The Magicians: The Mayakovsky Circumstance   Books Included 
March 2, 2016 8:01 AM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

The students are taught by an overbearing teacher, while back at Brakebills Elliott and Margo prepare for a debaucherous vacation.
posted by aabbbiee (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I did not care for the editing on the fox/human sex scenes, with cutting between foxes and humans and jumping around in the timeline. It was poorly done and made for bad storytelling. My husband, who has not read the books, didn't follow that at all.

I also am quite disappointed that they left out the race to the South Pole. Would it have been that hard to film? Or was it just too expensive? Because it was one of my favorite parts of the book, and important to the plot of the Brakebills storyline and Quentin's character arc. Leaving it out seems stupid and weak.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The AV Club disagreed with me and gave the ep a B+.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:22 AM on March 2, 2016


I've been iffy on this series from the start, but the way they handled the entire Mayakovsky training in a single episode was massively disappointing. Not least because it did not at all convey what was to be accomplished by the students by going there. It looks like they flew all the way down there, learned a couple of spells that are supposedly pretty hard or something, and then went back to Brakebills through a magic portal they presumably could have just used to get there in the first place.

To say nothing of the whole fox thing, which I literally laughed out loud about. There's absolutely no way anyone who hadn't read the books would have had any idea what the hell was supposed to be happening. I feel like this episode has officially tipped the show into the "disaster" category as an adaptation of the source material. I still don't quite know how to feel about it as a show on its own terms, though.
posted by tomorrowromance at 8:34 AM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought the fox sex was the most tasteful it could have been if you already knew fox sex was happening, but the worst if you didn't.
posted by corb at 8:50 AM on March 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've enjoyed this series so far and don't mind the divergence from the books, but I found this episode very weak. Mayakovsky was watered down and Brakebill's South was underwhelming. In the books, the race to the pole seemed to be a major milestone in Quentin's development and progression as a magician. In this episode, I'm not even really sure why they went to Brakebill's South.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:30 AM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I liked it. Some good lines, etc.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on March 2, 2016


The fox sex was bad, but I'm having trouble picturing how it would have been done well. I think it would have been better to show everybody transformed, and playing but then getting out of control. Brakebills South was not at all like the book, but even in the book sort of the defining feature was how horribly monotonous it was. I can't blame the scriptwriters for wanting to skip over some of that. They should have kept the race to the pole. I liked Quentin's all-the-nails-at-once move. And the "magic gin" made me laugh out loud.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:01 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm rereading the book, because it's been a while and I'm trying to reconcile my memory of events in the book with what's going on in the show.

And I'm just becoming more and more disappointed.

Adaptations are tricky, what works well on the page may not work well visually, etc. However, Grossman's novel seems like it could be translated pretty closely to an episodic television show. There are a lot of discrete chunks that would make for a good hour of television. But, yeah, adaptation, I get it. Gamble et al. have a different version of this story they want to tell.

I just wish it was more coherant. I have no idea how anyone who hadn't read the novel would understand the foxes or welters or niffins or a ton of other stuff that seems to be introduced with very little explanation and then dropped. And Brakebills is rarely portrayed as a school for magic and more like a bunch of kids waiting for the next party. It has as much mystery as a frat house. (At least BB South felt like there was some learnin' going on.)

And poor Julia. Grossman pushing Julia's story to The Magician King works because it's so much less eventful than Quentin's time at BB. Running it concurrently in the show means that she just has to keep walking down dark alleyways and keep finding other hedge witches and have very little influence at all on the main plot. I'm hoping the plan is to depart completely from the novel and fold her into the BB storyline as soon as possible because I love the character and actress, but feel like she's in a spinoff show with occasional special guests. (In fact, I really like this cast and the way they work together. They're the only reason I'm still watching. I'm just hoping things get better.)
posted by eyeballkid at 4:40 PM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Girlfriend (who has not read the books) had some particularly cutting things to say about Mayakovsky's comments about Kady's looks (was he snarky about anyone's attractiveness in the books?), so I'm curious about how she'll react when his full history is revealed. There are some comments in the Show Only thread about how tired people are of the Jerk Teacher Who Secretly Cares trope, and I look forward to seeing how the Jerk Teacher Who Secretly Cares and Even More Secretly Has an Indiscretion in His Past That Caused One of the Worst Disasters in Brakebills History story unfolds.

This show being what it is, it'll probably come out as a throw-away line that takes all of three seconds, but one can hope for more.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:59 PM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


"...and Brakebill's South was underwhelming."

But they used a blue filter and everything! It was so realistic!

There's a scene where you can see the wood stove in Penny's (or Kady's, I don't recall) room -- whoever was responsible for the stove forgot that this wasn't 1999 and standard definition television and/or expected that the stove would always be out of focus, but they simulated flames with some kind of very insufficient rotating screen apparatus.

I agree with everyone else that this was a bad episode.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:04 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I noticed the fake fireplace too! That was pretty terrible.

That said, I liked this episode and I continue to enjoy how the show lives inside the world of the books but isn't telling the exact same story. I like not knowing what's coming, I like the casting, and I feel like the new plots and characters fit in well with the old stuff. I just like it! Good job, show!
posted by something something at 6:51 PM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the "actual, working, bag of dicks" line.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:05 AM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, that fake fireplace stood out like a sore thumb. Completely distracted from the scene.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:36 PM on March 3, 2016


I'm not a reader, but I thought the episode was fine. I would have liked more time with BB south, (so they went South, not North? Ironic name?), but I caught the gist of what they were supposed to pull from the visit, or at least think I did.

The foxes, well, again, I didn't read, but it sounds like they made a strategic decision not to really go for an episode segment from Nature. I'm okay with that. I think the biggest deal is that the two ended up becoming a certified couple., how the first time went, not that important (I presume?).

I thought the use of the fake fire was to help demonstrate the place of magic. The show has used warm colors for Brakebills, the heart of magic in the show, and cool, blue colors for pretty much everywhere else. While they leave Brakebills for the polar education, we get a visual reminder that they might be outside of Brakebills, but they're still close to the source of that warm color. I'm briefly reminded of how orange/red the foxes were.

For a 13 episode or so season, I'm generally appreciating the pace and it helps not having to so far do that equation in my brain "they left this out, but not that?! They put that in, but not this?!"
posted by Atreides at 2:15 PM on March 3, 2016


I thought the fire was magical and that's why it looked like that.

I am an unapologetic lover of the slow fiddly bits in the first book and I am very sad that BB South was only one episode and they did that weird shit with the foxes, but I know there are other things to accomplish in a short season.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:47 PM on March 3, 2016


"I thought the fire was magical and that's why it looked like that."

I think it's funny that people are calling that a "fireplace" when it was a wood stove. Unless there was an actual fireplace that they used the same practical effect with and I missed it. I relied on two different wood stoves (one antique and very inefficient) for heat for like four years -- two of those years actually in the mountains at over 8,000 feet. I am very proficient at starting a fire in a wood stove and I hope to never have to do so in my lifetime again.

But, anyway, no, it was a plain, boxy wood stove with an exhaust vent. Instead of a flame, the prop department must have rigged up a light with a colored rotating screen (warning: large animated gif of the scene) in front of it -- it made orange colored shapes visible through the window and would have looked fine if the stove was always out of focus. Looking at it again to make the gif, it looks a bit more sophisticated than I thought but it does seem to have a distinct keystone effect produced by projecting something at an angle -- the "flames" expand and accelerate in a very uniform way.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:40 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


And, actually, it's so small, I don't know if it would be called a wood stove. It's tiny! It looks less than six inches deep.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:47 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


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