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SYFY WIRE The Magicians Discussion

The Magicians Discussion: Season 4, Episode 8 sends everyone on So. Many. Quests

By Alyssa Fikse & Jessica Toomer

The Magicians gave us an episode-long break from the drama by sending everyone in different directions on a series of quests. Add in Felicia Day, "sexy" voodoo dolls, and references to The Karate Kid and you've got an episode that really leans into the fun...aside from the whole devastating prophecy part. 

By focusing on fostering unexpected friendships and the weird details that make The Magicians great, "Home Improvement" manages to shake off the midseason malaise that plagues so many shows. We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer and we're here to document every dragon sperm-covered step. 

Mirrors, Mothers, and Magic

Alyssa: This episode was one packed to the brim with QUESTS, which is usually a great sign. Ya girl loves a good quest. This season is pretty determined to continue rehabilitating Alice, and reminding us how awful her mother is and what it was like for her growing up is a very effective way to do that. This plot thread was a pretty interesting one, focusing on the fractured relationships between two pairs of mothers and daughters. We may not have seen Harriet, but the issues between her and Zelda are always in the subtext. Adding in Stephanie and Alice’s fraught bond just highlights that. Moms and daughters can be TOUGH.

Jessica: It makes me appreciate mine even more after watching Alice climb out of her own familial quicksand. Motherhood was, indeed, the theme of this episode and I appreciated how the show tackled it. We’ve seen bad mothers, we’ve seen the result of truly terrible parenting, but now we get to see the other side of the coin. We get to see women struggle with this impossible task they’re given: to raise a healthy, well-adjusted human being. Magic just makes it that much more difficult. I like this journey that Alice is on right now. She’s being forced to confront her prejudice, to realize her own mistakes and take responsibility for them. Her relationship with her mother was just one example of that, although, to be fair to Alice, Stephanie is not winning any “Mama of the Year” awards anytime soon.

Alyssa: Definitely not. Not turning her daughter into the Library is a very low bar. The bar is literally on the ground. Everything about Alice’s quest this week is forcing her to confront her own dealings with magic — being reminded of her time as a niffen always brings out a pretty dark side of Alice — but it’s good to see her making strides towards becoming healthier. It’s clear that Alice will never be able to give up magic cold turkey. You don’t just throw away talent like hers, but the attitude shift that she’s had will hopefully help her avoid more betrayal and megalomania. I feel like that’s a doable goal. However, while she’s getting better at handling her magic, her relationship with the Library is getting even harder to avoid. Zelda may claim to want to help, but she lied about Sheila pretty damn easily. Once again, you can trust her as far as you can throw her.

Jessica: I think Zelda has proven she’s willing to bend the rules she makes when it suits her and her alone, which is how she was able to make good on her promise to Alice while also keeping Sheila firmly within the Library’s grasp. In her mind, she did nothing wrong by turning Sheila to the dark side and only revealing that once Alice had helped her with her mirror magic issue. Honestly, Alice should’ve seen it coming. She spent an entire day in a Purge lock-in with a woman she was certain had turned her into the Library. She was so quick to turn on her mother, to believe the worst in her, but she trusted that Zelda of all people would come through on their deal? Wake up, honey bunches of oats, that b*tch is only out for numero uno. I can think of a few good uses for Carol’s “voodoo-dolls-for-f*cking-are-still-f*cking-voodoo-dolls” when it comes to Zelda.

Alyssa: Agreed. I’m curious to see if Zelda will really square off against the rest of the Library when it comes down to it because I can’t imagine them handling her daughter saving quest or the dealings with Alice well when that all comes out. And it will come out. Those kinds of secrets don’t stay secrets for long. Zelda obviously thinks of herself as someone who is smarter than those around her, that she is the one who knows what is Capital-R Right, and that her behavior is justified because her cause is good in theory. But it’s not sustainable. This house of cards is going to tumble and I don’t think that Harriet is going to make it out.

Poppy’s Pregnancy

Jessica: Another mom that’s just doing her best — and by best, we mean deceiving everyone around her to achieve her own selfish goals — is good ol’ Poppy, that cuckoo witch with the dragon fetish. Look, we here at SYFY Fangrrls would never kink shame, and I admit, I’m more than a tad interested in reading some dragon erotica, but fertilizing an egg with dragon splooge and convincing everyone else that the very human baby you’re carrying is actually the first dragon-human hybrid is... how do I put this delicately... batshit crazy.

Alyssa: I am always delighted to see Felicia Day pop up in pretty much anything, and I knew that Poppy’s return would be a weird one. Before we get too deep into the pregnancy details, I just want to shout out how far Q and Julia have come since the first season. Q casually mentioning that, duh, he’s met three dragons, like he was giving directions to his favorite bodega or something similarly mundane, was just delightful. I love how these characters have grown in big and small ways, and their more knowing approach to magic continues to delight me. But yes, a pregnant Poppy showing up was definitely a hilariously cruel way for the writers to give everyone a brief heart attack. Q does not need to be shackled to that kind of crazy long term.

Jessica: Right? Again, I am all in on sex positivity, but if we’re questioning the parentage of a woman like Poppy’s baby, maybe, I don’t know, keep it in your pants for a while, until we get this whole Darth Eliot situation figured out. We don’t need another pregnancy scare to add to our growing list of problems. By the way, Darth Eliot was off “taking care of” a man in the TV who deserved his wrath. Can we all just indulge my fantasy that said man was Tucker Carlson?

