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SYFY WIRE The Magicians Discussion

The Magicians Discussion: Season 4, Episode 9 proves everyone has a dark side

By Jessica Toomer & Alyssa Fikse

The Magicians' ninth episode is titled "The Serpent," but it's worms our ragtag band of witches should really be worried about. 

This week, the show battles a new evil enacted by The Library which means some surprising alliances take place. Of course, Margo's got her own problems in Fillory (read: Fen) that become unavoidable this episode and we're one step closer to a Queliot reunion when Penny uses his psychic abilities to glean into the monster's memories. If this episode proved anything it's that everyone has a dark side, but not all of them are as entertaining as we'd hoped. 

We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we'll be breaking down all of the mutinous, mirrored mayhem happening in this week's episode of The Magicians so put on some Pat Benatar and prepare yourself. 


Jessica: So, this episode answered the question we’ve all silently been asking: What if those Anonymous guys got their hands on a bag of militant, magical worms? Turn out, they could really f*ck some sh*t up. The hedge witches face a new threat with these creepy-crawlers that basically roast them from the inside should they do any kind of magic, no matter how small, which, ew. I appreciate raising the stakes in this particular subplot but couldn’t we have found a way to do that without triggering my gag reflex?

Alyssa: Yeah, I would be content if I never saw another inside boiling worm again in my life. Because yikes. The Magicians has done some gross stuff in the past, but those made my skull itch. But beyond the grossness, the hedges really are never going to catch a break, are they? Even with Kady as their Mockingjay, it seems like the Library is always one step ahead of them. Would you trust those guys to eventually remove your magic blocking tattoo? Because I sure wouldn’t.

Jessica: Any time we move into “marking entire subsets of people” territory, I get suspicious. Call me crazy, but that has never ended well in the past has it? I certainly appreciate elevating Kady to “new Marina” status and giving her something to do for the rest of the season though. And, bonus, Kady’s boss-b*tch hedge-witch journey intersects quite nicely with Alice’s Apology Tour so the show has found a sly way of regrouping our heroes and pulling storylines together once again. But yeah, The Library is like the Ministry of Magic if that governing body was run by Voldemort, which becomes apparent when we discover the real source of the worms.

Alyssa: Exactly. This is some Deathly Hallows Ministry sh*t going on, except maybe worse? I mean, the Library isn’t trying to enslave Muggles, but using these worms to keep an unruly populace under control is seriously dark. Surprise! Each new thing we learn about the Library is even worse than the last new cool thing we learn about the Library! Luckily, Kady and Alice have a pretty involved mole.

Alice Through The Looking Glass

Jessica: Yes, Harriet is the gift that keeps on giving this season. Zelda has already compromised her position in The Library numerous times to save her daughter but this team-up with Kady, Alice and (by default) the hedge witches feels like the final nail in her career coffin. I can’t say I’m surprised or even mad about it. I think, with Zelda on their side, the team can really get some sh*t done, and after Harriet’s revelation, don’t you think Zelda’s finally done drinking the Kool-Aid?

Alyssa: That’s the thing that I can’t figure out. I feel like if Zelda was really going to break away from The Library, all of the hell that they put Harriet through would have been the breaking point, yes? Perhaps this new information that the true source of the worms is her mentor will finally pull her out of it for good, but dang, she’s seen the worst that they can do and has still been on board. Zelda likes to think of herself as a good and moral magician, but she has excused a lot of darkness for the greater good. I’m not 100% sure she can really come back from that. Still, if Alice can be on a path to making good with those she’s hurt, I can’t really count out Zelda’s redemption. Speaking of Alice, what did you think about seeing her Niffin-like side writ large again?

Jessica: Unpopular opinion time: I prefer Evil Alice. Yes, the witch is filled with an insane arrogance and sports an unbelievable ego, but for me at least, that’s preferable to regular Alice’s mousy self. I want her Niffin side to rub off a bit more. Alice is powerful and smart but she always seems to be apologizing for that in some way or trying to stifle that part of herself. I think this episode proved that by not embracing her gifts, she actually caused more damage. Also, who can’t relate to Darth Alice? “She destroyed my life with her crazy ideas and her insane confidence” is me every time I drink a bottle of wine and decide to go online shopping.

Alyssa: I’m not sure that’s an unpopular opinion! Alice’s particular brand of crazy skill and mumbling mousiness tends to grate. While the Niffin confidence all the time would probably mean the destruction of the world or at least magic in the long run, it’s definitely fun to see once in a while. Maybe if Alice could find some middle ground, I’d be rooting for her a little harder. Getting the binder for Julia is a step in the right direction unless she decides to use it as manipulative leverage instead of being helpful. Which is not out of the realm of possibility for Alice. Is she really dedicated to the mea culpas if people aren’t necessarily receptive to them? I might get annoyed if everyone kept shutting down my apologies, even if I knew deep down that I deserved the scorn. Basically, I get why Alice is a mess right now, but I hope she pushes through it to actually keep doing some good.

