Essays · TV

The Magicians Season Finale Presents a Great Case to Go Read The Books

SyFy’s The Magicians comes to an end, giving us all a reason to go out and read the books upon which it’s based.
By  · Published on April 12th, 2016

At the beginning of this Season One finale episode, during the “Previously on The Magicians,” sequence, I personally wanted to shout “We were never in Fillory!” But I managed to abstain. After 12 episodes of waiting, we spend nearly an entire episode in Fillory. And it’s a real mind-bender.

The show opens with Quentin telling the story of the episode in flashback, and he’s writing it all down as “Fillory and Further: Book Seven” with a TBD at a later date. Also, Quentin has horribly bad penmanship. Do they even teach kids how to write with a pen anymore? Just go and watch this episode and check out how he’s holding it. It should be telling that in a television show about fantasy worlds and magic, one of the strangest things to me is how Quentin holds a writing instrument.

Anyhow, Quentin begins things in the Temple of Ember, one of the twin brother gods who watch over Fillory. Only he’s not a gigantic ram as described in the books. He’s a… fat man with ram horns who asks them “Have you brought me little cakes?” It’s pretty hard to like him, a trait he shares in common with book Ember. Only holy cow, this man/ram thing is creepy as hell.

Fortunately, Quentin realizes this is a bad place to start and takes us through the whole story which picks up right where Episode 12 left off. They follow Jane into Fillory and watch her get ensnared by one of the clock trees. They wait around for the Witch and the Fool to free her, only to realize that they are the Witch and the Fool. They’ve been in the book this whole time and never realized it. After they set Jane free and she toddles off, they realized that someone followed them into Fillory as well: Martin Chatwin.

Quentin and Julia tell Martin they are there to stop Christopher Plover, and in all honesty I missed a step earlier where everyone assumed that Plover was the Beast. Was that a story beat that I completely missed? Seems like a huge one if I did, but I can’t imagine they’d just make it up for this episode. But if it was part of the story, then it seems like they glossed over it a bit. Anyways, Martin tells them to seek out a swordsmith who can help them craft a Leo blade that will kill a master magician like Plover.

Trouble is, that blade takes moonstones, and the smith only has two of those. But they are living stones, and he can breed them. Okay, that’s weird. But hey, magic. The problem is that it’ll take awhile. So Quentin and Julia leave and run into the Watcherwoman, one of the main villains from the book series. However, they discover that the Watcherwoman is actually the adult Jane Chatwin. And child Jane Chatwin was so afraid of the Watcherwoman that she worked hard to be able to fight her. Make sense yet? Of course not. But on we go.

Oh, and before we leave adult Jane to her eventual doom, she tells Quentin that Julia has a patch in her memory, covering something up. Cue ominous music. Then Jane zaps Q and J into Fillory 2016 (they were in WWII-era Fillory, remember) and the place has really gone to hell. They find the swordsmith once again, and it turns out he’s dead. However, his son still has the blade his father crafted, and now they have to pay for it, with the price being that the High King of Fillory has to marry his daughter. Since Quentin and gang will be the new kings and queens of Fillory, one of the men is the high king. The smith has a magical blade that will draw blood only from the high king, and as it turns out… it’s Elliot. And surprise, Elliot decides to do it. In an emotional moment, he tells Margo that his life is miserable and that he’s been trying to fill a void with sex, booze, and drugs. Maybe he was meant for this moment.

So while the wedding happens, bored Penny astrally travels to the dungeon where Victoria is locked up to look for more clues. Post-wedding, the swordsmith gives Quentin the Leo blade, only to discover that it’s too painfully hot to touch. As it turns out, none of Quentin’s gang can touch it: it has to be wielded by a master magician. Derp. So Quentin and Julia turn to Ember in search of Ember while the rest of the group heads to the dungeon (in an invisible castle, naturally) to rescue Victoria.

That’s where we resume the opening of the show, with creepy Ember ram/man asking about little cakes. Turns out, Ember was imprisoned in the temple and his twin brother was slaughtered by the Beast. While he can’t escape, he can imbue another with his essence, making it appear as though they are a master magician. To do this, he grants Quentin a jar full of his own jizz, which Quentin will have to drink in order for it to work. Yes, you read that right. It’s a not a small jar, either. It’s big. And full. Good luck controlling your gag reflex here. They leave, but not before Ember lifts Julia’s memory patch as a courtesy. Oops.

So the group rescues Julia, who tells them there is a prisoner in the cell next door, and they discover it’s Christopher Plover. Which means that the Beast is actually Martin Chatwin. Cue more ominous music. They find out he’s been visiting the wellspring of Fillory, the source of all of its magic, in order to suck out his humanity and replace it with pure magic. So, they decide to set an ambush for him, and in the last moments, Quentin gives the Leo blade to Alice and tells her that she’s better and stronger than he is and that he’s failed 39 times prior to this, thanks to Jane’s time loop. And yes, that means she quaffs the ram/man jizz.

Before the make their last stand, Julia tells Quentin everything that was under her memory patch. Her group of hedge witches didn’t summon Our Lady Underground like they thought. Instead, they summoned Reynard the Fox, a cruel trickster who killed three of them instantly and possessed Richard’s body. He was about to kill Kady when Julia intervened, and while Kady escaped Julia was brutally raped by Reynard. When Julia came to and saw the blood-soaked room along with the dead bodies of her friends, she called the last person you’d expect for help: Marina.

The group tracks down the wellspring and enters ahead of Martin, only to discover it leads them to Plover’s writing room. The Beast enters and reveals his true face (a grown up Martin), before easily handling the group’s collective asses to them. Even Alice can’t fight him, as the Leo blade is somehow missing from her belt. Margo and Elliot are pinned against the wall, Alice is bleeding out on the floor, Penny has both of his hands torn off, and Quentin is powerless to stop him. But suddenly, Julia is at the Beast’s throat with the Leo blade. Turns out she received some god essence during her encounter with Reynard, making her track as a master magician as well and allowing her to hold the blade. The Beast asks her what she wants, and… bam. End credits.

So yeah, we’ll have to wait a long time to find out what happens next. Of course, my recommendation will be to run out immediately if you haven’t already done so and pickup these books and read them. They’re great. And honestly, the series is much, much better than I ever expected. Yes, the show version of Ember is a disappointment, along with the fact that the Beast didn’t eat Penny’s hands like he does in the books. But they’ve nailed everything else so well, that you don’t mind the divergences. Already eagerly waiting for this one to come back.