Syfy’s adaptation of the Lev Grossman novels had a slow start in its maiden outing. It quickly picked up the pace with deft storytelling, strong performances, impressive visual effects, and cynical humor.
In its fifth season, having moved beyond the novels into uncharted territory, there is much for our merry band of heroes to do as the world they saved is in danger once again…but this time, they are missing a key element.
In the finale of the fourth season, Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) sacrificed himself to seal away the vengeful gods and prevent Everett, the Head Librarian from stealing their power.
His death is significant as Quentin was the main character and also served as the entry point for the audience. However, The Magicians brilliantly repurposed the traditional ‘lead character’ mechanic to allow for more narrative threads from the other characters.
In Season 5, as if in response to Quentin’s death, magic is going haywire. The spell cast to trap the gods has caused magic to increase in potency all over the world. Unfortunately, there are magical surges that cause spells to malfunction with disastrous consequences.
A key example is in Filory, where Margo Hanson (Summer Bishil) and Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) find out their kingdom has fast forwarded to 300 years in the future and their stand ins (Josh and Fen) have been overthrown to make way for the Dark King.
Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), Quentin’s best friend from his childhood, is trying to figure out her place in the world, having gone from a hedge witch to a psychopath to a goddess to a depowered god and, finally, to a magician.
Penny-23 (Arjun Gupta) finds himself torn between his budding relationship with Julia and his new responsibilities. The increase in magic has also increased the occurrence of rare disciplines. As the only trained Traveler in this timeline, Penny has to keep his new students safe.
Kady Orloff-Diaz (Jade Tailor) is now the ostensible leader of the hedge witches. After the plot to mark hedge witches was thwarted, Kady now spends her time fixing mishaps caused by hedges trying to free themselves and regain magic. She is frustrated by the Library’s inability to fix the problem they caused and is looking for a solution.
Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is inconsolable after the loss of the love of her life, given how they had just begun to repair their relationship. She is constantly rejecting requests from the Library to help them rebuild after their leader died in his pursuit of godhood.
But, the true threat coming is only hinted at when a Questing Creature from Filory comes looking Quentin but, in a particularly hilarious if on the nose scene, departs after hearing of his death and leaves no clue as to what his quest is about.
It’s clear that the premiere is merely setting the stage for more to come but the exposition is handed a lot cleverly than could be anticipated. The Filorian play about the rise of the Dark King is particularly clever.
Splitting the plot in this way is nothing new to The Magicians but with the loss of Quentin looming over every character in the series and motivating some of them, there is a bigger sense of connectivity in their differing actions.
Always a joy to watch, this opening act promises great potential for the rest of the season.