The fate of Fillory hangs in the balance — must be Wednesday
The Magicians is a very unpredictable show. It marches to the beat of its own whimsical drum, avoiding obvious melodrama in favor of something more irreverent. That’s part of the show’s appeal. Thus, going into this finale, I had no idea what to expect, especially after the penultimate episode revealed that Ember would end up becoming the finale’s big bad. “We Have Brought You Little Cakes” followed through on the promise of episode 12 while also thrusting the show into unknown territory for the third season.
If you need more proof of how weird this show is, look no further than the opening of the finale, which is a recap of the series’ events narrated by the chaos-loving god himself, Ember. While the entire sequence is very funny, it does point out some holes in the season’s story that weren’t there until the show felt the need to point them out. For example, Ember made sure Fen was ovulating when she and Eliot slept together so that she could become pregnant; he pissed off the guy who guards the river so that he would take it out on Penny; and he’s been causing the magic brownouts all season. All of this stuff didn’t need any added explanation. It made sense that someone would have a negative response to Penny’s demeanor, and the brownouts were explained away by the initial dump Ember took in the wellspring at the beginning of the season. It feels like the nature of Ember’s involvement came a little bit too late.
Anyway, Ember ends his narration by welcoming us to the finale, which he is referring to as “Fillory’s Last Gasp,” because he has grown bored with the world and is ready to destroy it. You remember how everyone’s book in the library had 20 blank pages? Well, this is why. In a way, the finale brings us full circle back to the premiere, which was also focused on saving Fillory, because saving Fillory means saving magic.
While “We Have Brought You Little Cakes” sometimes feels like it’s rushing as it moves the pieces around for the final confrontation, it still makes room for some important character beats, which are the best part of the episode. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but these moments often feature Eliot and/or Julia. Well, the first one involves both of them. Eliot pays Julia a visit to ask for an amulet that can hide him from a god. Noticing Julia is having a hard time because her shade is back — the memory pops of her trauma are particularly effective in conveying her current struggle — Eliot asks her to come with him because he’s concerned about the unhealthy relationship she’s currently developing with her couch. His invitation surprises her given her past betrayal, but Eliot points out that was so long ago. And he’s right about that.
Eliot’s reconciliation with Margo — who returns from the fairy world with Josh and a plant that will lure out Ember, but without Fen because she refused to leave her daughter — isn’t nearly as easy. Eliot appreciates the lengths to which Margo went to fix her mistake — she had to give up an eye in order to leave the fairies’ plane of existence — however, it’s still very hard for them to just fall back into their usual habits, and Margo points that out. “It’s not the same. Let’s not pretend it is,” says Margo, which is a very mature observation on her part. If there’s one thing The Magicians needs to work on next season, it’s Margo. She’s an entertaining character, but this season I had a hard time keeping track of what exactly she wanted, apart from helping Eliot rule. Anyway, Margo and Eliot decide to put their strain on hold because right now, they need to party like the world depends on it.
After a pep talk from Eliot, Quentin gets his head in the game and goes to ask Umber for his help. Instead of helping him, Umber takes Quentin into the Pocket World Formerly Known as Cuba and asks Quentin to use his “caring too much” power to help him build this new world. It turns out Umber isn’t much of a world-builder without his brother; this pocket world is rather bland and linear. Quentin suggests he ask Ember, the god of chaos, to help spice things up, but that simply angers him.
Meanwhile, back in Fillory, Eliot and Margo throw a big party/orgy that features special-smelling little cakes in order to draw out Ember. The plan works! Ember pops in and is pleasantly surprised that Eliot has returned to Fillory after being banished. Eliot and Margo promise to be more entertaining if he doesn’t destroy it, but Ember says he might as well since his brother is no longer there. That’s when Julia enters with the snow globe containing Umber’s pocket universe and releases Umber into the reunion.
If you were expecting some kind of warm family reunion, you will definitely be disappointed by what happens next. Ember realizes Umber betrayed him in order to stay alive and retaliates by killing him. Julia enchants a sword with Umber’s god power, and Quentin uses said sword to kill Ember once and for all. The Magicians isn’t a very showy show, but there was actually some suspense in this scene because up until Quentin delivered the final blow, you had no idea what was going to happen.
Alas, all’s not well that ends well, because, as is often the case on The Magicians, solving one problem ends up creating an even bigger problem that changes the status quo of the show in a major way and ruins Quentin and Alice’s romantic reunion.
After killing Ember, Quentin visits Alice with a plate of bacon, which is apparently the way into post-niffin Alice’s heart. The tender scene ends with them hooking up; however, the mild high that Quentin is running on after this fairly successful day ends when Alice informs him of the consequences of killing a god like Ember: You piss off his parents, a.k.a. the creators of the universe. During her time as a niffin, Alice learned that the creators of the universe have a plumber who goes into action when the humans act up. As she tells him this, a creepy-looking plumber walks through the show’s many locations and turns off the magic. It’s fairly chilling sequence due to the slanted cinematography and the fact that the plumber doesn’t say a word. Moreover, this twist follows through on the threat from the premiere. For all of the show’s whimsy, it’s clear that The Magicians has been building to this devastating twist.
And it’s immediately clear from the two month jump forward that the loss of magic is very devastating. Now everywhere — from Brakebills to Fillory — looks as dreary as Brakebills, South Antarctica. Margo and Eliot are busy bickering about how to rule Fillory without magic — surprise, Margo prefers a more dictatorial approach — when Fen returns from the fairy world to warn them that the fairies have arrived to take the castle from them. Meanwhile back on Earth, Quentin and Alice are still at Brakebills, except now they’re studying theoretical magic; however, they both receive messages before the episode closes. Joseph the niffin warns Alice that something she wronged during her time as a niffin is out for revenge, and Julia reveals to Quentin that she still has magic, which ends the episode on a very thrilling and exciting note.
Overall, I enjoyed The Magicians season 2 a lot more than I did the first season. The sophomore year was way more evenly plotted than the first, even if it was sometimes hard to tell where the season was going. Part of that is by design, I expect, but I think it’s also because the writers sometimes get a bit too distracted by following their whims. Moreover, dividing time between Fillory and Earth sometimes stretched the show a bit too much. I’m interested in seeing if the universal problem of a world without magic will bring some more cohesion to the story.
Odds and Ends:
- In the opening recap, Ember promised that the Candy Witch would pay off. It didn’t in the episode, so it had better happen in the season 3 premiere.
- Penny has two to three weeks to live, so Kady, who is still pissed at Julia for how she handled the Reynard sitch, turns to Marlee Matlin’s Harriet for help. She agrees to tell Harriet anything Penny tells her about the library.
- However, it’s not clear at the end of the episode if Penny survived. The last time we see him, Zelda the librarian is trying to help him escape the panic at the library caused by the Universe Plumber turning off magic.