TV Recaps: The Magicians – Ranking the Episodes of Season 3

With The Magicians having aired its season finale this week, now is the time to start looking forward to Season 4 and wondering what is going to happen. But! Before we say goodbye to Season 3, I thought it would be fun to look back on this tremendous season and rank the 13 episodes from best to still great but not best (there is NO worse in this season’s catalog).

Read my thoughts and let me know if you agree or if I messed up big time in the comments.  In every episode title, there is a link to our complete recap & review of that episode!

THE MAGICIANS — “A Life in the Day” Episode 305 — Pictured: Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

PopCultureReview’s Rank of Best Season 3 The Magicians Episodes begins … after the jump!

13. Heroes and Morons. Episode 2, aired January 17, 2018.  The Epic Quest laid out for the Magicians begins for real. In Fillory, Fen and Eliot learn they have a daughter named Fray who is also on #TeamFairyQueen and the worst kind of teenager. Eliot and his family board a sentient ship named The Muntjac and head out to After Island where Eliot asserts his High King-ness and earns the First Golden Key.  Back at Castle Whitespire, Margo gets her first real taste of solo rule over Fillory and she’s awesome.

On Earth, we get an amazing animated short over which Quentin narrates the beginning of Chapter One of “The Tale of the Seven Keys.” For me, this was the episode highlight as I love the style of animation and it was an indication of the kind of fantastically of out of the box storytelling we’d get all Season.  Main  Earth storylines involve (i) Alice buying a cat (RIP Hester) to act as an early warning detector against The Lamprey which is hunting her; (ii) a search for Mayakovsky and more importantly, any Magic Batteries he may still have; (iii) Kady trying to figure out a way to keep Penny from dying from his Poison Room Cancer.  The episode ends with The Lamprey taking hold of Quentin’s body.

Best Line of Episode: “I’m sorry officer, our friend’s cat was sick … and exploded … as they do” – Quentin, after Hester explodes in the Hospital.

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

12. The Losses of Magic.  Episode 3, aired January 24, 2018.  We pick up basically right after Heroes and Morons in Fillory and on Earth.  Fillorian Pirates (with a sexy female Pirate King), Golden Keys make portals that lead to … places we’re not told about in this episode.  Tick “mansplains” and Margo further asserts herself as a ruler not to be fucked with.  She shows empathy to a sentient boat dealing with a possible rape and she stands up to the Fairy Queen (and destroys her own eye in the process).  We also learn that the Fairy Queen is having Margo plant inedible mushrooms in Fillory but no more info on that right now.  i

On Earth, the focus of the episode is Alice (with a new Lamprey Alarm Cat) and Quentin, and her horrible mother and her loving father who she eventually, accidentally, kills in an effort to kill the Lamprey chasing her.  Julia and Kady work together to summon a chocolate and cancer loving demon who tries to save Penny but fails. The good news is that Penny was astrally projected outside his body when it died so he’s maybe not really dead. Maybe?

Best Line of the Episode: A tie between “Son of a twat.” – Margo, upon learning pirates have attacked The Muntjac AND “Shit” – Penny as he stares at his lifeless body which is the final line of the episode before cut to black.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

11.  Do You Like Teeth.  Episode 6, aired February 14, 2018.  Interesting episode for character developments. In particular, its our first really good look at how off the rails Dean Fogg has become. As he says, he’s “a Magician without magic and a Dean without a School.” Plot: Using the Dean’s spell, the Voltaic Transfer, Julia (who wants nothing to do with her spark of magic) transfers her spark to Alice (who is like a junkie looking for a magic hit).  In Fillory, Margo and Eliot discover the Fairies’ plot to infiltrate Fillory when they discover a patch of Fairy babies planted in the Northern Orchards (these are the inedible mushrooms referenced earlier in the season) and Margo also has to deal with consummating her marriage to the 15 year old Prince Fomar.  Quentin has the meaty storyline as he Quests alone this week (well, he’s got Benedict with him) in The Abyss.  He meets Poppy Klein who slips him the Fourth Golden Key which turns out to be somewhat of a curse as this Key manifests the worst depress part of yourself in physical form.  At the end, Benedict who touches the Key commits suicide and takes the Fourth Golden Key with him.  This episode features an amazing bit of acting by Jason Ralph and he carries the weight of confronting his depression Monster well but overall, was a letdown in tone, action & emotion coming of “A Day in the Life” the week before. Oh! Important bit of plot – the episode ends with Alice, who is using her newly gained spark of magic to stitch a new body for Penny, falls over in full-on, foaming at the mouth, seizure.  Yikes!

