THE MAGICIANS Up-heaves Reality Once Again in “Thirty-Nine Graves”
Tensions are at an all time mind blowing high in The Magicians penultimate episode, “Thirty-Nine Graves.”
After the plethora of colorful events from last week, our characters begin this episode in a bit of a shambles. At Brakebills, Quentin, Margot, Elliot and Alice aren’t dealing (at all) well with the aftermath of the former three’s trist. Which leaves Penny, who is trying to prepare for going into Fillory to face the beast, frustrated and confused.
Meanwhile, Julia sees a man who can give her what she wants in order to help her friends. And she has all the right answers to get it, but once it’s in her hands she questions whether or not she’s ready to open that can of worms.
It’s hard to ignore how sexy this show has become, but it’s particularly interesting when you consider how that level of physical intimacy is being used to explore character dynamics. For Elliot, Margot and Quentin it was a release of inhibitions in a fleeting moment between characters who hadn’t really up to this point exhibited that kind of interest in each other, at least when Quentin is involved. But Quentin is also opening his stifled self up a bit more with each passing episode. He’s growing up and that means trying out different things.
For Margot and Elliot, they have a deep emotional connection that might seemingly be reinforced through a certain type of physical intimacy. But all it seems to do is drive a wedge further between them. It seems that their strength lies in their emotional vulnerability, which physical ties have separated. It doesn’t help that Margot isn’t trusting Elliot and Elliot still hasn’t let go of what happened to Mike. Our once dynamic duo has become a hurricane of pain and regret. And honestly, that’s the last thing we wanted for our sunshine pair. A duo that is seemingly so superficial on the surface has perhaps become the show’s deepest and most complicated bond.
As for Julia, her moment with is a culmination of Julia’s first real bond of trust with someone since she was rejected from Brakebills. She’s opened herself up to someone, someone who believes her power and purpose is important, worth not shying away from. Brakebills rejected Julia and since then she’s been struggling to gain her sense of self back. Richard is the person who helps her do it, helps her come into her own and realize that the “right” path isn’t always the right path for everyone. Sometimes there is a back road that takes us to where we need to go.
Perhaps the most interesting exploration though has come from Alice and Penny. Two people who seem critically opposed in more than one way, they’ve both found a sense of grounding based on a mutual desire to be the most simplest of things: normal. Not to mention, right now Quentin is both of their least favorite people. While they are physically intimate, a move to get back at Quentin for Alice, they are compatible more so because they feel like their organic, most likable selves when in the presence of each other. It is a surprising character paying that could have landed awkwardly, but has paid off exponentially in terms of character relationships.
Outside of this thematic plot development, the episode on the whole was arguably the show’s strongest performance. It allowed its characters to dabble in personality altering magic tropes and it gave us hilarious and touching group dynamics. It kept things exciting by delivering a dangerous threat and tossing in a plot twist that almost renders every character without legs on the eve of a deadly fight. We explored several corners of The Magicians universe and were offered a bevy of quirky but gripping characters.
And while we got to see Quentin be an angsty, socially and emotionally inept college boy, we also for the very real first time got to see him step up and be the hero–for a story in which he is a literal main character. In doing so, we’re given our first look into the genre underneath the genre. The Magicians isn’t just about magical Narnia-like places, scary monsters and talking animals. There’s time travel, folks. Actual. Time travel. It’s Narnia meets The Matrix and that makes this show’s universe literally one of the coolest and most complicated on TV right now.
The effects of this reveal help the show circle back to its beginnings and address several plots we thought were over. The main one being that Julia wasn’t good enough for Brakebills. It turns out that all along, The Magicians really has had two lead characters. Quentin whose eyes we see most of the story through, and Julia the show’s major chess piece. The Julia we love and know now is only a result of Eliza/Jane altering this timeline to see if throwing Julia out on her butt would actually make her stronger. And surprise! It has.
The second plot is a little more magical. With Julia and Quentin now back on the same team, the two work together to find their way back into Fillory–with the help of a little time travel and a Chatwin sibling. Once there, we fully understand the massive world and emotional spectrum The Magicians has gifted us with. While this show is dark, it can be just as much full of light. It can be about its heroes as much as its villains. It’s taken The Magicians a while to bring us into this world completely, but now we’re here and we aren’t sure if we ever want to go back.