Based upon Lev Grossman’s best-selling books, The Magicians centers around Brakebills University, a secret institution specializing in magic. There, amidst an unorthodox education of spellcasting, a group of twenty-something friends soon discover that a magical fantasy world they read about as children is all too real— and poses grave danger to humanity.
Olivia Taylor Dudley
Review by Aaron Langford
I find myself feeling mixed emotions about the finale of The Magicians Season 4. For a season that has provided lots of plot content, yet little time to emotionally connect to each detail and character, it has become rushed and not paid off as I expected. Just to let you all know, I am a HUGE fan of The Magicians and I can’t tell you the number of times it has inspired me, taught me and even destroyed me with its shocking stories. I truly do love The Magicians and it has always been something that has lit a spark within me every season, however this season this has not happened.
Let’s go back to the season 3 Finale, the gang sacrifice everything to get back magic back. There is a betrayal by Alice as she tries to destroy not only the keys and everything they have worked so hard to achieve, but she makes the decision for the whole universe that no one should have it. This leads to Julia’s (she is my MVP) sacrifice of her own goddess powers in order to recreate these keys, which she knew would likely mean she would lose these powers or worse death, but she did it anyway! It is worth repeating that Julia would have had her goddess powers for eternity, as well as live a life of empowerment and enlightenment. She gave ALL of that up for a chance to give her best friend (Quentin) the happiness he so craved magic would give him. That in itself is just such a loving sacrifice and it moved me so much. Of course, the library steps in and steals all the magic and then tell everyone they are responsible for it coming back, which is just the older generation to a tee and politics, but I digress.
Fast forward to season 4 and magic is back but under the Library’s fascist regime. It is rationed out in small quantities, known as “ambient magic”, which means there is a limit to what spells could be cast. Before this, it was possible to cast any spell and call upon any amount of magic, however, you could “niffen out” leading to the burning of your body and soul until they separate… Yes, not fun but the choice still remains, this is now gone in Season 4. Throughout the season I found myself fascinated by Julia’s journey, if I’m being totally honest it is what I cared about most. Yes, I loved the other storylines with other characters and found many to be lots of fun, but Julia’s would always be put off in favor of another. I watched each episode when other stories leaped forward as Julia’s inched, a female character who achieved absolute power magically, spiritually and as a woman, after such an awful ordeal with her sexual assault. Julia spent the entire season as a “bulletproof vest”, which I thought was a waste. However, I do recognize the message her character brought to the season, how you can sacrifice everything for those you love and end up with nothing in the end. Side note and slight tangent, but where were Kady for three-quarters of season 4?! I understand budget issues but it was ridiculous how her story and her onscreen time was so sporadic, you are better than this The Magicians writing team! Anyway, as I say, the various stories all had emotional weight to them with important messages in each, but there was never enough time to allow them to weigh out, as they were jumped in and out of so often. I could write so much about this season but I’ll only mention what comes up as I write this.
Addressing my feelings about the Finale, I could not wait for it. Every season something has happened that I did not see coming and my jaw was on the floor each and every time and I was begging for more! I put on the Finale and convinced myself something would happen to make it all worthwhile, and I found myself surprisingly unmoved (Spoilers ahead). The build-up to Everett and his journey to Godhood, the hedges revolution, Julia’s journey to get her power back, the Fillorian revolution and like so many other plotlines, was just incredibly unsatisfying. Everett had this big elaborate plan to become a God (and succeeds), however only had a few moments of actual confrontation with Quentin who sacrifices himself by performing his discipline and mending the mirror, which led to a newly mentioned endless void known as “The Seam” and throwing in the “unstoppable” monsters of the entire season… Does any of this sound far fetch yet? As a result of Quentin casting in the mirror world, his spell ricochets into a thousand small magical beams that incinerate both Everett and Quentin in slow motion. Somehow, Penny 23 knows to remove Alice from the room by a nod from Quentin before he casts (was there a conversation happening beforehand we didn’t see over that exactly this nod would mean?). Anyway, he is destroyed completely and I found myself just thinking, “okay, so when is he coming back?”. I was incredibly unmoved by a character’s death who I have always resonated and identified. Maybe it was to do with the fact that Alice was killed when turned into a niffen and brought back, or perhaps the many time loops that undid their deaths or maybe it was just down to the sheer rushed burning of the plot that has been a trend of this season. I found myself a little teary during the sing-song around the fire, and I do feel his death is probably permanent due to Penny 40’s deliverance to the Underworld Metro, but I still find myself unmoved. Also, if this is permanent then why does he not get to play bowling in the underworld while he waits for his friends, just like everyone else gets the option to do in Season 2? As a final point, Julia finally has her magic back as an ordinary magician… It’s great that she has something back, but was that really worth the entire season of waiting? Yes, I get that life is unfair and it is very poetic she finds out she has magic again the same way Quentin found out during Season 1, as she mourns his death, but was it really worth it? I’m saying no here.
The Magicians, you have brought me so much pleasure in the past but I’m afraid this time, you have failed massively to deliver. So much so, I’m unable to look past this season’s issues. I know I’ve been extremely critical about this season and I think had it have been any other season I’d have not really batted an eyelid, but you made me believe in magic, believe in Fillory and believe so much in this world you’ve created. So, to deliver something that is way below the bar you set yourself every season, is just a major disappointment. I hope next season you up to your game.