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SYFY WIRE The Magicians

The Magicians Discussion: Season 4, Episode 10 offers a profound look at feminine rage

By Alyssa Fikse & Jessica Toomer

The Magicians just might be the weirdest show on television. In "All That Hard, Glossy Armor" alone, we see psychotropic lizards, hallucinations singing hair metal songs in the desert, and leprechauns running hipster shoe repair shops. Like I said, weird. And yet in all of those insane creative choices, the heart of the show is always rooted in reality. The reality of pain, the reality of love, the reality of rage.

This week's episode focuses on the first leg of Margo's quest to free Eliot from the Monster, and our girl delivers. The High King is on a mission, so don't get in her way. We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer, and we're here to bop our way through every ballad and dismemberment.

Trippin’ On Lizard

Jessica: So, Margo’s getting her steps in out in the desert, but the poor girl forgot the number one rule of any workout: stay hydrated. That dewy, glowy skin isn’t going to water itself after all. I have to say, I was so impressed with Margo’s endurance this episode. ‘80s pop anthems could only get me so far. I’d need some motivational Gaga or some hardcore Eminem to trek through piles of sand and lick drops of sweat off the back of a lizard for survival. Bear Grylls has nothing on our High King.

Alyssa: It’s true. I also tend more towards Gaga/Robyn/twerking legend Lizzo when I need to motivate myself, but I guess White Snake will do in a pinch. Now, I’m going to be honest: I have never been on a quest through the desert myself. BUT, I am always shocked by how little water people bring on these types of things. One waterskin? Really, Margo? I get that you can’t carry that much with you, but when you head into the desert, maybe pack a backup because you won’t get the chance to refill. But if Margo had brought adequate provisions, we never would have had a semi-shirtless Id-Eliot dancing through the desert singing pop ballads, so I guess I’ll let the poor planning slide.

Jessica: All is forgiven Margo because a shirtless Eliot, writhing around in a gator-skin trench coat, singing to sick synth beats is a better hallucination than any damn island oasis. Not only did that lizard juice give us a closer version of the real Eliot for a brief time, but it also gave us another musical episode and, I’m going to say it now, no one does musical episodes like The Magicians. I’ve been wanting a deeper look into Margo’s psyche and her past for a while now, but I never thought I’d get it in song. What a gift, fam.

Alyssa: That’s really the perfect way to get to the heart of Margo, isn’t it? The hidden depths of glossy pop songs = the hidden depths of High King Margo. Summer Bishil really killed it this episode, and not just in the pipes department. The music was obviously a great time, but the sinister people she met in the desert really brought out a side of Margo that I really love: Margo the avenger. It was pretty obvious from the start that the “emotional women get killed by demons” spiel was bullsh*t, but of course, it’s not a quest without some seemingly impossible task, am I right?

Jessica: I had all the faith in the world that Margo would sift through those mountains of sand to find her black grains to forge the ultimate monster-slaying weapon because, ya know, she’s a badass. Also, she loves Eliot and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him. But damn, think of how tired her eyes must’ve been, squinting day and night, searching for these tiny black specks still without any kind of liquid refreshment. Just staring at my computer screen for an hour straight gives me headaches. But you’re right about Margo embracing her avenging side. I knew I’d gotten a whiff of patriarchal bullsh*t when the village leader explained their plight. Any time the words “only a man can save us” are uttered, my feminist rage monster appears, and she was not having it this episode.

Alyssa: Yes, there was a real stench of “it’s for the women’s good” Mike Pence kind of nonsense going on in that village. And while hallucinations aren’t always the most helpful, it was pretty damn fun seeing the whole group together for the musical numbers. Have we ever even had that many main characters on screen together at one time before? Lizard trip or not, truly a good time. What did you think of Hallucination Josh acting as Margo’s conscience? They really are trying to make that pairing happen, no matter how out of character it feels for Margo. I just feel like she’ll eat Josh alive in the long run!

Jessica: He does bring out a softer side of her, and if Margo’s proven anything it’s that she’ll fight to the death for people she cares about, so maybe she’ll spare him and use Fen as her punching bag when emotions get tough? I can’t really care about Josh’s wellbeing when other characters, like Kady and Dean Fogg pop up as subconscious spirit guides. I loved that Kady’s range still pissed Margo off and that Dean Fogg made it into her mind posse. What a team!

Not So Lucky Charms

Alyssa: Speaking of excellent teams, Quentin, Julia, and Penny really are doing their best with this whole god hunt business. With the reveal that Darth Eliot is really looking to remake his sister, not himself, things got even more dire (ain’t that always the way?). Penny makes the excellent point that if this monster just got locked up in Blackspire, his sister must be an even worse piece of work since she got put to death by Enyalius and the rest. Not. Ideal.

Jessica: I don’t like being judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to other people’s sins, but for a handful of capricious gods who are selfish, misbehaving assholes to begin with, for them to believe you’ve done something so horrible it warrants death by dismemberment and organ-stoning? I assume the crime is bigger than stealing a pack of cigs from a gas station. I was pleased that this was Darth Eliot’s plan, though. It feels more menacing, more terrifying to introduce an unknown evil that could be even worse than what we’ve gotten used to. Although I’m worried about what this means for the real Eliot. When we believed Darth Eliot was building a better body for himself, bargaining to give old Eliot his body back seemed plausible. Now? I don’t know.  