Alyssa: From your lips to the goddess’s ears. I am now taking this as the only acceptable headcanon for this situation. Speaking of goddesses, we learned a new cool thing about Julia: no egg fever! Handy. I really hope she gets some answers soon because this slow piecing together of what she really is has got to be frustrating. It is for me, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for her. Yes, I know these people are fictional. Yes, I might care about them too much. I liked that she got her hero moment bargaining with the dragon, but she still just seems to be in so much pain. Give her answers, show! And let her and Penny 23 make out!

Jessica: I’m more convinced than ever that Penny 23 is the best version of Penny that ever will be. The sweet pep talk he gave to Kady, the way he is with Julia, I’m not ashamed to admit I have puppy dog eyes for our alternate-timeline caramel rice cake. He lightens the mood when it’s needed, he supports his friends, he seems to truly appreciate the team after his misadventures with Marina. I am all for a Julia hook-up at some point. But first, Julia must figure things the f*ck out and this dragon quest felt like a step in the right direction. Sure, that East River garbage dweller gave the fuzziest of details on what binder Julia needs to find to unlock the mystery of her makeup, but at least it’s something to go on, right? And with Kady back in the mix, this episode really gave Julia some agency in her own quest. I love those two working together, even when working together means holding a dragon egg at gunpoint.

Alyssa: 100% agree. Kady + Julia = the brOTP of my heart. This show does friendship so exceedingly well, and I’m always happy to see that explored. It’s so common for romance to be prioritized over friendship in media, so I hope they continue to lean into that. Romance was definitely not a major component of this particular episode, but the specter of Queliot remained. When Poppy asked Quentin if he ever wanted to be a father, I literally yelled “HE ALREADY WAS! *SOB*” at my computer screen. I know this is the smallest crumb for shipping, but I devoured it all the same.

The Napster

Jessica: I often like to imagine that somewhere, in a happier alternate universe, Queliot is still living in the woods, doing puzzles and raising babies together. It’s the only way I get through some of the harder stuff on this show, like Fen’s dream quest. Not that I don’t love Fen or quests because both are my particular brand of genre catnip, but we found out some pretty damning information this episode when it comes to Fen’s destiny. Before we get into that though, let’s take a moment to appreciate Margo who addressed the elephant in the room right off the bat. Our High King knows everyone’s weirded out by her hook up with Josh so she graciously explains to Fen that, when a person of her caliber bangs a guy like Josh, things get weird. It’s okay to feel a bit icky about it, guys. Margo herself said so.

Alyssa: I am seriously enjoying all of the time that Margo and Fen are spending one-on-one this season. Without the Eliot factor, these two are really getting a chance to explore their relationship without a charming buffer. These are not women who would naturally be drawn to each other, but every time they work together, they both realize a little bit more about the other. Like the fact that Fen is a Mr. Miyagi stan. This episode really drove home how different they are and how they need each other, like with Margo seeing through the Prophet’s lies immediately. Something tells me that Margo called in to Miss Cleo at a young age and realized that more often than not, these types of seers are actually full of sh*t.

Jessica: Margo also just doesn’t feel like the kind of person that would put much stock into premonitions and fortune telling. Even if Nostradamus himself read her palm and said, “Girl, watch out,” she’d probably scoff, have him beheaded, and then take an Ambien and sleep like a damn baby. But I do think she needs to pay a bit more attention to Fen’s dreams because it sounds like the High King is in for a mutinous time. What did you think about the Cat Lady’s prediction that Fen would overthrow Margo at some point?

Alyssa: With how linked they are this season, I’m not surprised that their destinies are intertwined. However, knowing this show, it definitely won’t be as straightforward as a classic royal betrayal. I trust Fen to confide the reality of their futures to Margo because, despite her knife skills, the girl raised to marry the king is no backstabber. The future of Fillory is literally always at stake, so hopefully, they can work through this particular uprising as a team. Ladies supporting ladies and all that good stuff.

What’s Next

Jessica: I’m no seer but I definitely think some rough seas are in our future. This episode was a fun jaunt that felt light and absurd in the best possible way but it also set in motion an endgame, or at least, gave us signs of one. Quentin and the team accomplished their mission of finding a new tool to help Darth Eliot. Julia got advice from a dragon about her self-realization quest. Kady’s still mulling over her hedge witch problems but it looks like she might have an ally in Pete. Margo is one step closer to figuring out the situation in Fillory and Fen’s on her own path of destiny. And of course, Alice is free of her Sheila savior routine so her magical help is up for grabs. I felt like this episode tied up a few ends and started unspooling even more threads — the classic Magicians formula, right?

Alyssa: Not to inspire panic, but there are only five more episodes this season. We are definitely building toward the end (for now), so these threads are going to start coming together in a big way. Getting the stone organ is definitely a big step in Darth Eliot’s plan, but I am still worried for Real Eliot despite the monster’s apparent compliance to the deal. Honestly, I am way more interested in what’s next for Alice than I expected because it’s such a question mark. Where does she even go next? I feel like something terrible is brewing in Fillory and that we’re facing another war, especially considering Fen’s destiny. Basically, everything is a mess. And I can’t wait to see how it shakes out.