The events of The Magicians Season 3 Episode 13 “Will You Play With Me?” left fans shook, and the return doesn’t disappoint. The Magicians Season 4 Episode 1, “A Flock of Lost Birds,” deftly introduces the new world order and sets the course for the season ahead.
Our Brakebills students have all been leading new lives with glamours placed on them for their safety. Introducing us to their new lives is something that has to be done quickly but also give us enough to keep the plot moving forward.
It’s a little jarring when a new student arrives at Brakebill’s to take the entrance exam. Kimber seems like a new student we are going to follow through the season as she learns about magic being real.
It makes sense that we'd see a new student in this scenario, our favorite characters are spread out, magic has just been rationed, and yet we're familiar with this school and the students. The show needed a way back, to show us how the magic rationing would affect the school.
The scene lets us see the process through a new point of view, instead of sticking with the students taking the changing test, we see Dean Fogg studying their answers, and he seems particularly interested in Kimber.
Kimber sits for the exam as viewers saw before in The Magicians Season 1, but it isn’t all it seems. Dean Fogg’s interest in her and unyielding belief should have been the tipoff that Kimber was really Julia. Revealed three-quarters of the way through the episode, it sets up for a repentant relationship that has the potential to be rewarding.
There is a touch of regret and sadness in Dean Fogg’s voice when he tells Julia her own story, and Julia oblivious to the fact that it’s her own life, smiles sadly. Julia may not know who she is, but this is a woman who was briefly a goddess, so the audience is definitely rooting for her.
Julia’s story is one of the ones I am the most excited to see. She went on quite a journey through the previous three seasons, but one thing that has always been alluded to when they visit alternate timelines is her potential.
She belongs at Breakbills, and now she can get the education she so deserves.
In some ways, it feels like the series is setting up for Julia to save the day again, and I have to wonder if it’s not so much Quentin’s story anymore, but Julia’s. Quentin may have been our way in, but Julia has been finding her way quite successfully.
The other characters also seem to be leading fascinating lives, and I have to say, this episode is particularly paying attention to its female characters.
Katie is a cop named Sam Cunningham, an odd switch for her and yet a very fitting one. Katie has always been in the pull of dark forces and seedy underbellies. Seeing her on the other side of the law is a curious shift in viewpoint, and yet it fits her so well.
Watching her as an undercover cop subverts the expectation set up on The Magicians Season 3 Episode 13 when the audience saw her buying drugs. It also pulls something out of Katie, which has been her desire to protect. Back in Season 1, Katie was Marina’s spy, but in Season 3 she had people that she loves fiercely.
She was doing anything she could to save Penny in The Magicians Season 3, and her newfound role as a police officer does branch off of that and leans into some of her natural character traits.
She always seemed to have a natural ability to sleuth things out, but having her as the cop that would drive all the magicians back together feels like the perfect way to move this plot forward.
Katie’s first stop is to find Margot, who is living her life as a fashion editor in New York City. Like Katie’s glamor, Margot’s also seems perfect for her, and yet after a dream in which she encounters a manifestation of Ember, the veil starts to lift.
The writers get points for continuity. After the Fairy Queen gave Margot a fairy eye when she became High King on The Magicians Season 3 Episode 12, "The Fillorian Candidate," I wondered how it could be useful. When the hedgewitch started talking to Katie about her glamour, I thought maybe the eye would be able to see it.
They’ve certainly started layering that into the plot very well with her commenting on the color correcting on the model! (A very real problem in the fashion industry!) I am curious to see where this plot point picks up and what exactly Margot sees with that eye. It could lead to some interesting visual effects work.
While Katie’s new identity might have the investigative skills, Margot’s has the juice to do things like getting them all plane tickets. In many ways, this is a part of the episode that feels a little rushed.
While “A Flock of Lost Birds” doesn’t waste any time setting us up, it quickly condenses what has happened to Penny, Josh, Quentin, and Eliot. We briefly get notes about what they’ve been up to, and that may be enough to Penny and Josh who are now set up to be part of the main action.
However, when it comes to Quentin and Eliot, we are picking up after the very last season of Season 3, and it’s clear something has gone down.
Eliot’s behavior is scary, and if that’s the kind of thing Quentin has been seeing, I can understand his trepidation, especially when you add in the fact that Quentin doesn’t know his past, or magic, or Fillory, or any of that business.
Quentin, at this moment, has just been approached on the street by a man with red eyes and has seen him kill an ice cream man for calling sprinkles jimmies.
The thing is, as an audience we’re not sure what and it feels like we should know more. The confusion isn’t helped by the overtone of traffic in the ice cream truck scene.
Eliot’s stage-whispers clearly show a shift in character, but it can’t compete with the ambient noise.
Another big reveal in this episode is reintroducing Marina from timeline The Magicians Season 3 Episode 11, "Twenty-Three."
After she fled through the door to the fortieth timeline, I wondered how she might pop back up. Her introduction this season feels similar to when the audience first met her in Season 1.
She’s like a mama witch ready to school some new students, but of course, the students don’t always get what she’s trying to explain or teach them. However, Josh’s remark that Marina seems like a “white witch” stands in stark contrast to the Marina we know -- yes, the mean one.
The first episode of The Magicians sets up for an exhilarating season, and it's going to be a wild ride as the glamors come off, their memories come back, and they ultimately restore magic -- again.
What did you think of this episode of The Magicians?
Were you surprised by the Julia reveal?
What do you think the creature inhabiting Eliot wants?
Let us know your thought and theories in the comments below, and don't forget you can always watch The Magicians online.
Lauren Busser is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.