Television

The Magicians Season 4 Episode 9: The Serpent-Review and Recap

A beautifully constructed episode of The Magicians that began with a whisper, ended with an anthemic ’80s battle cry.

The Magicians Season 4 Episode 9
Courtesy of Syfy

When all the pieces come together perfectly, and they do often on The Magicians, it is near perfection.  Season four, episode nine, The Serpent was just one of those episodes.  Alongside last season greats like Life In The Day and All That Josh, The Serpent built quiet moments into crashing crescendos that reminded us why we loved the characters(even Alice) and why they are heroes.

The Magicians has always been able to show normal, flawed people doing incredible things.  That’s been the secret sauce.  These are not all powerful and confident Superheroes who can swing a hammer or blast someone with x-ray eyes, but mere mortals that can occasionally do some pretty cool magic when they don’t cuckold it up.  That vulnerability and duality was put on full display with the team up of Alice and Kady.  It is an odd pairing to be sure, but it paid dividends no but the writers saw coming.  They are both abrasive, overly confident at times, prickly pears who have a hard time letting others in, so why they should be so effective on screen is more of the brilliance that is the writers long-game storytelling.  As much progress as they made together this isn’t a Hallmark movie(minus Lori Loughlin of course) where one little moment in time heals an entire lifetimes worth of trouble.  This is real life and panaceas don’t always exist.

The complex nature of Alice has always got her into trouble.  She has always been a nasty mix of gross overconfidence and crippling fear.  Those attributes were heightened as they were split inside the mirror world and the battle royale for her own sanity was painful to watch.  How many have felt the same way as Alice as you tried to convince yourself to “go for it”, or not to do something wrong because you were afraid to do the right thing? 

It was a smart plot beat to allow that inner struggle play out outside her mind.  That struggle allowed the viewer a front row seat to Alice’s insecurities and made her a much more sympathetic character.  She became a three dimensional character.  Instead of simply being an egotistical maniac, she was able to show her softer side.  As her ego-driven side pointed out the betrayal last season was a result of both her halves, not just the conceited one.  With most people that is true as well.  We have good traits, bad traits, and everything in between.  Often both the positive and negative characteristics are in conflict, and many times cause negative outcomes.  That’s life, and watching a deeply remorseful but still somehow smug on occasion Alice rings very true.  

Kady was also able to carve out a slice of importance as her Hedge witch storyline continues to develop.  Pete has become quite the skilled the lackey and his addition to team Kady is important as she is often relegated to the B team with the core group.  For Pete, she is ride or die A team.  Her partnership with Alice was necessary to both further the mirror world plot thread with Zelda, but to showcase her own strengths.  She is a supremely fair person.  She pulls no punches, just ask Alice’s nose.  This extreme sense of black and white will serve her well as head of the Hedge witch rebellion.  A strong, just hand is needed to avoid violence.  She has proven herself to be just that person.  Her morality is what prompted her to help in the first place but also to tell Alice to not die despite socking her in the nose hours before.  Alice deserved to get hit, but not to die.  It is a simple and reasonable distinction to make and for Kady is very true to who she is.

Quentin, Julia, and Penny continued their quest to both put the stones back together while simultaneously tricking the Monster into vacating Eliot’s body.  It is tough to pull off considering Dark Eliot continues to keep popping up to declare he is going to freeze Eliot’s body in a ice climbing accident gone wrong and kidnapping psychics.  He is the Big Bad this season, but there is so many layers to this monster to be defeated.  Just as

Alice has duality, so does The Monster.  He is a sociopath, selfish, and homicidal, but he very much looks to be a product of his past.  That is not to excuse what he has done, just to explain how he came to be.  Having fan-favorite Eliot house the Monster is another stroke of genius.  Everyone wants our Eliot back, but it is difficult to not feel sympathy for this abused creature.  He’s the dog who has never been shown kindness that bites all that try to help.  Yes, you may lose a couple of fingers, but you try anyway because he looks so darn cute. 

The mind meld with Penny 23 allowed insight into the unfairness and cruelty of many of the Gods.  They seem to display as much callousness towards humans as The Monster does, if not more.  It makes it difficult to decide just whose side we should be on.  With the help of Penny 23, The Monster knows exactly how to lure the final God to him to get the stone.  By the episodes end, Penny 23 has proven himself to be more than just a traveler, and the binder is on it’s way to Julia.  For shipers of Jenny that looks to be a real thing that is happening.

Josh, Fen, and Margo have renewed purpose as each finally has hope and a job.  Proving Josh is the best boyfriend of all time, the hateful things Margo said to him last week were forgotten in an instant as she literally jumped(on him) for joy at the news Eliot was not gone for good.  As predicted, Fen would ascend the throne after Margo unselfishly gave it up.  Margo left Filory and Josh in a blaze of sunshine, tears, and Pat Benatar.  How the writers managed to make a cheesy 80’s guilty pleasure into a powerful emotional moment I will never know, but I felt all the feels.  Margo and Josh’s final words showed how much each has grown and how great they are together.  There is a softness to Margo that shows in her face when she kissed Josh.  She loves him and even as she tells him not to wait, she knows just as he points out, it’s who he is to wait.

If one powerful moment is not enough, and it never is with The Magicians, the silent conversation between Harriet and Zelda was heard around the world.  Zelda’s history was developed through stories of her troubled past that have colored her decisions in the present.  Her relationship with Harriet, and her future with the Library are in flux.  Harriet’s time in the mirror proved to be very useful as she knows just how far up the food chain the corruption goes.  It is heartbreaking for Zelda to realize her surrogate Dad is the head of the snake.  For now, it appears our gang has earned a powerful ally.

Next week, whatever Penny 23 has figured out and a whole lot of singing is in store,  Buckle up!

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