If you were feeling like some of the characters you love on The Magicians weren’t getting enough attention or had been pushed to the side, The Magicians 4×07 “The Side Effect” addressed that issue head-on this week.
Consider how many characters and storylines The Magicians manages to juggle weekly — the series is already juggling a lot of plates — The Magicians 4×07 tossed a few more into the mix this week by stopping to turn the focus away from Quentin, Julia, Eliot, Margo, and Alice.
In an episode that could have felt like a record scratch but, instead, felt like an interlude, Penny (Once of timeline 40, now in the Underworld) was our guide to an understanding that the “side characters in epic quests” in The Magicians have their own very important roles to play in the overall story.
Kady has a whole new purpose, we have new insight into Zelda, Fen is square in the middle of the quest to save Fillory, we have our deepest look at the inner working of the Library yet, and Penny Adiyodi got one hell of a promotion.
But first, let’s talk about the crown jewel in The Magicians 4×07.
White Male Protagonism
I dearly love the way The Magicians can highlight an issue and throw shade at it at the same time. As Penny’s new charge (and supervisor’s supervisor”) correctly points out, Quentin Coldwater is the center of the story. He’s the character that the others connect to and, in theory, he’s the central protagonist of the series. Just like a lot of stories out there.
The push for representation and diversity in books, movies, TV, and all other forms of entertainment has become a more frequent and louder conversation over the last few years. For good reason. People crave to see themselves in stories in a world where white, male protagonists are still an overwhelming majority. In the case of The Magicians, the show is certainly doing what it can to change the dynamics and has worked hard for all sorts of diversity. But rather than rest on its laurels, it drops this little gem right out there and shines a light on it. I loved it.
Last week, Penny took a lunch break to have a talk with himself. This week we see what he took a lunch break from and find him in the middle of a training session with a new arrival.
The interactions these two had! Derek (Chris Brochu) is one of those dudes. You know those dudes. The ones who do the minimum amount of work and still seem to get promoted. The ones who think it’s all about them.
While we later learn who Derek is, everything he does in this episode is a conduit for the overall story. I especially loved Penny’s exasperation (which is often the viewers’ exasperation) at having to explain this stuff. Over and over. Because, y’know, some of us have to explain it. Over and over.
“You’re telling people what to value, who to value. The show explaining why it tells these stories and that everyone’s story is important.”
Zelda and The Librarians
The Magicians has been showing us Zelda’s important for quite some time now, however, now we’re starting to understand why.
Is it okay to kill people or hurt them? Zelda’s got questions. Everett (Brian Markinson) reminds her of the Library motto: “Protect the flame of knowledge, no matter the cost”. So does that mean, yes? Yeah, it does. Because after Modesto he’s okay with flooding the Dewey market and putting spells on all hedges that could kill them.
With help from Gavin (Daniel Nemes), Zelda also discovers that Harriet’s trapped in the mirror world and things there are NOT GOOD. But Alice has made her way back to Brakebills. Alice who understands the mirror world. Alice who was a prisoner. Zelda needs her help. That’s got to be an interesting position for Alice to find herself in. Especially these days.
I recall wondering what happened to Kady in the wake of episode 4×03. It was like she went silent. Now we know why.
She didn’t want to be a sidekick. Being Detective Sam Christopher gave her purpose. It gave her a chance to be someone else and, while she didn’t choose to be Sam and is back to being Kady, Sam the Cop is a better life than Kady the Junkie as far as she’s concerned.
Her Baba Yaga problem leads to a quest (insert side quest joke here) to find Lovelady who turns out to be Pete (David Call). Talk about a blast from the past. Pete’s inclusion in this episode also neatly introduces us to the Black Market and reintroduces us to Whitley (West Duchovny) who blew up the Modesto library last week. Now we know why.
Brittany Curran has earned a very special place in my heart as Fen. It takes a special skill to play a character who’s this earnest. Giving her these prophetic dreams is a great way to send her on a quest of her own while also highlighting how Fen is so crucial to the day to day running of Fillory.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Fen and what these dreams of hers mean. Who’s the person in that green cloak and why are they telling her the future of Fillory?
- “You reek of non-dairy creamer and despair.”
- Secrets taken to the grave. That’s an interesting section to put Penny in, doncha think?
- Who did Penny see at the end of the episode?
- Will Zelda help Alice find Sheila?
- Margo and Josh being snippy at each other made me laugh. They so like each other.
How about you? Where would you file your book in The Library?Our Score