Showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara were able to use the show as a platform of discussion for relevant societal topics without taking away the wonder and fantasy.
The main cast remain one of the most magnetic on screen, and this season's new members brought a new depth and emotion to the story.
Magali Guidasci's costuming really connected the characters with their personalities and mood - not to mention, we want to raid that wardrobe!
There were several characters that made their appearance in only 1-2 episodes before leaving, which begs the question of if they were necessary at all.
Every so often, we were overwhelmed with the number of revelations being thrown at us without having time to recover.
There were a couple of episodes where the pacing was bogged down by unnecessary moments or scenes.
It may not be all rainbow bridges and unicorns in Fillory, but drama, loss, and the threat of war only make our magicians stronger
Syfy’s The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman‘s bestselling series of the same name, follows chronically depressed dreamer Quentin Coldwater and his childhood best friend, Julia Wicker, as they discover that they are real life magicians. While Quentin is admitted to the prestigious Brakebills College for Magic and Pedagogy to learn to wield magic. Along the way. he finds himself rooming with an acerbic Traveler named Penny, mentored by upper levels Eliot and Margo, and falls for a talented fellow student named Alice. Julia, unfortunately, is rejected from the institution and forced to seek an unorthodox education by joining up with the hedge witches. As season one progresses, the Brakebills students must come up with a way to defeat a dangerous foe named The Beast, which leads them to travel to Fillory in search of a weapon. Along with Julia, who secretly has her own plan, they confront their enemy with catastrophic results.
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In Season two, our magicians are dealing with the aftermath of Julia’s betrayal and their failed attempt to kill The Beast. They are also charged with saving magic after becoming the High Kings and Queens of Fillory, no small task for a bunch of magic students. Unfortunately, after disappearing with The Beast, Julia engages in a contract with him so she can exact revenge against the trickster god Reynard the Fox. She once again interferes with the trap her former friends set for her temporary ally, forcing Alice to niffin out to defeat him. The gang is divided from that point on, with Quentin determined to bring his love back, Eliot and Margo trying to restore the wellspring and save Fillory, and Julia teaming up with Kady to rid herself of the demigod growing within her. By the end, our magicians come full circle and rejoin to face a common enemy that threatens all they hold dear.
Fillory may be a magical kingdom, but it has real world problems
Quentin has never been shy about admitting that he used the adventures of the Chatwin children in Fillory to escape from real life. Even before he knew magic was real, reading about the beautiful kingdom gave him hope in his darkest moments. So, it’s not surprising that he was beyond excited after learning of its existence. Even after the disastrous confrontation with the aforementioned magician, he still maintains a fair amount of childlike joy when being crowned one of the kings of Fillory. We watched Julia wrestle with the trauma of being raped, her pain compounded by the resulting pregnancy and botched abortion. The relationship between Quentin and Alice, much like most in real life, was fraught with complicated emotions and desperation to reconnect. Fen faced envy and jealousy over Margo’s place in Eliot’s heart, while her competition struggled with having a title but no real power.
White Lady: “I can do wonders. But you should know there’s nothing I can give you that will soothe your Shade. There’s only what I can take away.”
Quentin: “You’d take away my memories of Alice?”
White Lady: “Yes. I would free you completely.”
White Lady: “You are wiser than you appear. You would find your way back to sadness, no matter how far you run from it.”
Quentin: “Well, that’s comforting.”
White Lady: “Is there nothing else you desire?”
Quentin: “Everything I’ve ever wanted, I’ve got. Magic is real, and it can fix anything except what I need. I loved a girl. My entire life I’ve dreamed of Fillory, that I would be like Martin Chatwin. I’d find a way to stay here forever. Send me home.”
One of the reasons why we love The Magicians is that it never shies away from difficult topics. Not only do John McNamara, Sera Gamble, and the rest of the writing team keep a finger on the pulse of what’s relevant, they highlight the issues through our characters with sensitivity, humor, and wit. Season two was a perfect example of that, with its commentary on sexuality, politics, love, family, diversity, and female empowerment. The journey that our magicians take can also be seen as a life lesson of its own. Quentin and the others assumed ruling Fillory would bring them answers and happiness, but that was the wrong way to think about it. We would say that the true magic of the kingdom is the way it forces everyone to grow, no matter how painful it is for them to do so. As with real life, adversity can herald greatness.
The cast upped the ante with dramatic performances and a whole lot of fun
The Magicians set a precedent early on in their introductory season of witty one-liners, topical humor, and a penchant for fun. We fell in love with their tongue-in-cheek approach to telling the story and the way it made us wish as hard as Quentin did for magic to to be real. Season two was chock full of pop culture references, movie inspired moments, and of course, two epic musical numbers. Although pulling each episode off was no doubt a daunting task, Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Summer Bishil, Hale Appleman, and Arjun Gupta (and occasionally, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran, and Stella Maeve) had us convinced it was a walk in the park. One of the best examples of how the show balanced both drama and comedy was in “Plan B,” where the gang decide to rob a bank to secure payment for Julia’s demigod abortion. It’s got wit, action, and oh so much fun!
