episode, this by far takes the cake. After all, it was two season in the making, making sure that we will go back and rewatch old episodes to check for more loose ends. While O’Byrne did a good job shifting subtly from angry to almost remorseful in his recounting of what happened to Mayakovsky, it is Abby Miller that shines. From the first lunch meet-up with Quentin to watching him walk out after their night together, we feel every second of Emily’s traumatized existence. The way Miller delivers her lines with such vulnerability beneath the abrasive facade is mesmerizing to watch.
Quentin: “It’s like what’s the point. You know? Because it feels like for every one thing that we fix five sh*tty things bring up in its place.”
Emily: “Because each spell is just another complication…”
Quentin: “That we cast another spell to fix.”
Emily: “Repeat, repeat, repeat.”
On top of that, the fact that writer Mike Moore paired those two together is absolutely brilliant, and here’s why. The most interesting thing about Emily and Quentin is that they are the only two people who truly understand the other. Each is responsible for the death of one Quinn sibling in an almost identical manner. Each carries a devastating amount of guilt that it was the threat to their life that caused the sacrifice of their friend. Still, we are wary of this potential relationship, because she is holding on to the past, while he needs to move forward. What is helpful to see is that Quentin realizes this is not the way he wants to live his life, and he pushes forward with new determination. It’s time he brings Alice back, because we all miss her!
Reynard continues to wreak havoc on Julia’s life, and we really hate him for it
This season of The Magicians has seen poor Julia (Stella Maeve) put through the ringer, and this week was no exception. Her suffering continues to worsen as she discovers that she is pregnant, and reveals that she does not know if it belongs to Richard or Reynard. Her distress is compounded by the fear of what could happen to her during the abortion, but Kady (Jade Tailor) comes to to the rescue by revealing her own history with one. Julia eventually seeks out a clinic and receives confirmation that she is indeed pregnant. She begs the doctor to perform the procedure as soon as possible and manages to convince her to do so. Strangely, once she and Kady arrive the next day the receptionist deletes her appointment and attempts to send her out. When she is on the exam table, the doctor is first unable to construct the instrument, then stabs herself with a different one. Julia is terrified as she watches the woman collapse, and when Kady comes to her aid, she reveals that she now knows the child is Reynard’s, and it’s already wielding magic.
Julia: “Why won’t it just end? Why does it keep getting worse and worse?”
Considering how sensitive (and polarizing) this particular topic is, it’s commendable that showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara decided to include this into Julia’s storyline. The scenes in which Julia and Kady discuss her decision are generally well-crafted. Maeve and Tailor gave equally powerful performances, with Julia conflicted and guilt-ridden by her choice and Kady offering quiet perspective and support. We can feel the bond growing between the two women, and it gives us hope that the latter will be the key to the former’s survival. Although Will Bates has previously created beautiful melodies to accompany emotional scenes, it is the absence of music during their interactions allows us to focus on the circumstance rather than distractions. Elie Smolkin’s choice of casting shadows over every character and dim lighting scene again reminds us of the darkness that surrounds them.
No matter what side of the fence we sit on, these scenes highlighted the difficult realities of Julia’s decision. We are reminded that these women are human, with trauma that they must work through one way or another. While we might be initially irritated with Kady for the cavalier way she addresses the situation, we ultimately feel empathy for her when she reveals her own past. With everything that Julia has gone through, we are furious that she is being beaten down once again. Then, when the demon fetus ends up killing the doctor, we are reminded and appalled at the implications of how powerful Reynard must be. The fact that magic is dying isn’t the only problem we have – Reynard must be stopped.
Final Verdict: “Cheat Day” asks a lot of questions, answers almost none, but still leaves us stunned
With two pregnancies, one assassination, one drunken hook-up, and one mind-blowing revelation, The Magicians reminded us that sometimes, the wait is worth it. While the choice by Gamble, McNamara, and Moore to have Julia decide to abort may have made us uncomfortable, it was also thought provoking. We love the juxtaposition between Margo and Emily, neither of whom are interested in change, and Quentin and Eliot, both of whom desperately want to grow. Nonetheless, there were so many storylines added to the plot this week, and at the end, we find ourselves just as frustrated as the magicians we love. Of course, that might just be what the show wants.
Related Links | The Magicians Final Verdict, Season 2: 4 Episode Challenge
We know that it’s the show’s job to keep us guessing what’s coming up next. This time, they really went above and beyond on this task. We still don’t know what they’re going to do about Ember’s dirty deed, although that might be the least of their problems. With Penny off on another, as he calls it, “Karate Kid” task, will his return finally earn him his hands? What did Bayler and Eliot discuss that night, and will the assassin keep his promise to reveal Fen’s past? Speaking of which, how will Fen handle telling her husband the truth? Will Margo eventually lower her guard enough so she isn’t left behind? Of course, there is the all important question – why did Quentin see Alice, and why is she asking him to help her?
It’s always tricky when a show has an episode that bridges storylines and adds drama. It would have been nice to see them resolve some of the older plots before throwing new ones in the mix. The introduction of the various talking animals with minimal explanation for their existence is a bit unsettling. Although it was timely and important to highlight women’s issues through Julia’s rape storyline, its message is bound to stir up controversy and possibly create loss of viewers.
Despite these issues, it’s not hard to say that this is another great episode from The Magicians. Although every member of the cast gives great performances, it is the interactions between Abby Miller and Jason Ralph as Emily and Quentin that really make the episode. Watching the two actors peel back the layers of emotion of their characters, leaving raw pain beneath, was truly delightful. We can do nothing but empathize and root for these two damaged people to heal from their pain.
All in all, “Cheat Day” was a solid setup episode and prepares us for what’s to come. We get a clear picture of the challenges and conflicts that are coming, and even some hints on how they might be overcome. We see how each character is evolving (or in some cases, not…yet), and we are most definitely curious to know more. The chance they took on the abortion storyline didn’t entire payoff smoothly, but it’s less the writing and more the topic itself. In the end, we will be talking about this episode long after it’s aired, and that is an indication of a job well done.
At this point, we’re better off keeping track of all the clues we’re being given rather than trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. The pace is picking up with every episode, and with the blink-and-you-missed-it appearance of Alice at the end, we know things are about to go down. Can she be saved? Will she ever be the same? Tune in next week with us and find out!
Endless questions, numerous concerns
- We finally saw Alice, but she’s looking worse for wear. Why does she need help?
- We saw what happened the last time a Quinn was resurrected (however briefly). Maybe it’s not such a good idea after all?
- What will happen to Emily? Will she remain stuck, or will Quentin inspire her to finally move on?
- With the demon spawn growing by the day, how are Kady and Julia going to take care of it? Could it cost Julia her life?
- Where the hell is Ember, and why is he hiding? Is it just because he took a dump, or something else?
- Margo is not doing well with change. We don’t want to see her get left behind, but this attitude of hers is getting tiring.
- For the love of all things magic, can Penny get his hands back?!
Syfy’s The Magicians returns next Wednesday March 1st, 2017 at 9/8c
The Magicians 2X05 “Cheat Day” Review