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SYFY WIRE The Magicians Discussion

The Magicians Discussion: Season 4, Episode 3 battles some bad luck

By Jessica Toomer & Alyssa Fikse

On this week's episode of The Magicians, we learn that luck is the ficklest of things and also, stuffed bears are not always as cuddly as they appear. In "The Bad News Bear," the group reunites for a heist that trades some powerful magic for a lot of bad juju and it's all coming Quentin's way while Margo goes on a God-killing quest with Evil Eliot and Alice MacGyvers her way out of The Library's prison (almost). 

Trigger warning: Toilet-dwelling pythons and a truly disappointing truth about Santa pop up in this episode. Plan accordingly. We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we'll be your guides on this wild ride. 

The Best Terrible Luck

Alyssa: I’ve got to say, I think this was my favorite episode of the season so far. The Magicians excels when the team works together, and now that everyone has their OG identities back, the dynamic is back on track. Well, mostly. Eliot is still a monster on a quest to kill as many gods as possible. Not great. But at least Margo’s found him, so one half of that beautiful friendship is where it should be.

Jessica: This episode was, in a word, FUN. I mean, the opening sequence predicted it. Margo’s finally back with the gang (read: Eliot), they’ve all got their respective tasks to perform, and Marina’s off getting a breakfast burrito instead of dealing with their sh*t. Same, Marina, same. There were a lot of moving parts in this episode, but it never felt loaded down or too confusing to follow, and that’s saying something for a show like this. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I loved it? Yeah, I loved it.

Alyssa: Pretty much immediately, I was reminded why I love this show so much. As soon as Margo showed up, the dynamic between her and Eliot (even though he is decidedly not Eliot at the moment) just settled back into place. That softness that comes out of her only for him. Our b*tch queen has a heart, and it’s for Eliot. I stan one beautiful friendship. Unfortunately, their time was brief and she and Josh were off to find Bacchus. Luckily, we got something pretty awesome in her absence: another heist! This show is so good at heists! (Side note: I binge-watched You recently, so it was a little jarring for me to see mild-mannered bookstore employee Ethan in the world of magic. Side side note: I think if I could pick any magical power, it would be luck because that honestly seems awesome. I want birds to bring me sandwiches!)

Jessica: I know that in the grander scheme of things, Eliot’s body-snatching monster problem is going to fuel the conflict, but damn, did I enjoy this almost bottle episode. It’s like someone on the writing team said: “Let’s do Ocean’s Eleven, but make it magic.” Poor Quentin is no George Clooney though. He's more like an explosion-prone Matt Damon type, but our little magical Prius pulled through with some slick card-playing skills. I don’t know about you, but this more lighthearted episode was desperately needed for me. I know things are going to get rough and I wanted a reminder of the good times before that happened.

Alyssa: Not only was it fun, it really made a few things from last season clearer. A reminder about the McCallisters basically running magic now was very helpful, as was the affirmation of what Julia’s goddess status really was. Still a goddess, none of the cool powers. I obviously don’t want to be spoonfed by my television, but a little refresher is always good. Also always good? Julia and Q being bros. This show really does male/female friendship beautifully, and that is such an underrepresented thing on TV. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, obviously. There is the matter of that very unlucky bear and poor Kady. POOR KADY. I had hoped that maybe things were turning around for her at the beginning of the season, but it’s clear that her witness protection identity’s stable life did not spill over into her real identity. I think the fact that Penny isn’t her Penny is going to be a real problem still.

Jessica: I too was disappointed that Kady still feels “on the fringe” when it comes to the group. I appreciated how she took a bit of control and “handled” the Marina situation — they’ve still got the McCallisters searching for them but at least Marina won’t be one of the bounty hunters for hire — but I think the focus on those friendships this episode, Margo and Eliot’s and Quentin’s and Julia’s just made it painfully clear that Kady is missing that. Will the real Penny please come back? But even worse than Kady’s estrangement from the group was Quentin’s stuffed bear problem. He had a no good, very bad day y’all. Apparently, if you’re going to forge a magical black card imbibed with luck in order to retrieve magical batteries so you can pay people off and perform bigger spells in this Library-controlled universe, someone’s got to carry around the conduit for all the bad luck you’re avoiding and surprise surprise, Q drew the short straw. He really is the unluckiest, saddest-looking puppy of the group.