Season two wasn’t all fun and games, though, and we were given the opportunity to watch our intrepid group go through some really rough times. Appleman took Eliot from drunken social king of the Physical kids to real life Fillorian royalty, dragging his unhappily sober character into maturity. Maeve and Tailor took on the sensitive topics of rape, abortion, and assisted suicide and reminded us of the trauma and pain with their heartbreaking performances. Ralph brought the daily struggle of depression to light through Quentin, constantly on the verge of a breakdown but always looking for hope. Bishil and Curran both highlighted the challenges women face from society from differing points of view, as well as the unspoken tension between a wife and a best friend. We mustn’t forget Penny, whose journey from self-serving loner to altruistic friend was expertly handled by Gupta. With all of this happening, how could we not be a fan?!
It wouldn’t be a fantasy without stunning landscapes, gorgeous costumes, and awe inspiring sets
When we hear the words “fantasy TV show,” we automatically think of a few basic requirements. There should be a storyline that involves magic, adventure, and ordinary characters facing extraordinary circumstances. To make a show indelible to us, however, we need to be so fully immersed in the world that we’re left convinced it really exists. This is where The Magicians always excelled, and the trip to Fillory and other worlds this season only cemented their talent. From the differing landscapes blended from sites in Vancouver and CGI, to the makeup and set design departments who brought magical creatures and people alike to life, our eyes feasted upon every second of every scene. The selective use of special and visual effects to create the battle magic we saw made it all the more believable, leaving a few of us (okay, maybe a lot) trying our hand at tutting too.
Of all the wonders we witnessed this season, the one for us that truly stood out was the stunning costumes created for our magicians by Magali Guidasci. Episode after episode, she helped to set the mood for the show with her expert eye for high fashion. Take, for example, the various looks she gave the High Queen (see above). Not only does she reflect Margo’s personality in the bold colors and unusual textures, but she also changes the overall feel of the outfit based on her emotional state at the time. She does the same with Eliot, reflecting his love of opulent fabrics while changing the cut and coverage to reflect his struggle between conservative royalty and his inner rebel. Contrast that with the dark, muted colors worn by Julia, Kady, and even Penny on Earth as they go about trying to repair their broken lives. Every decision is intentional and well thought out, just like the rest of the show.
Final Verdict: There’s no need for a love charm when season two has drama, growth, and unforgettable stories
One of the biggest challenges for a show that hits it out of the park on its freshman season is the sophomore slump. There’s always the question of whether or not it can stand up to the high standards it created, and in many cases, the show does not. Luckily for The Magicians and for us, there was no such issue here. Season two started off with the horribly failed attempt to kill The Beast and dove right in, keeping the theme of trauma and failure weaved throughout the rest of the episodes. Gamble and McNamara traveled the line between tragedy and comedy like tightrope walkers, keeping the two sides balanced while avoiding the pit of tropes below.
We were invited not just to observe, but to experience the the growing pains along with our magicians in relatable ways. While the main cast continued to wow us with their chemistry, we were also wooed by the formidable talents of Brittany Curran, Charles Mesure, Makenzie Astin, Christopher Gorham, and Trevor Einhorn. Each of them brought such depth to the world that we’ve come to love, and whether we loved or hated their characters, we won’t be forgetting them any time soon. While only Curran and Einhorn are definitely expected to reprise their roles, we’re wondering if we just might get another peek at Astin next season. Of course, there’s also Candis Cayne, whose so far brief but impactful turn as the Fairy Queen made it clear that she’s the foe to beat next season.
Of all the episodes this season, we definitely had our favorites. They contained just the right amount of serious drama, cheeky humor, and clever writing to keep us rewatching them over and over. The Ocean’s Eleven themed “Plan B” was all out fun for almost the entire hour, with Margo at her best and the gang all together for the first time all season. “Lesser Evils” is a must for obvious reasons: mainly, the Les Misérables “One More Day” battle anthem scene in the castle. As for “We Have Brought You Little Cakes,” well, it’s the insanely ingenious plan to save Fillory and get back at Ember.
If there is one thing we are glad we know about The Magicians, it’s the fact that Syfy has renewed it for season three (read more here). We would have been devastated had we been left with the cliffhangers the finale revealed with no resolution. Let’s not think about that, though, because our beloved magic wielders will be back in 2018. In the meantime, why don’t you tell us what your favorite episode is and why? Who really grabbed your attention this season? What would you have done differently?