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THE MAGICIANS “Homecoming” Offers Awkward Reunions and Universe Expansion

By on March 22, 2016
Arjun Gupta as Penny -- Photo by: Carole Segal/Syfy

Arjun Gupta as Penny -- Photo by: Carole Segal/Syfy

Fantasy is a pretty big genre. As in it is literally as big as your mind allows.

Which is why it shouldn’t be so surprising that week after week, The Magicians universe just keeps expanding. This week it expanded not only to other worlds (and the worlds that connect them) but awkward character backstories and our understandings of magical capability.

“Homecoming” saw the return of Margot as Eliot grappled with his substance abuse. As Alice and Quentin grow closer, the most logical next step would be to meet each other’s families–which is exactly what Quentin stumbles into when he and Alice use her family connection to speak with a traveler. Meanwhile, Penny has landed in a place called the Neitherlands, a world between worlds. Back in the non-magical world, Julia’s social media magic clique meets up and she comes face to face with Kady once again.

The episode focused most largely on two storylines: Alice and Quentin’s quest to find a traveler who could get Penny back to Earth and Penny’s actual journey getting back. The former was the most emotionally revealing, particularly for Alice. Much of what we’ve seen from her has been very surface level. We’ve accepted her social distancing, hyper intelligence and general awkward duck behavior as just “Alice.” But “Homecoming” gave us the backstory behind the generally sweet but socially inept character.

Her family is a mess and as Quentin notes, she almost deserves a medal for making it out of her house alive. Her parents free-wheeling tendencies don’t clash with their controlling natures. They work in an odd and somewhat frightening tandem, which is all evidence anyone needs to understand why Alice left home for the place where her brother died. Morbid is way better than emotionally manipulative.

The nature of her parents relationship, as revealed to viewers, not only continues to raise questions about how healthy magic really is for anyone, but also how healthy Alice and Quentin’s relationship is. They share quite a bit in common, so much so that it creates emotional tension between them. Insecurity and last minute secret reveals are pretty much in their DNA, but that doesn’t spell out solid relationship. Maybe their aggressive honesty will be enough to curb whatever negativity arises as a result of their similar shortcomings in the long run. It certainly helped this episode.

Outside of the whole Alice and Quentin need to have sex to bring Penny back thing (is there a reason we keep making an inadvertent love triangle happen between these three?), the latter’s episodic storyline is actually the most compelling content wise. That’s because we realize that the world is so much bigger than any of us imagined and unlike Penny, we have a desire to explore that. Though I’m not entirely sure I blame the traveler for his reluctance. He’s had quite a few near-death experiences as a result of his powers, but his disposition about it all may actually work in his favor. The last thing you want to do when you are out of your comfort zone is let your guard down. For as “glass half full” as Penny is, he’s resourceful and a survivor as a result. Which might make him one of the strongest magicians of the bunch in a fight against The Beast. Which feels awfully close to happening considering how much this show is throwing him and his name around.

While Penny’s arc may have been great for world-building, Julia and Kady’s reunion was less awkward but more emotionally satisfying than any other arc this episode. It’s not surprising that they ran back into one another. Both characters needed closure regarding Kady’s mom and we got it in a way that felt true to the characters and organic within the larger narrative. Their reunion also strengthened the bridge between Brakebills and the hedgewitches, and opened up new magical glass ceilings for both magicians who are extremely gifted. It will be most interesting to see how this team up between two powerful women ultimately plays out in regards to everyone else’s storylines, as they are bound to collide.

In the episode’s oddest storyline (which is saying a lot), Eliot avoids dealing with his growing reliance on drugs while Margot deals with a Nice Guy (TM) who steals her life force to create a golem sex toy version of her.  While we’ve mostly seen these two out to protect and help each other, the last couple of episodes have done a number on both characters and their relationship. Which is why Eliot’s refusal to feel anything coupled with Margot’s rejection of him is literally the oddest part about their episodic storyline. It feels weird with these two not on each other’s side. It feels even weirder to think something major might be coming between arguably the show’s closest duo. Something major and really, really confusingly complicated.

It’s hard to ignore that there aren’t rampantly weird parts of The Magicians. Sometimes it’s the unsettling nonchalance from people in the midst of a wildly dangerous world of magic. Other times it’s just the weird things people have to do in order to use magic and save each other. Yes, I’m talking about almost every time Alice and Quentin have sex.

But in a way, as the quirks pop up more and more, not only are we relating more and more with Penny’s rather off-putting done-ness with the weird, but we’re beginning to understand that in this world of magic, everything isn’t as neat and clean as we’re used to. It’s a nice subversion of an approach to the genre where we always have an in-universe reasonable answer. For every rule there is a workaround, for every question, there is an answer. But in The Magicians this isn’t always true and “Homecoming” was a nice reminder that even in the world of magic, things can be as unreliable and unpredictable as our own reality.

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