Alyssa: Jason Ralph is so good at looking like a devastated puppy, so this was the right call. Giant pythons from the toilet! Not a good deal! Luckily, it wasn’t for nothing and they got their coins, but it definitely triggered a crisis of faith for Q. I think it was a good call for him to question if magic was really worth all of this, and it was important for this question to happen with Julia. Everyone has given up a lot, but these two have given up A LOT, and while they are still a team, obviously, I wasn’t left feeling particularly at ease about their final conversation. I don’t know if Q would give up magic altogether, but it certainly makes sense that he would wonder if it was worth it. So, what are your thoughts on Kady keeping the card? That is obviously going to be terrible in the long run, right?

Jessica: Oh no. It’s going to work out perfectly as these secret schemes always do on this show... of course, it’s going to be terrible, Alyssa. It’s just how terrible that’s the true question. I understand why Kady kept the card and I even appreciate that while the alternate identities have been shed, some of their effects are still there. Quentin wanting an easier life, Josh bemoaning the loss of his huge dick, and Kady wishing she had that go-getter attitude. She definitely went and got it with this little deception but I can’t imagine The Library is just going to ignore one of their most wanted, especially when she’s basically carrying around a magical tracing card now.

Missing media item.Killing A God

Alyssa: Speaking of Josh and his giant dong, I enjoyed his dynamic with Margo more than I expected to in this episode. Margo can be weirdly inspiring at times — her encouragement is usually insult based, but it works — and Josh could certainly use a pep talk or two. Sure, they were working at the behest of evil Eliot and his god hunting agenda, but putting my favorite character with my least favorite leveled things out a bit. Even if Josh struggled to get the job done. Classic giant dick move. Josh, remember: it doesn’t matter how big it is. If you can’t complete the task at hand, it’s still useless.

Jessica: Useless is the best way to describe Josh, tbh. I’m still confused as to why it took Margo almost poisoning a group of strangers for him to finally quit nut-sacking out. I mean, if he didn’t slip a bit of ambrosia into Bacchus’ drink, he and the rest of the group would’ve been toast. Is the threat of a terrible death for you and your closest buddies not incentive enough to betray a dude you’ve partied with once? What really made this quest of Evil Eliot’s interesting for me though was to see how Margo was able to humanize him a bit. It’s weird he feels a kinship with her but it also peeled back some of the mystery of who this creature is and what he wants. Also, have I mentioned how creepy it is to hear Evil Eliot hold a conversation? He sounds like what I imagine I might sound like if I overdosed on Ambien, Xanax, and got the itch to murder something. Chill AF serial killers are my nightmare.

Alyssa: It’s definitely weird and highlights how much this isn’t Real Eliot. The cadence is just… awful. It leaves a chill down the spine for sure. I’m curious to see how or if the creature is exposed. What is lurking beneath the Eliot skin suit? I’m also curious to see more of the dynamic between this monster and the other gods. Right before he flayed Bacchus (always with the flaying this guy), he mentioned that they shared a family tree. Can you imagine being labeled a monster when the rest of your family was full of gods? I don’t know if it would send me on a killing spree, but that would certainly hurt my feelings. I’m not saying I condone his choices, but I am definitely starting to understand them. Do I sound like one of those psychos who are in love with Ted Bundy right now?

Jessica: Ha no, we haven’t crossed that line yet. But you’d be forgiven (by me at least) for sympathizing with this guy. I mean, he’s wearing Eliot’s face. I can remind myself all day he’s a Thanos-type that enjoys killing just for the sport of it, but then I see Eliot’s beautiful mug and the feelings get complicated. To be fair, words like “monster” and “God” are so interchangeable on this show. Plenty of Gods have done terrible things, so to ostracize this one feels unfair. I mean, the spine-ripping, disemboweling stuff is a bit much but then again, it sounds like something terrible was done to him by people he trusted, maybe even loved? That kind of trauma leaves a mark. I want to know what he’s looking for, why it was stolen from him, and most importantly, what does it mean should he get it back because here’s the dilemma: getting rid of Evil Eliot would’ve been relatively easy for Margo to do back in Marina’s apartment. A bit of ambrosia, a god-killing bullet maybe? But then, Eliot would be gone too and no one is okay with that. (Translation: I AM NOT OKAY WITH THAT!) So how far are we willing to go to help this creature for the sake of our friend? Kill a God or two? Something worse? Do you think the group’s going to reach a point where they have to choose between sacrificing Eliot to save the world or letting this monster get what he wants, reign terrible destruction, in exchange for the return of their friend? I don’t know what I’d choose if we’re being truthful.