Psychic Penny

Jessica: Speaking of Julia, she’s still with Penny and Q trying to figure out her God-status and help an increasingly whiny Darth Eliot find his final flay. Don’t get me wrong, Darth Eliot gets the best one-liners this season, but this episode really hammered home how much I miss the real thing. And Q definitely misses him too. Penny’s plan of destroying the final stone so the monster couldn’t enact his endgame was sound, but Q is not having it for obvious reasons which means our time-traveler/psychic is forced to relive some strange memories in a bid to help the creature discover his origins. Poor Penny.

Alyssa: Listen, I love Darth Eliot and his ever-rotating collection of weird graphic tees, but Real Eliot still being trapped is bumming me out. I want my snark with the detachment of a disaffected beautiful youth, not the weird cadence of a god who can’t be bothered. Except when he’s hunting down psychics. But yeah, Penny 23 proves yet again that he’s the underrated MVP of the team. While I’m usually not in favor of using potential danger as manipulation to get a date, damn it if I’m still rooting for Julia and Penny to figure out their sh*t and make out. If that takes a near-death experience with a side of human sacrifice, so be it.

Jessica: As much as I’d love to see Eliot ice cave climbing sans clothes, I get the feeling this whole body-snatch plotline is nearing its end. Everyone’s frustrated and we only have one hurdle remaining to finish this damn thing and finally get that Penny/Julia pairing. (Let them hookup, you cowards!) I think this whole ordeal has really taken its toll on Q and the rest of the gang, but I’m even more worried about the ripple effects of Darth Eliot’s possession. What is he really planning? What did Penny see? What’s going to happen to Margo?

Alyssa: This episode ended on a particularly cruel cliffhanger, NOT TELLING US WHAT PENNY SAW. Sh*t is obviously about to get very, very bad. Once you start mixing in other gods and human sacrifice, building a weird stone body (or so we thought!) seems like small potatoes. Which apparently it is. I think I’ve kind of grown complacent about the monster? Like, it’s funny and has Eliot’s face, so sometimes I forget that this was a creature that was locked up in a castle in a nether realm in order to keep it from enacting its plans. I feel like the writers probably knew that it was a possibility to grow numb to its evil, hence the plan shakeup. Whatever is coming is going to be dark as hell.

Margo’s Sacrifice

Jessica: Speaking of dark and terrible things, this episode revealed a hard truth for me: Pat Benatar songs are my emotional kryptonite. After learning of Fen’s destiny to overthrow Margo last week, I knew things in Fillory were about to get mutinous but I did not expect it to go down that way. And by that, I mean with Fen crying, Margo crying, and me crying at my screen. I know this sets up Margo’s quest to rescue Eliot — she needs the kind of demon-extractor you can only find in a dessert at the edges of the realm — but damn, watching someone else take her throne was rough.

Alyssa: I feel like I get so caught up in Margo’s strength and sass and forget how selfless she can be. You wouldn’t expect that on the surface, but Margo more than maybe anyone else on The Magicians is willing to absolutely throw down to save the people that she loves. Like, “give up her throne and accept banishment while still backhandedly singing the praises of her usurper” level of throwing down. I really love the dynamic that has grown between Margo and Fen this season. They’ve really started trusting each other in a profound way that we hadn’t really seen before, and I really hope that it’s a dynamic that sticks around after they save Eliot. Because damn it, Margo WILL save Eliot.

Jessica: Hell yes she will, and then she’ll bang Josh’s puny brains out and feast on danishes after that. Margo deserves whatever her heart desires and I won’t accept anything but a happy ending for our one true high-king. But before that, I think she’s got a long, tough road ahead of her. She can handle it of course, but this trek to the desert feels like a turning point for her character. I think we’re going to see some big changes for Margo in the next episode or two, and I’m here for it.

What’s Next?

Alyssa: I feel a real sense of impending doom with the upcoming episodes, man. Darth Eliot is gaining power to only Penny knows what end, Margo is off to wander the wasteland, Fen is High King now I guess, and Q just wants his boyfriend (Queliot will be canon. I refuse any alternative.) back. It’s A LOT. As hesitant as I am to admit it, I think Alice is going to be really important going forward. She really knows what’s going on with the Library, she has been the most successful in magically resisting Darth Eliot (even if the course of true love has put a few kinks in her spells, they would have worked!), and she has what Julia needs to deal with her goddess powers. That’s a lot of threads all leading back to one person.

Jessica: Agreed. Alice has all the leverage right now. The only question is: How will she use it? I think deep down, she wants to do good, but you’re right about those apologies wearing thin. Maybe it’s time she stops saying sorry and starts working towards a clear and defined goal? The Library’s crusade against the hedge-witches could be that for her, but I think the show needs to wrap up this Eliot storyline first. It’s gone on much longer than I imagined and having two big bads (Darth Eliot and The Library) just pulls focus. Which one should we be worried about more? By having two evils, it’s hard to give either much stock, so maybe Margo can extract the monster from Eliot and then the team can focus their efforts on destroying this worm weapon.