The Magicians (S03E11-12) "Twenty Three" & "The Fillorian Candidate" Review

Double review for two intense episodes. “Twenty Three” and “The Fillorian Candidate” are further proof of the fact that season 3 of The Magicians really can do no wrong. Let’s start from episode 11.

Remember back in season 1 when Dean Fogg said that Jane Chatwin had created 39 time loops? They were fighting the Beast at the time, and the loops served as second chances every time our heroes were killed. But they all died in every possible scenario. So Jane created a 40th time loop where one major thing changed: Julia wasn’t admitted to Brakebills, she had to become a hedge witch, meet Marina and go through everything that she did. Except there was one time loop that went slightly better than the other 39: time loop 23, where everyone died but Alice.

How do we get to timeline 23? In the main universe, Julia (Stella Maeve) and Josh (Trevor Einhorn) find themselves in a Tesla Flexion, the spell to communicate with people in other universes, summoned by their other selves from 23. “Help us Josh and Julia, you’re our only hope.” (The pop culture references never end)

Soon, the unlikely duo find themselves transported to time loop 23 and that’s when the fun truly starts. First though, I have to say these two characters work really well together. And since, the characters on this show are very self-aware, Josh even mentions this: “I was getting excited at the idea of a Josh/Julia solo adventure.” “Sorry.” “Yeah, what would they even call us? Josh? Julia? See, you couldn’t even tell that I swapped the first letters.”

In this post-apocalyptic universe where the Beast has won, Julia and Josh meet Marina (Kacey Rohl) and a colder, cynical version of Josh who has “been through stuff.” It was amazing to see Marina again, especially since it seems like she was exactly the same – except that she is a bit more open about her bisexuality and that she’s slept with Dean Fogg, that is.

Marina and Josh-23 take our heroes hostage and plan to use them as bait for the Beast. Josh and Josh have some quality time telling each other childhood stories and then comparing how things went differently. Marina flirts with Julia. At one point, Penny (Arjun Gupta) walks in like a lone, brooding hero and kisses Julia with a look of love and adoration in his eyes. (Kady probably never went to Brakebills in this timeline and Penny never knew her but fell in love with Julia instead.)

The jaw-dropping plot twist comes when the gang faces the Beast and it turns out that it’s not Martin Chatwin – it’s actually none other than our very own Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), looking devilishly hot, may I add.

The heroes track down Alice-23, the only other surviving quester, and find her working for the bunnies in a crazy state. Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) explains she brought Quentin back from the dead, shade-less and that he killed the Beast and replaced it.
They come up with a plan to defeat Beast!Quentin and get the seventh key from him – which is actually the sixth since they didn’t get the fairies’ yet. Q is in Whitespire, and he brutally kills Alice in cold blood. Julia confronts him next, and she doesn’t fight him or get him to talk; she gives him her Shade. He now feels all the sadness, anger, shame she felt plus he is overwhelmed by all the lives he’s taken, of which Alice’s corpse is a stark reminder. The seventh key showed him the future, but it wasn’t a vision of Julia killing him that he was trying to prevent. It was the monster she’d let in once they’d bring magic back. But Julia doesn’t have time to properly inquire. Q snatches the dagger she’d brought to kill him and that she discarded, and he kills himself. Key obtained.

Once the door to dimension 40 opens, Marina runs in without a question. Honestly, who can blame her? Time loop 23 sucks in a royally post-apocalyptic way, and she knows she’s dead in 40, so she can start a new life free of complications there. Julia and Josh offer Penny-23 the chance to cross over too, and he takes it since there’s nothing left for him there.
Best line of this ep goes to Margo in her ghost form in 23, “You’re not gonna cock out on me! I would say ‘pussy’, but let’s be honest, which one is tougher?”

Episode 12, “The Fillorian Candidate” finally gave my fave Margo (Summer Bishil) some well-deserved screen time (even if I wouldn’t dare say it was enough).

The episode opens with a hilariously unusual recap narrated by Josh, who’s explaining everything that happened in their dimension to Penny 23. The recap is supported by a board with a picture of every important player in the story, and the pictures are linked with threads if the characters have hooked up or tried to kill each other.

This episode went back to the standard mode of multiple storylines: one in Fillory and a few on Earth. At Brakebills, Kady (Jade Tailor) has to face the fact that her Penny might never come back from the Underworld. She doesn’t blame Penny-23, “you’re just trying to survive,” she tells him, it’s everyone else’s attitude that she can’t stand. They quickly accepted this new Penny and assumed he could replace the old one, their friend. Kady admits she loves him – finally! – and swears she will not give up. I was rather hoping that Penny-23 would magically acquire all the memories of Penny-40 as he crossed to their dimensions and that would’ve solved all their problems, but alas, it didn’t. Kady is stuck with a man who doesn’t know her and, in case that wasn’t bad enough, who is in love with Julia. Even the quest itself seems to have replaced the original Penny, as the unity key that connects their minds went straight to Penny-23. I don’t know if Penny-40 will be able to come back from the Underworld at this point, because in Greek mythology once you eat some underworld food you’re stuck there for eternity, and he ate what Hades himself offered him. In Penny’s own words, they’re cursed.