Alyssa: Here’s how I look at it: Alice basically sold everyone out in an attempt to save magic and she still got screwed. I think at this point in the show, making that kind of sacrifice doesn’t work out. In a lot of fantasy, the hero’s noble sacrifice always saves the day, but it’s not so cut and dry on The Magicians. Sometimes a sacrifice doesn’t work. That doesn’t necessarily give them free rein to just make selfish choices because the painful ones don’t work anyway, but it does add a level of nuance. If they’re just going to get f*cked over by the magical cosmos anyway, why wouldn’t they risk it all to save their friend? Honestly, in the good to bad scheme of things, magic has almost done more harm than good to this group.

Alice Almost Escapes

Jessica: And yet, our babies are still optimists at heart. Case in point: Alice, who despite all evidence to the contrary, believes escaping The Library is going to be as easy as holding a cockroach or two in her mouth. Don’t get me wrong, the girl is a G.E.N.I.U.S. I mean, using anti-magic paint to break a magical lock on her cell door? That’s Mission Impossible level sh*t. But after learning that The Library stores books of people’s entire lives, everything they have done or will do, I knew retrieving them would not be so easy. Also, Saint Nick is a lil b*tch, y’all.

Alyssa: Listen, it was a dick move. But Santa has a lot of people counting on him. Mrs. Clause, all the elves, Rudolph. And not to mention all of the kids waiting for their Christmas presents! But still, betraying Alice in her moment of need was not cool. Not cool at all. The Library hasn’t been particularly understanding when people step out of line (understatement of the year), so I don’t anticipate good things in Alice’s near future. I almost feel like the show is forcing her into penance for what she did last season. She has had extraordinarily bad luck. Also, are the Librarians allowed to just modify people’s life books like that? That feels like a REAL OVERSTEP.

Jessica: Jolly Old Saint Nick is not someone I want to have my back in a pinch is all I’m saying. He had no second thoughts about shimmying up that chimney and leaving Alice out to dry. And how condescending of him to tell her she was still on his nice list before he went? B*tch, you're the one getting all the coal this year. But you’re right about The Library. No real librarian would ever think to alter a piece of literature to serve their own goals. That’s sacrilege. Honestly, librarians are getting such a bad rap on this show and I feel it’s our duty to sort out the fake news a bit. But it totally gels with how I view these particular “librarians” that they’d be willing to rewrite someone’s story to serve their own needs. I’m just terrified of what that means for the group. They’ve already suffered in an alternate-identity timeline. They’re just now catching up on all those missed Insta notifications. They do not need this.

What’s Next?

Alyssa: Listen, a backed up Instagram feed is no one’s friend. As fun and semi-optimistic as this episode was, I think the group’s troubles are just beginning. They really aren’t any closer to identifying this god killer inside Eliot, and while exposing their identities brought them back together and restored their memories, I can’t imagine the McCallisters will leave them be for long. I think their modified books are further proof of that. Do you think Alice is the key? Keeping her separate from everyone else for so long has to mean something, right?

Jessica: No question. The poor girl didn’t 9 ¾ her way through magical walls for nothing. There’s a reason she’s still in The Library and I think you hit the nail on the head earlier: she’s being forced to perform a sick kind of penance for betraying her friends. This is her chance to make amends before being reconciled with the group. I wouldn’t mind if she took out a Librarian or two on the way either. I think they’ll need her in the end, when it’s finally time for Julia (and I do think it will be Julia) to face off against Evil Eliot, but for now she needs to get her hands on those books to keep her friends safe and Margo needs to find out what exactly the monster is looking for. And the saddest puppy in the world needs to find out if his dad died. There are just SO. MANY. THINGS.