We’re all the protagonists of our own lives, but what happens when we learn we’re not the protagonists of the stories to which our lives are tied?
That’s the hard truth that Quentin Coldwater faces in the season 1 finale of The Magicians, which, while adhering to many of the details of the source material’s showdown with the Beast, takes a wild left turn that could completely alter the trajectory of the characters as they head into season 2.
But that’s something The Magicians has been doing from the start, primarily by running Julia’s story concurrent with Quentin’s and the other characters at Brakebills. While her entire backstory is covered in the second novel in the series from Lev Grossman, The Magician King, here her story is not just played out simultaneously but interwoven in ways that make her a major player.
Julia’s prominence has been perhaps one of the most fundamentally important and smart choices made in this adaptation because it not only showcases the fallibility of the magical world (which the portions of the show at Brakebills have no qualms about also revealing), but also gives viewers a more tragic, sympathetic character at the heart of the show’s ensemble.
And The Magicians has truly grown into fully taking advantage of that ensemble, even if the dual Quentin/Julia narratives are at the show’s heart. The Syfy series has made sure to give Eliot, Margo, Penny, and Alice the spotlights they deserve as they too are shaped and irrevocably changed by their steps into a magical world.
“Have You Brought Me Little Cakes” focuses on those literal steps as the entire Brakebills crew finds their way into Fillory to take on the Beast, who they assume is Christopher Plover. They all don’t arrive together, of course. While most of the Brakebills students take a path via the fountains of the Neitherlands, Quentin and Julia head back in time to 1942, following Jane Chatwin into the magical land they once thought was the stuff of fiction (and where the air is 0.2 percent opium).
Quentin and Julia even learn that they themselves are in the Fillory and Further books, helping Jane out of a trap and discovering Martin Chatwin has followed them. Martin helps them create the very blade that will be required to fell the Beast, but it will require ages to cobble. Luckily, he agrees, helping the duo to make further progress, only to run into the Watcherwoman…who is actually Eliza…who is, of course, also Jane Chatwin..
Yes, the great villainess of the books is actually a good friend (who they have to break the news to that she has died in her 40th time loop, each a separate attempt to slightly alter the world and hopefully kill the Beast). She helps them along their way to the present, where they reunite with Quentin’s friends in a rundown, hollowed-out shell of Fillory.
Unfortunately, everyone still hates one another, and they’re not too pleased to see Julia, either, after almost killing Quentin earlier in the season. But despite the bad vibes permeating the entire group, they find their way back to the knifemaker from decades earlier. He died long ago (as has much of Fillory, including High King Martin Chatwin), but his son has been waiting for them. He gives them the blade so long as they agree to the one condition they promised.
One of the men in their group is set to become the High King of Fillory (only non-Fillorians can assume the throne), and he wants whoever that is to marry his daughter. That new High King just so happens to be Eliot, who has gone from drinking himself silly for fun to drinking himself half to death to escape after his disastrous Beast lackey Mike. It means never being with Margo again, a revelation played out in a beautiful scene that offers a wonderful distillation of Eliot and Margo’s relationship thanks to the work of Hale Appleman and Summer Bishil.
NEXT: A wedding, a revelation, and a revolting jar from Ember