The Magicians: The World in the Walls   Books Included 
February 10, 2016 9:00 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Quentin panics when he wakes up in a mental hospital.

The first episode to take pretty much nothing from the books; this is all invented material, people! What do you think? Does it do justice to the books or is it heresy?
posted by rikschell (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Setting up Marina as a little-bad to offset the Beast's big bad is a great move, I think. And Kady, pulled between two worlds, is another potentially interesting character. Probably a pretty low-budget episode, too, with just a few locations. I wonder, though, how much of Lev Grossman's story is just going to be cut out in favor of brand-new hijinks.

In other news, the Magicians was renewed for a second season! So I guess we'll find out soon enough.
posted by rikschell at 9:05 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was really hoping his roommate in the mental ward was going to be revealed to be Josh.

So I've been rereading the first book and honestly there's not a lot that happens at Brakebills that I feel needs to be in the show. I'd like to see a welters game, and the Antarctica stuff obviously, and as others have mentioned it'd be nice if they showed how hard it is to learn spells. But a lot of the rest is just random stuff happening that develops the characters in ways that can be done in other ways on the show.

So although at first I was a bit upset at the unexpected plot, I was ultimately fine with it and enjoyed this episode. But I feel like it added some antagonism between the Brakebills crew and the hedge witches that just wasn't in the books and may change things in strange ways. I guess we'll see.

Also, from rereading, Penny's hands and skin are described as pale a couple times, but I prefer to envision him as the TV Penny. Similarly, Fogg's hair is described as blond at one point, but I enjoy reading it while imagining the TV Fogg in his place.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:14 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

At the start I was rolling my eyes a bit that only 4 episodes in and they were already doing the "in a mental institution" trope episode but was glad when they did the reveal pretty early on. As cheesy as it was I loved Quentin's use of Penny's hatred of Taylor Swift to try and make contact with the outside.

The Brakebills vs. Hedge witches is an interesting development and will be interesting to see where they go with it...with Julia kicked out of magic twice it will be interesting to see what she does and if she ends up on the same path that ends up with the free trader beowulf group (not that that ends much better for her...or anyone...)

I do sort of wish they would show the difficulty/grind that learning magic is...but I do also get that it's TV and half a season of studying hand positions and dead languages doesn't translate well to TV....I imagine we will see some of it if/when they go to Brakebills South.
posted by Captain_Science at 11:37 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to ask if this was in the book -- I've forgotten most of the books, for some reason. I had the sense that this was new.

As someone wrote in the other thread, this is such a trope and when I read the episode description I was instantly annoyed. But the execution of it mostly (but not completely) made me happy because Quentin worked against the trope, recognizing it almost instantly and finding ways of trying to fight it. Supergirl employed the same trope this week and while it didn't annoy me that much -- mostly, I think, because the whole thing about that show is that it's very trope-y -- it held to the standard trope and resolved itself as expected. Aside from Quentin behaving somewhat differently than characters usually do, they subverted the trope to a degree with Penny, too, where he didn't immediately recognize what was going on or otherwise instantly acted as, I dunno, Quentin's spirit guide for finding his way out.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2016

I loved the bit where Penny shows up, hears his alter-ego's accent and immediately turns to Quentin with a "You RACIST motherf*cker!". Because that's very, very close to what I exclaimed when accented Penny showed up in the asylum.
posted by Justinian at 3:28 PM on February 10, 2016 [14 favorites]

Oh! I think we get to see some Welters next week!
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on February 10, 2016

Thing I learned: the hand motions for the spells in this show are actually choreographed by people who do "finger tutting". (The word comes from "King Tut", because the poses look kind of like hieroglyphic figures.) The actors on the show do a good job but they aren't that great, and you can tell they have to limit how complicated things can be.

But check out these people, who are probably Brakebills graduates.

Also, from rereading, Penny's hands and skin are described as pale a couple times, but I prefer to envision him as the TV Penny. Similarly, Fogg's hair is described as blond at one point, but I enjoy reading it while imagining the TV Fogg in his place.

But TV Penny is actually a decent if angry person. I mean really he pretty much has the measure of Quentin. Whereas book Penny is the worst. The only explanation is that the author's ex's new boyfriend had a mohawk, or something, he's just so unpleasant in a way that makes no sense.

I am shocked that they managed to give Quentin back the moral high ground after last episode. Looking forward to welters and an episode entitled "The Mayakovsky Circumstances".
posted by vogon_poet at 8:07 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

When did Julia progress through the ranks of the hedge witches and get all those tattoos? We're skipping a lot of time in this show and the main clues (twice now) are apparently the marks on Julia's skin.
posted by ODiV at 7:46 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Vogon_poet, I was wondering about that - my fave tutter is Pandora Marie from El Paso. Tutting's been around for awhile - here's her doing her thing in 2008.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it ok if I ask this here, I can't handle a lot of gore and after the first episode, I was unsure if I want to watch more--- is the gore of the first episode going to be a regular in the next three episodes, or is it a once in awhile thing? If it happens every four or five episodes I can try to cover my eyes (or read ahead at what happens and cheat to be prepared lol)... so with that in mind, does anyone mind telling me how gross/deathfilled the last three episodes were? (I've never used fanfare is it ok to ask questions like this?)
posted by xarnop at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2016

