The beauty and tragedy of magic are on full display as new obstacles arise for the entire Brakebills crew on The Magicians Season 3 Episode 5.
This week’s episode of The Magicians is perhaps the best example of what this show does so well and how well it can do it. To be honest, my initial reaction while watching was that it’s one of, if not the, (thematically) strongest episodes the series has ever had.
In nearly every storyline of “A Life in the Day,” the show delivers on both the beauty and horrors of metaphorical and literal fantasy. From this, we get striking juxtapositions and realities about life, death, and love.
For example, when some are young, they believe that a Prince Charming will come and carry them away to a new kingdom and blessed life. This is represented by Margo’s newly arranged marriage.
And while there may be hurdles (as we see with her), we believe true love will eventually prevail. Except in the real world, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes he never comes. Sometimes he comes and he's awful.
Or sometimes our Prince Charming is murdered by their younger brother and we’re still forced, due to old, outdated customs, to marry the creepy and somewhat repulsive murderer that you’re not even sure is of legal age.
Margo has had to do some serious dancing this season, mostly by herself. I was so excited to finally see her get something that she wanted, but I should have known it was too good to be true. Hopefully, Margo will stop getting the short end of the stick soon. Really soon.
Then there’s Eliot and Quentin’s episodic arc, which sees them literally grow old together — even starting a family — before bouncing back to their first timeline. It’s a common trope in fantasy and sci-fi, but The Magicians pushes it to the limits.
Getting the chance to venture into a fantasy world (like that of Narnia or Fillory) is exciting. However, the idea of growing old without really realizing the gravity of it is somewhat terrifying.
When the Penvinses go to Narnia and defeat the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, they seemingly forget about their own life. There, they grow older as rulers until somehow they are lead down a path back home.
Quentin and Eliot’s “alternate reality” is something like this. They cross into Fillory to solve a problem and discover a life there instead. Except, they don’t stumble on the “wardrobe door” (or key) back home until it’s too late.
In true Magicians fashion, the episode takes the trope to the extreme with Eliot eventually dying and Quentin (with the help of Margo) needing to find a way to bring him back.
They do eventually make it back and though initially, they don't remember much, when the floodgates open they're pretty powerful. Not only was the entire sequence so beautifully touching, that final note at the end of "A Life in the Day" really sealed the emotional weight.
As for Julia and Alice's storylines, they really only had around five minutes of screen time, but every one packed a punch. At the end of “A Life in the Day,” Alice reveals that no matter what form she’s existed in, she’s always been defined by magic.
It’s a great metaphor for every college class’s overachiever, the magical version of “I’m perfect because that’s what people expect and because they expect it that’s all I know how to be.”
This is exactly how Alice was billed in The Magicians Season 1, but The Magicians Season 2 was all about how destructive that mentality is. Now in The Magicians Season 3, Alice is back to her old self, but she is still harboring some of that darkness.
All season I've questioned who Alice is, which seems to be the point. It was nice to see that internal dilemma addressed and a more sympathetic reasoning to her actions, other than a residual niffin power trip, emerge.
As for Julia, we find out the horrifying truth behind her powers. She does have extra sprinkles provided by the gods, and those sprinkles come from the being that is the source of her trauma.
While Our Lady Underground tries to sooth Julia about this, we see her struggle with it, and that seems entirely fair. How would you feel if you had suddenly become the monster you hated?
Power (and magic) are incredible and in a world where no one else has it, Julia is lucky. But does it actually matter where magic comes from? Is there some ethical magic sourcing that needs to happen here?
Finally, there was the fall out of Penny’s death. So there are several layers to this, the first of which was it was nice to see Penny’s death have a dramatic impact. He mattered to someone. Two people actually, as Alice even tried to help him.
The next is that Kady did not at all respond how anyone expected her to, which is again, another form of this twisted good. And actually slightly refreshing.
Penny is back which, considering that Kady almost died over him, should be a cause for celebration. You think it may even lead to an awkward ghost kiss. But the exact opposite happens.
Kady is angry and bitter that she nearly killed herself in the name of love. It’s like a weird version of Romeo and Juliet where one appears as a ghost and the other realizes what a bad idea it all was and yells on camera about it.
The world of The Magicians is not a fairytale. You shouldn't have your entire sense of self-wrapped up in someone else, especially a broody boy you have feelings for, but barely know.
Penny didn’t have any control over the nature of his death (and thus shouldn’t be blamed), but Kady also shouldn’t have had to bear that, in the name of "love," entirely on her own. She did and now she's paying for it big time. Maybe Penny can be the Prince Charming Margo didn't get?
To be honest, Kady and Penny feel like a good parallel between the somewhat uncomfortable and toxic nature of Alice and Quentin and their romantic relationship.
Excuse the gushing, but I love the darkness that constantly settles just underneath the light in The Magicians and vice versa. This episode is entirely right in line with the series whole “be careful what you wish for” aesthetic that it does so well.
Beyond all of that, I'm now curious to see where Alice and Julia's final cliffhanger moment takes us. I hope the answer isn't simple. It would seem silly to have everyone jumping through hoops for four episodes just to have the answer right under their nose.
I am also invested in Kady's situation. This seems like a personal hell and I feel like Penny, who bragged about always saving everyone, should prove he wasn't just being cocky.
I am so deeply saddened that Margo lost that hot, hot man. Rest in pieces, hot man. You will be missed.
Not only did I really enjoy the Eliot and Quentin sequence by the puzzle (as well as the answer), but I also enjoyed how it threaded the entire narrative together. It's cool to think that the Brakebills kids didn't just stumble into someone else's story.
They are completely and entirely the story.
If you have thoughts about The Magicians' latest episode "A Life In the Day," comment below! And if you haven't caught up, you can watch The Magicians online
Abbey White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.