In The Magicians, magic is a mundane problem, like taxes or cell phone minutes. That means casting spells only makes regular-people problems already worse than they were before.
Spoilers ahead for The Magicians Season 2, Episode 5: “Cheat Day”
In the latest episode of The Magicians, Eliot’s wife Fen figures out she’s having a baby thanks to a rabbit comically groaning “pregnant.” Meanwhile, back on Earth, Julia finds out she’s pregnant too, but not through magical means. After all the spells, niffins, curses, and battle magic, The Magicians is back to dealing with relatable people problems, which unsurprisingly makes the fantasy magic and the characters all more realistic than ever before.
In the Magicians books, nearly everything that makes them good has to do with magic standing in as a metaphor for something that complicates your life. Magic is creativity. Magic is a career in the arts. Magic is an unstable or untested drug. Magic is a kind of shortcut or cheat. Magic, like the word that usual goes with it, is a trick. The latest episode of the show honors those themes with awesome results. When a returning Professor Mayakovsky asks Penny if he even likes magic, Penny says, matter-of-factly, “I like it like money or food or anything else that’s useful.” Everything about this episode has the same message: Magic is like something that is real .. only more magic-y.
Of the pregnancies in this week’s episode, Julia’s is the trickier of the two since she isn’t sure if her baby is going to be human or not. In the previous season, the evil Reynard the Fox possessed the body of Julia’s buddy Richard, meaning when Reynard raped Julia it’s totally unclear if the result might be a dark Fox-god or a human baby. Either way, Julia wants to be rid of it. But throughout the episode, weird events prevent Julia from having an abortion, meaning she ends the episode still pregnant and unsure of what kind of baby she’s going to have.
In contrast, Fen is stoked about Eliot’s baby and it’s pretty clear that they’re going to keep it. Assuming, of course, that Eliot can prevent Fillory from being overrun by the indigenous people who don’t want to see humans ruling their kingdom.
Class warfare between the royal court and the rest of Fillory becomes apparent, and as Margo observes: “When we’re the least snobby people in the room, there’s something wrong with the room.” This is great because while it’s been fun for to watch Eliot struggle as a king with stuff like fertilizer, an assassination attempt from the poor plebes makes everything in Fillory finally seem a little more real.
Penny’s hands still aren’t working right, so he spends the entire episode hanging out in the cold and remote “Brakebills South” with the dishonored Professor Mayakovsky. At the same time, Quentin is laying low in real-world New York with Mayakovsky’s former lover, Emily Greenstreet. Emily and Quentin are working at a regular-person office, though both are aware they are former Magicians in hiding.
For those who love to ship Alice and Quentin, don’t worry, Emily isn’t his new love interest, though they do have sex, albeit while using magic to look like each other’s deceased lovers. Watching Quentin sleep with Emily while she’s magically transformed to look like Alice is creepy, depressing, and sad, but it’s also a great use of magic as a metaphor for how people might deal with depression. In real life, people sometimes sleep around to get over the deep depression of a losing someone they loved. Magic just escalates things.
At the end of the episode, stumbling through the New York streets, Quentin sees what can only be Alice in niffin form, her ghost. She’s clearly mouthing the words, “Help me,” which means after this reality check, Quentin Coldwater is going to have to get down to the business of bringing people back from the dead.
The Magicians airs Wednesday nights on SyFy.