The cast really came together and delivered amazing performances week after week.
The collaboration between cinematography, costuming, makeup, and music really brought Fillory to life.
The writing for episodes 3 and 4 was stunning in its delicate balance between brevity and drama.
So far, Ember is the Jar Jar Binks of The Magicians - seems unnecessary outside of performing as peripheral plot device.
The forced relationship between Dean Fogg and Professor Bixby really took away from an otherwise delightfully written episode 2.
Many characters have been introduced but not yet fully fleshed out, which leaves us with a feeling of incompletion.
The Magicians Final Verdict for Season 2: Passionate performances, engaging dramatic storylines, and eye-catching special effects and cinematography make The Magicians Season 2 even better than the first.
The Show: The Magicians
The Network: Syfy
The Genre: Fantasy
The Challenge: Give a show four episodes with which to draw you in, impress you, challenge you, make you feel something deeply. Four episodes for the chance to find out if you care what happens to the characters you’re watching enough to become invested in the story. If after all that, it does none of those things for you? Then no biggie. You gave it a good shot and you can move on. But if you love it, you’ll be glad you stuck around.
The Premise: Based on Lev Grossman‘s bestselling series of the same name, The Magicians, the show follows chronically depressed dreamer Quentin Coldwater and his childhood best friend Julia Wicker as they discover magic is real. While Quentin receives his training at the Brakebills College for Magic and Pedagogy, Julia is rejected and forced to seek her education in less orthodox ways.
Related Links | The Magicians Recap: Everything You Need to Know For Season Two
In Season 2, our magicians are dealing with the aftermath of their failed attempt to kill The Beast and charged with saving magic after becoming the High Kings and Queens of Fillory. Julia is on a quest of her own, one that is based on revenge against the trickster god Reynard the Fox after he killed several of her friends before raping her and escaping. The Magicians stars Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Summer Bishil, Hale Appleman, and Arjun Gupta, with recurring guest stars Rick Worthy, Charles Mesure, Jade Tailor, Kacey Rohl, and Mackenzie Austin.
#1: The trip to Fillory is filled with darkness and loss, and we’re dying for more
At the end of season one, we saw our intrepid group of magicians take on (sadly unsuccessfully) The Beast in an attempt to rid all the magical worlds from his evil doings. Showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara intentionally played a little loose from the chronology of the books this season, allowing the characters to grow and change naturally in response to the events that occur along the way.
With the catastrophic results of their confrontation with The Beast (Charles Mesure) hanging over their heads, our magicians must pull themselves together and move foward. With Penny (Arjun Gupta) missing a couple of important appendages, Quentin (Jason Ralph), Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Eliot (Hale Appleman), and Margo (Summer Bishil) are crowned the High Kings and Queens of Fillory to fulfill the Fillorian prophecy. Their search for a spell to defeat their adversary leads them back to Brakebills and back, but not before Alice is told that she will once again bear the responsibility of being the caster.
The theme of loss is not isolated our five friends, however. Julia (Stella Maeve), after discovering what happened to her and the others at the hands of Reynard (Mackenzie Austin), has entered into an unholy partnership with The Beast to exact revenge. Along the way, she gains a reluctant ally in Marina (Kacey Rohl), but their plans are interrupted by their counterparts in Fillory. When the second fight is over, we are as devastated as Quentin when Alice niffins out to defeat him, and Marina loses her life due to being left alone with Reynard.
While season one was filled with light, hope, and hilarity, we are given a deeper and darker look into the consequences of seeking power through magic this time around. In just 4 episodes, we were challenged with the loss of characters we’ve grown attached to (whether in love or hate) and asked to understand its role in the growth of our characters. As much suffering as we have witnessed our favorites go through, somehow we still find ourselves waiting for what’s coming up next.
#2: The passionate cast performances made us both root for and want to slap them, and that’s a good thing
As fun as it was to watch the sassy banter and awkward flirtation between our beloved magicians in season one, the cast really shined these last four episodes. With the phenomenal writing from Henry Alonso Myers and David Reed in particular, the actors were able to carefully balance the light exchanges we’ve come to know and love with the impassioned moments of this season. It’s clear that this cast has really bonded together and have the ability to play off one another as if they have been friends for years. This is most obvious in “Divine Eliminations” and “The Flying Forest,” in which we get to see how each character copes with the traumatic loss in his or her life.