Julia has become a literal goddess, and that’s not a figure of speech. This episode she started hearing people’s prayers. Her power grows stronger and stronger as she does good in the world: she finally heals Dean Fogg’s eyes and is able to hear Josh’s call from Fillory.

In Fillory, Eliot and Margo decide to use their knowledge of earth politics to win back their throne. They spread the (fake) news that elections for high king are being held, and Tick can’t prevent them. I’ve seen many people comment on Eliot’s decision to run as selfish and “throwing Margo under the bus” for not letting her run as the candidate. I have to say I disagree with them. As he points out, Fillory is not only backwards, it’s basically stuck in the Middle Ages. It wouldn’t be smart to let a woman run, period. How can it be anti-feminist when the notion of equal rights isn’t even contemplated? Of course Fillory is a patriarchy, and of course Eliot wants to change that. The only way he can is if he wins, and he couldn’t have predicted the results of the elections, but he was right in assuming that the human population of Fillory wouldn’t have voted for a woman. Fen’s (Brittany Curran) speech about her life in her village proves just that.

So Eliot (Hale Appleman) runs for high king against Tick, and Margo may be hurt, but she sees El’s point. The campaign is a ridiculous spin of impossible promise upon impossible promise, the epitome of populism. Then, the Children of Earth party makes use of Julia’s miraculous magic to restore forests (the one she herself burned last season), grow crops and give the people food. Magic is a good asset and they seem to be leading the elections, until Tick releases the speeches from Eliot’s trial where he said unpleasant things about Fillory and they lose the lead. The plot twist arrives when, against all hope, it is announced that another person has won the elections by popular vote: Margo, as a write in. She was the only one who cared about the animals of Fillory, and it turns out there are many more animals than humans. These elections also served as Fillory’s first census, you’re welcome.

Margo is crowned High King, and it is glorious. I remember the teary-eye scene from season 2 when Eliot was in a coma and the people wouldn’t listen to the high queen. I remember all the times Margo’s say was undermined by the council, by the people, by virtually everyone who wasn’t Eliot. I remember Margo’s iconic speech from 3×07: “There wasn’t a blood test to tell me to be High Queen. I chose it. And I have had to fight for every shred of authority. And no offense, but you can’t understand, because it was handed to you.” Her efforts and worthiness are finally being recognized and I am so proud and happy. High King Margo, long may you reign.

Back on Earth, Kady, Julia and Penny go to find Reynard to gain some intel about the castle at the end of the world. They find him in misery, and when the moment comes, the women who both have trauma because of this ex god, make the call not to exact revenge. They are compassionate instead, and choose not to kill him. Perhaps to let him live in this pitiful existence is worse anyway. It was beautiful to see them come to that conclusion. This subplot was less about finding useful information than for them to finally face their abuser and realize they are now more powerful than he ever was. Julia’s spark may have come from him, but it was in her that it grew, thanks to her actions and her actions alone she became a goddess able to stand on her own. As Eliot once said in season 1, “Magic doesn’t come from talent, it comes from pain.” Julia has endured enough and it’s about time she is rewarded.

Alice is still collaborating with the Library and she promises to power a siphon with Julia’s magic, with the risk of killing her. Penny spies on this conversation and reports everything back to the other questers. Quentin doesn’t trust Alice anymore and gives her a big ultimatum: in or out. There’s seven keys and eight questers, they don’t need her. Alice asks him if he really wants to go through with this. Once they bring magic back, Q’s father will be affected by his magic cancer and won’t have long to live. Q is torn over this decision; he visits his dad and after a touching speech, tells him he’s sorry, but he needs to bring magic back. He tells him about his life and his other life in Fillory, with Eliot and their child, and reveals he named his son after his father. It was an impossible decision, the world or his dad, but Q made the selfless choice.

At Whitespire, during Margo’s crowing ceremony, the Fairy Queen, now a legal citizen along with her people, shows Margo she always knew her potential. In thanks and congratulations, she gives her eye back, except it’s a fairy eye, and she can see so much more this way. Goodbye, stylish eye patches!

It was another amazing episode. The satire and political commentary couldn’t be more on point. With one foot in Fillory and another very rooted in reality, this show never ceases to draw interesting parallels to the real world we live in. With one episode left in this season, we can almost certainly say that this was a perfect season. Tune in for the finale Wednesday and comment with me at @ladymultifandom!