The Magicians Explained, Part 2

Hey everyone, it is Chris. This is episode 2 of my Magicians season 01 overview. You can find the previous reviews here.

If this is your first time here, I take shows and movies based on books, and compare and contrast them to the source material.

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I’m going to quickly go each episode and highlight key moments and characters that are different in the show than the book. In this video we’ll cover episodes 4 - 7.

Episode 4

The What Now?

This was an odd episode, and not one that I really enjoyed all that much. It’s another moment with no correlation in the book, but I did love the moment when Penny sees the version of himself in the dream. Having Julia attack Quentin like that was just wrong, from a narrative standpoint.

Another issue for me, is the fact that they could attack Quentin within the school, which has wards, a lot of them, to specifically stop this sort of thing from happening. I feel like this was added for a few reasons, one to make the hedge witches a credible threat, since this whole storyline is new for the show, and to give Penny a greater role in the lives of the Scooby Gang.

Also, Julia being thrown out of the magical underground wasn’t exactly koshe either. I get they did it to setup the storyline with Our Lady Underground, but I really prefer the way that particular storyline happened more in the books.

Episode 5

Fogg Retrieves Alice

Broken record, I know, but this wasn’t in the books either, since Alice never left. But this was a great addition to the story. Having Fogg go after her and convince her to come back was another great change to his character. He was a pretty one dimensional, boring character in the novels, so any building out they do here is great.

The Mentors

I really dug this. They do talk about mentors and all that, but it comes after they graduate. Basically their novels version of continuing education. And giving Penny a mentor that travels, and has had the misfortune of misusing his gift was great, since Penny in the show has a massive chip on his shoulder.
Quentin’s Dad
I really loved that they brought his father in early and having them deal with relationship issues was great. In the novels we never really meet Q’s dad. He becomes a plot point later in the narrative, only after he dies.

I also loved how they described cancer, and why it isn’t fixed by magic. This whole quest of Q’s was a nice introduction to begin answering the how and why of what is and isn’t doable from a magical standpoint.

The bit where you see Q has powered up in the Welters tournament is sort of in the books as well, but his new power level isn’t shown at the tournament like that. In the novels it’s Josh who creates the block hole.

Julia’s Fall

This was in the book as well, but not quite in this way. It is told in flashback for the most part, as Julia is cluing Q into her life after she was rejected from Brakebills. One thing that I miss from this part was the way Julia tore her way through the safe houses. In the books you are basically called out when you walk into a safe house, and you have a “magic off” with the senior hedgewitch.

Once you prove yourself, you are able to see the “grimoire”, which is like a trapper keeper for spells. The scene in the bar is what happens at most of the places that Julia goes, but I really missed the duels, having Julia basically crush the best they have to offer as business like as possible.

Cancer Puppy

I mean, no. This just wasn’t in the novels. Why would you kill a puppy. Moving on.

Episode 6

The Trials

This wasn’t in the novels either, but I loved it. It added a layer of intrigue and fun to the school which was kind of missing in the novels. Our heroes time at Brakebills was basically a slog through magical academia.

Sure there were parties and all of that, but nothing that really took away from the boring mundanity of life. Having there be something that is fun, builds relationships, etc was nice to have.

It was also a nice moment to see Penny appreciate Q a little bit, and work together to get past the first hurdle. Also, Penny using astral projection to cheat was hilarious.

Margot is Far Superior to Janet

I really, really hated Janet in the books. Her character is pretty much worthless, irritating and vapid. By contrast Margot is many of these things, but also interesting and complex in the best possible ways.

Beneath the terrible exterior there is an actual human being with feelings and motivations beyond herself. From her relationship with Eliot to her real, actual feelings for Alice we see that there are motivations within Margot that we can all identify with.

The Last Trial

This is another great addition to the story. From Penny’s exchange with Katey, giving his character much needed depth, to the shared moment between Q and Alice, where you find out the secrets they are hiding, it was really masterfully done.

While all of that was new for the show, the ending where they transform into geese, that was straight out of the books, although it happens much later.

Episode 7

Brakebills South

This was one of my favorite parts of the novels, because it was a glimpse into the largeness of the magical world. During the flight to the school the kids get a glimpse of the world as it appears to the geese, full of magic and possibility. The geese can see the magnetic spectrum, and use it to find their way to the school.

It is the first glimpse we are given that there is magic elsewhere in the world, something that is paid off later when we get a glimpse, later in the novels, of deep old magic, being kept at bay by whales.

I really loved the time they spent there, it isn’t covered in great detail in the show, but they spent a lot of time driving nails into wood, not just once, and then a ton of time removing them, not just one.

It was at Brakebills South that the Scooby Gang really learned how to be magicians. Nothing really important happened at South, other than this learning, you know other than the bit with the foxes and the sex, of course in the novels all the students were turned into foxes, not just Q and Alice.

One thing that was missing for me with the story at Brakebills South was the race to the pole. In the novels the end of the semester basically, is a race over the frozen wastes to a pole, where you are naked, and aren’t allowed to bring anything with you.

Quentin and Alice were the only two to take up the challenge of the race, and they both finished, although Alice soundly beat him. It was pretty cool to see how they both dealt with the obstacles at hand, what magic they used to survive, etc.
The Djinn
And lastly, we have the Djinn. This, while funny, wasn’t in the novels either. I was hoping it would be a bigger part of the story, but it was pretty fun while it lasted. It was nice to have another aspect of the magical world showcased, if only briefly.

It hints at a much larger, weirder world than the one we have seen thus far, which can only be good.