Hale Appleman led the charge with his portrayal of Eliot’s ambivalent transition from reluctant monarch to responsible king. Olivia Dudley Taylor’s perpetual agony made us feel as though the weight was on our own shoulders. When she sacrifices herself in battle and became a shell of herself, we screamed out collectively for her to stop. Her pain is only matched by the horrible guilt carried by Quentin, and Jason Ralph really steps up his game this season. He subtly alternatives his posture, gaze, and tone of voice to match the various stages of growth Quentin goes through in the span of the four episodes. It’s hard not to imagine that Stella Maeve doesn’t take home some of that emotional torture she must exude for Julia, and we spend every episode wishing something will go finally right for her.
Of course, no show is complete without fantastic guest performances, and we were gifted with two amazingly talented actors. Charles Mesure wowed us with his musical talent as well as his self-satisfied portrayal of The Beast. Reynard would not be nearly as terrifying without the committed performance by Mackenzie Austin. Every time that man speaks, we feel a chill up our spine from the ice in his voice.
#3: The attention to detail in every scene draws the audience into each magical world
We spent the entirety of season one hearing Quentin wax poetic about Fillory and all its wonders, so the entire team at the show knew they had to deliver. At the end of the day, The Magicians is based in fantasy, and with that comes the need to not only visualize but engage audiences in worlds that do not exist in real life. Without stunning sets, imaginative costuming, transformative makeup, and convincing special effects, we would not be riveted in our seats. It is crucial that what we see and hear do not distract from the story we are watching, and they pulled it off this season.
One of the sets that most reflects this collaboration between departments is in the throne room. As Hale Appleman explains in a behind the scenes clip of “Hotel Spa Potions,”
“The atmosphere of the throne room changes based on the moods and feelings of the kings and queens. So it’s a really nice touch, allowing the throne room to be a living being entity with us as we sort of pass through it…”
When it is first seen, Eliot finds it dilapidated and reeking of dead bodies, and we the audience see how dark and cluttered it is. As the four kings and queens come together, the decor is rich with color and clean, and living plants hang through the ceiling. When our magicians become isolated after Alice’s loss, there is minimal furniture in the room and wide open spaces with dim lighting.
Another great example is Fillory versus Earth. Whilst the former is colorful, vibrant, and full of light and life, the latter is shadowed, heavy, and filled with despair. This is accomplished with the choice of light and color, and led by cinematographer Elie Smolkin, we really get a clear delineation between the two worlds. This is amplified by the perfect use of digital effects during battles, and it is expertly provided by Jay Worth, Gord Dunick and the rest of the visual effects team. It makes us want to tut and see if we can get those glass shields and battle magic to work! Of course, visuals are only half the equation, and Will Bates makes sure that there is a stronger presence of music in Fillory, while on Earth, it is quieter and more subtle.
It is only with the combination of all these efforts that the world of The Magicians comes to life. We don’t just feel like we’re watching it unfold – we feel as though we are there. Whether it’s a candy house, a living throne room, or a sassy White Lady, Fillory feels real.
Final Verdict: Season One was fun, but Season Two will keep you coming back for more
Syfy’s The Magicians hooked us last season with the promise of magic, romance, and adventure, but it dared to go even further than that. There are still so many questions that have been left unanswered, and we can tell that the events that have transpired will have far-reaching consequences for everyone involved. None of us believe that Alice is gone forever, but how and when she will be brought back is still a mystery. Quentin has given up on the one thing that kept him from bottoming out all those years, and we can only guess as to what ultimately will drive him to return. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how our characters cope with the trauma they have suffered, and what kind of people that will turn them into down the line. All of this just makes us want to keep watching, because we’re so invested in their lives that we need to find out what happens.
Season two is barely four episodes in, and we have already been given major character deaths, a royal curse, two (not one) devious villains, and a mind-altering forest. It takes the witty banter that made it such a smart show and added the richness of character development and challenging dilemmas. We never knew what was coming the next week, and we were always left thinking about what happened long after the episode ended. This is the kind of second season all shows strive for, one that not only maintains the integrity of what made it a hit but also pushes the boundaries with their audience.
The Magicians has become thought-provoking and emotionally impactful, but it doesn’t lose its fantastical wonder and sharp wit.There were a few hiccups along the way, but overall, season two is delivering the Fillory of our dreams but also revealing its darker side. The blurring of the lines between light and dark and good and evil will make the rest of this season well worth the watch.
Syfy’s The Magicians returns next Wednesday February 22nd, 2017 at 9/8c
The Magicians Final Verdict Season 2: 4-Episode Challenge