Alyssa: Listen, I completely understand and share this fear. However, I refuse to believe that after all of this we aren’t going to get a big, romantic reunion between Eliot and Q. I am clinging to that belief through each new terrible thing that Darth Eliot does because damn it. These boys deserve it. We deserve it. But yeah, the presence of another potential monster is upsetting, to say the least. So, they go off on a quest to find a leprechaun (classic), and we get another twist on a legend. While American Gods may have done “not all leprechauns are short ginger sprites” first, it’s a recent fantasy trope that always delights me. Who cares about height? The trickster spirit is the important part.

Jessica: Or gender for that matter. I for one was happy to see an Irish gal not only playing the part of a leprechaun but also running her own shoe repair shop. Mischievous and an entrepreneurial spirit? Slay, sprite, slay! I also loved that Penny, Julia, and Q had to play a couple of vintage fairground games to finally get their meeting with this elusive Celtic God. Of course, Q would bungle the crane game and Julia would have to cheat to win. It’s the little moments, like their victory high-five afterward, that keep me going, Alyssa.

Alyssa: It’s an undeniable fact that The Magicians is excellent at the small moments that really reinforce who these characters are, and the carnival games are a great example. Q stumbling through the actual gameplay because of course he loves carnivals, Julia supporting Q and gently saving the day, Penny grumpily doing the practical sh*t because everyone else is having fun. This scene, though small, was so well done. Ugh, never change, The Magicians. Unfortunately, in a similar trademark fashion, even though they made it to Enyalius, things did not go according to plan. At all.

Jessica: Let this be a lesson to adults everywhere: no matter how old, wise, or together you think you have it, always have your passwords written down somewhere. Without Apple’s trusty fingerprint scan, poor Enyalius was left trying to remember his code to unlock his magical panic room and his arrogant, lackadaisical attitude towards the whole thing really backfired in a big way. Like death and dismemberment big.

Alyssa: While it was a total bummer to see Darth Eliot get the upper hand yet again — Enyalius, we hardly knew ye — I was mostly disappointed that Julia lost an opportunity to learn more about who and what she is. Our girl deserves an explanation of her powers! Stop taking them away from her, show! Also, while we’re talking about villains getting the upper hand, I feel like we have to talk a little bit about The Library. They weren’t a huge presence in this episode, but it really seems like Zelda is reaching the end of her rope with them. The lies are getting to be too much for her, I think.

Jessica: Agreed. Now that Kady and Alice have revealed how The Library is defrauding hedge witches by claiming the levels of ambient magic are much higher than they actually are, I think Zelda feels like more of an outsider than ever and if she has no allegiance to anyone that’s a pretty exciting thing, story-wise. I don’t know how far she’ll go to curb The Library’s influence or help the group, but just presenting her with the opportunity to turn traitor feels like a big deal.

Rage In The Desert

Alyssa: As good as the other parts of this episode are, and they really are, the crown jewel has got to be Margo dealing with her daddy issues. We’re reminded of how close she and Real Eliot are in this conversation, making me wish even more that we were getting more Real Eliot this season. The bond between these two has been so strong since episode one, and I have truly missed watching them interact. Still, Hallucination Eliot will do in a pinch, giving Margo the impetus she needs to just unload all of the feminine rage that has been building inside her since girlhood. That was some deep, dark, relatable sh*t, and I feel like every woman watching has felt a similar way at one point or another.

Jessica: I teared up listening to her shakily describe her broken bond with her father. Yet again, The Magicians gives us a cuttingly-deep analysis of human behavior in the strangest of ways. Not only do we learn the reason for Margo’s lone-wolf vibe, we also learn why men like Eliot, and even Josh to an extent, can crack her hard exterior. Her father abandoned her the minute she stopped being his “little princess” and started being her own “high king,” a woman he couldn’t control. Eliot (and Josh) have never tried to control Margo. They’ve accepted her for who she is, loved her for it, and that’s made all the difference in terms of their bond with her. Why can’t all men be like Eliot, Alyssa?

Alyssa: I wonder that every time I hit Bumble, Jess. The idea of controlling women is basically tale as old as time, but The Magicians managed to do it in a way that feels relevant and fresh. In classic Margo fashion, she takes what she learned to go help other women and take down “Trump and Aunt Lydia.” I certainly wish that I had a helpful demon pop out of the ground every time I get sad or angry, but I also don’t have to survive in a harsh and unforgiving desert, so you win some you lose some. Now that she has her god killing axes, Margo is on a mission, y’all, and I wouldn’t bet against her.

What’s Next?

Jessica: Now that Margo has her demon-extracting tools, I’m assuming she’s the group’s last hope to save Eliot? Q, Julia, and Penny vanished pretty quickly after Darth Eliot got the last missing puzzle piece to create his new body, and he’s found a host of sorts in that poor, terminally ill woman he chatted up at the bar, so it looks like Margo’s our chosen one. Honestly, it’s the right choice.

Alyssa: I think you’re right. Margo is the best choice. As much as I love Q, I think Margo is more willing to make tough choices. Best case scenario, she won’t have to decide between saving the world and saving Eliot, but Margo knows the risks. She won’t risk Fillory for Eliot. HOPEFULLY, this is not a choice that she’ll have to make and everyone will get the happiness and love that they deserve, but I know it won’t be that easy. However, what I’m hoping for most is a little clarity for Julia. I’m wondering if Zelda could provide some answers if she fully breaks from The Library. All of that time wandering the stacks and researching surely gave some insight into things like god powers, right? Right?! I suppose I just have to be patient and let things unfold, but this season has been so good that patience seems like an impossible act.