The Magicians Season 4 Episode 6: A Timeline and Place-Recap and Review
Camryn Manheim’s Sheila brings a redemptive arch to Alice’s life.
The Magicians always seems to walk that delicate balance between abject sorrow and self-sacrifice, and Millennial humor. It is what makes the show so successful. The characters become as real as anyone watching. They have deep flaws, hopes, dreams, and behaviors rooted in past trauma that carry weight. Decisions are not made on a whim or merely thrust on a character in a dusty writing room for no other purpose than to further a plot point but as a result of personal failings or successes. This was true again tonight in Season 4 Episode 6: A Timeline and Place. Lines like, “She knew the consequences, and still licked the paintbrushes.”, seem like flippant comments from the ever-quippy Marina, but they are actually one more nod to this country’s not always savory past. Radium Girls and their unfortunate demise at the hands of watchmakers abusing expendable laborers for glow in the dark fashion is not a bright point in our history(pun intended). It wasn’t all dark introspection though, as Julia still was able to find jokes in her current desperate situation, Quentin continued to be a steadfast friend even at his own peril, and Margo is still white-knuckle gripping her grief.
Cleverly mixed in with the capers and partnerships were very serious social constructs. The IRL water situation in Flint, Michigan is not a magical problem that exists only in the fictional world of The Magicians. Tonight, inexplicably that social issue, the causes, and the solution were tackled head-on, and The Magicians stuck the landing in a way only they could. Fascism is scary not for the loss of control, but for the overtly paternalistic measures taken in the name of public safety. Alice is Fascism in human form. She has always thought she knew best and even now when she thinks she is helping Modesto she fails to think about the bigger picture. It is her Achilles heel, and one that is exploited again and again. By splitting the pipe and releasing more magic she was able to decontaminate the water(a good thing for sure), but she also put Sheila(Camryn Manheim) in a position with the Librarians that is dangerous. She may have also started a revolution with terrible consequences.
That is the thing with decisions; they always have consequences. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always unforeseen. By the end, Sheila appears to be in the clutches of The Library, and some dangerous terrorists have declared war. There is always a price to pay. Hopefully, that price is not the loss of more Manheim. She brings an oddly hopeful energy to Alice that she sorely needs. Manheim brings a gravitas to Sheila that is both wise and kind. For Alice to grow as a character, she needs more interaction with people like Sheila. With a heart of gold and the handy ability to find things, she may become integral to the current quest. As Alice tells Sheila, Queromancers are rare. In a show where details matter, this nugget of gold will pay huge future dividends.
The team of Julia and Quentin are still searching for answers about Eliot’s body. It is all but a foregone conclusion that they are building an indestructible body for the Monster to live in. At this point, it is a race against time to figure out how to get the Monster out before he kills our Eliot under a mountain of tequila, pills, and buses. Mummy’s and looted treasure provide just enough detail to the gelling plan to point the trio in the direction of the next organ. More importantly than the artifact hunt, is the solidifying of Dark Eliot and Quentin’s relationship. Quentin has always been the first to sacrifice himself for his friends, tonight was no different. His declaration of empowerment was far from subtle, ultimately effective, but probably lost on Dark Eliot who has had no healthy human interaction prior. The Monster knows only manipulation and loss, he could not possibly understand love and friendship. Perhaps he is not that different from everyone else though? He had a real part of himself ripped away and has lived his whole life with nothing but want and need as guides. It is no wonder he is a petulant child, albeit a supremely powerful one.
The partnership of Penny23 and Marina is an interesting one. They are both refugees from another timeline and this week both kidnapped for that very reason. More consequences of magical use are witnessed. It is this push and pull that makes the Library and their control both plausible and abhorrent. You can almost sympathize with the organization(minus Irene of course) for their decisions. What highlights the difference between protectionism and fascism in the Library plays out in a conversation between Marina and Penny 23 about Marina’s girlfriend who she lost in her timeline. Marina is using her knowledge of her girlfriend from the other timeline to woo and keep her in this timeline. In effect, she is Cyrano, de Bergeracing herself. As Penny 23 points out this is some next level sociopathy. Penny 23, on the other hand, is getting help and wisdom from his Penny 40 self instead of taking advantage of his other timeline knowledge for personal gain. It was nice to see Penny 40 this week. Penny 23 is not that much different than Penny 40, but he lacks the emotional weight of his counterpart. Penny 23 has just begun to understand the sacrifices and risks he will have to take on to help his new group.
The Stoppard cubes and magical Facetime are just a few of the ingenious inventions from the brilliant but ailing horomancers. It does not go without notice that Penny 23 breathed in the mother lode of cinnabar. How will that affect his ability to travel if he comes down with “Clockwork Alzheimers”? Will he be affected in the same way as Sonya? In case your wondering cinnabar really is a toxic element. It doesn’t create magical problems that we know of, but it sure does reek havoc with your brains and nervous system. One last bit of weirdness, what does Penny 40 mean when he tells Penny 23 to “do what he says” when it comes time? Who is he and how horrible will the what be?
Finally, poor Margo is beginning to crack. She has too much responsibility, too much grief, and too much shit to deal with. In the last year, she found herself. She realized she is more than a pretty face and friend to Eliot, but a strong independent woman. Her one-liners and sarcasm were more than just the product of a witty mind. They were her shield. The armor she hid behind. It is also the tool she uses to apply pressure when needed and distance herself when necessary. The facade is slipping as even classics like, “Bada Bing Bada fuck her” can’t hide her grief and fear. Her interaction with the alpaca-loving Queen shows this in technicolor clarity.
She initially doubts herself and relies on Josh to guide her through negotiations. This was not at all effective, and by the end, she realized it takes a bitch to best a bitch. Without Eliot, she feels impotent and adrift. Josh inadvertently exposes this raw nerve when he tells her she “out-Elioted Eliot”. She needs to handle things on her own, in her own way while simultaneously having others including Josh love and understand her. With one hand she is pushing everything and everyone away from her while the other is grasping for friendship. Her treatment of Josh was tough to watch. Of anyone to do that to he is the sweetest, but he also is probably the best equipped to handle it as an empath. Given time he will understand why she lashed out.
There is no getting around it. Eliot is missed badly. The current mantra seems to be WWED? Time is running out for his mortal body. The Monster appears hellbent on death by substance, and even though it appeared our Physical Kid had developed a legendary tolerance his human organs are no match for the Monster’s abuse.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.