I'm trying to think back and it's been pretty gore-free since the first episode, I believe. In fact there's one instance in the last episode they could have gone a lot further with and didn't. Can anyone else think of anything?
posted by ODiV at 10:34 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok started watching, sweet.
posted by xarnop at 10:38 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

In this recent one there was the threat of face-stabbing to Quentin (by way of a scary big knife) and a laughing, bloody face as part of a nightmare sequence, but I wouldn't consider it "gory".
posted by ODiV at 10:40 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think actually this is going to be the path to free trader Beowulf, and then to slumming around randomly looking to spells. It's a way they establish early that Julia will be an important magic user, (and a reason for Quentin to get over Julia), but still get to kick her out in the cold so she gets desperate.
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not a fan of this episode. I keep thinking I'm getting over my love of the books and being all, okay, new Penny, new characters, I can handle this but. But. This one, with every classic "it's just a dream and he's crazy but whoops we can save him together" tropes all montaged together didn't advance that worthy goal. There is so much in the Magicians world that could make really groundbreaking tv but instead this is what they come up with on their own?

I still wish they hadn't aged the characters up - I feel like it is starting to bite them in the ass. A lot of the character building / coming of age stuff just doesn't make sense for people in their mid 20s. Seriously, if you're really in grad school it's unlikely that the dean is going to take time to hold your hand, rescue you and give you warm affirming speeches. Also, you would probably - hopefully - be a bit too savvy to need all that anyway. The dumb choices they make, which make sense if they're 18 or 19, don't make any sense if they're 24 or 5.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:52 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, questions I'm wondering: how much/exactly did or can Marina cut Julia off? And also, who exactly is Marina with?
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2016

I'm surprised by how much I didn't love this episode; I've really liked the previous ones so far. But this one felt just--- I don't know, wheel-spinning? It was kind of a neat magic spell, but there had to have been more interesting ways to get Marina back her memories and get Julia thrown out of the group, and they could have been integrated into an episode that actually advanced plot or character development. I want more time at Brakebills, more time with the hedge witches as actual people, more world-building-- it's fundamentally a school drama, so I wish they were spending more time with "school". That might also help with the sense of time passing problem, bc right now it's hard to tell if it's been two days or two months.

Penny's "you racist" comment was fucking hilare though.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

"So, questions I'm wondering: how much/exactly did or can Marina cut Julia off?"

This is what I wanted to discuss in the Show-Only thread. At some point in the books Penny loses his hands, and as we've seen (so far at least) in the TV show the use of gestures is essential to casting magic. However, hands-less Penny in the books overcomes that in some ... uh ... way I honestly don't remember ... and is able to continue to do magical things.

So my impression from the books is that it is not possible to take away someone's ability to do magic, even if you transform their physical self in a way that would make you think they should no longer be able to perform.

I'm guessing that all that Marina's marks do is signify to other witches that she (Julia) has been cast out and is not to be trained or trusted. I doubt Marina has the ability to disrupt Julia's magic.

HOWEVER, this whole dang episode was about stuff that ain't in the books, so who knows? All bets are off, as far as I'm concerned. Still, I'm guessing that the show would flounder without the Julia-Magic subplot so I'm guessing it's just her mark of Cain, as it were, which will force her to go further underground in search of new info.

I'm guessing the show will make it a three-tier system: Brakebills, people who couldn't make Brakebills, and then those who operate even below that - probably the Beowulf people.

I think we're going to get the same "Julia does any- and everything in search of magic knowledge" arc, they've just added another layer. Maybe the producers felt her search didn't feel desperate enough already so they had to kick her out of two separate institutes of learning just to show how far she'll go.
posted by komara at 1:37 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I absolutely loved the books. They are the best new fantasy I have read in, probably, twenty years and I recommend them to everyone. But I have been having my doubts about this show. It just seemed so disconnected from the spirit of the books and trying to force the story into some Harry Potter Dawson's Creek that was a satire's-breath away from what it actually was.

It's strange that this episode, being both based on a ridiculous it-was-all-a-dream/you-were-crazy-all-along trope that I hate AND being entirely external to the story of the books, is the one that got me back on board.

I loved this episode. I confess that I did pause it about ten minutes in to tell me wife: "Either they're going to nail the landing on this and it will be amazing or I am never watching this show again and we will pretend it never existed."

They nailed the landing. Penny was incredible. Julie and Kady were developed in interesting ways. And the plot feels like a chapter that could easily have been in the books if Lev Grossman had remembered to write it.

I'm back on board.
posted by 256 at 8:04 PM on February 12, 2016

A dead Quaker: it'd be nice if they showed how hard it is to learn spells

Captain_Science: but I do also get that it's TV and half a season of studying hand positions and dead languages doesn't translate well to TV

Tutting looks neat and all, but damn did I get cheesy raver vibes from the first episode scene of Brakebills students practicing. Casting magic sounds amazing in the books, but those descriptions include people feeling some resistance when a spell "takes hold." Some of the difficulties with spell casting have been shown, especially with the hedgewitches who are all sort of figuring it on their own and don't know the "grammar" of the forms, but I'm glad they didn't try to convey too much of that.

If this were a show like Better Call Saul, which does slow-paced scenes well, where you can enjoy long, quiet moments, I don't think this show has been built to support that kind of pacing. From the pilot, everything has moved pretty fast. They don't have time to show time moving in real time, and training montages get old.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:38 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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