Best Line of the Episode: TIE “How many people have to pay the price for your heroics?” – Depression Quentin to Quentin, trying to break him down. AND “Kidnapping .. Hostages … Clever Don’t Ask Question .. Go! GOOO!!” – Margo, after she and Eliot discover the Mushroom Fairy Babies planted in Fillory.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

10. The Art of the Deal.  Episode 10, aired March 14, 2018.  Julia and Fen convince the Fairy Queen to voluntarily wear a trapping collar of the McAllistair kind so that she can inspire her Earth bound children to rebel against the slave masters.  Unfortunately, the collar can only be removed via beheading.  We learnt that whomever has contracted the McAllistair clan to produce Fairy Dust has sped up the order and we are about to witness the wholesale slaughter of the Fairies on Earth.  Through Fen’s impassioned pleas, the Fairy Queen is convinced to sacrifice her Fairy integrity and break the Fairy Deal which has allowed the McAllistairs to use Fairy Dust power for hundreds of years. Now invisible to the slavers, the Fairies violently slaughter ALL of the McAllistairs except Irene who escapes in the bloodletting.  Quentin and Alice continue be Quentin and Alice and it continues to annoy.  On the Muntjac, Eliot and Margo convince the Stone Queen and Idri to stall their war on Fillory because they are bringing Magic back and getting their thrones back and both of those things will benefit the Floaters and the Lorians.  In the Underworld Branch of the Library, Penny adjust to his new reality following his capture. After spending the whole episode trying to figure how to escape, following a conversation with Hades who hard sells him on having a bright future in the down under, he seemingly accepts his fate, joins Howard’s book club and chows down on some delicious looking cupcakes.  Oh, also, we learn that the Sixth Key is what sustains the entire Fairy Realm and so the Fairy Queen cannot ever let the Magicians have it. Whelp!

Best Line of the Episode: “[we’ll] finger blast your entire army into fucking compost” – Margo convincing the Stone Queen she really doesn’t want Margo for an enemy once they get Magic back.

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

9.  Poached Eggs. Episode 7, aired February 21, 2018.  This episode is pivotal for setting up the second half of the season; its very much an introduction to the people, themes and challenges we’ll face in the remaining 5 episodes of the year.  Julia, after having her ass handed to her by very drunk Dean Fogg, realizes that her spark of magic is hers and hers alone and she has to take it back (or else Alice will probably die; though it takes Alice almost killing Julia before all of this is really realized). This is an important development for Julia because she really turns hard into her “becoming” arc from here on out.   Also, we learn about Fairy Dust in this episode though its just from  a “magical creature essence” as far as we know right now.  Poppy, Q and Astral Projected Penny jail break Kady and the foursome start working on the Plan (which includes Harriet and Victoria – hi guys!) to get the Fourth Golden Key (the Depression Key) back from Benedict who is now in the Underworld.  In Fillory, after Fray sells out her parents to the Fairy Queen (about the stealing of the Fairy Babies), it comes out that Fray isn’t really Eliot and Fen’s child. Their real daughter died during childbirth. Fen is crushed. Margo and Eliot make a deal with Fairy Queen in exchange for her babies to allow all Fillorians to see the Fairies.  A Fairy Deal with all of Fillory.  Also, Poppy and Q fuck – to help him to relax.   Last scene, the beginning of a Fillorian revolt where we see the villagers carrying away Margo. Whelp!

Best Line of the Episode: TIE “Go Team!” – Penny after Kady punches out the orderly in the asylum. AND “Isn’t that just adult life, accepting your own misery.” – Kady, speaking as only Kady can.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

8.  Twenty-Three. Episode 11, aired March 21, 2018. Bottle episode! Julia and Josh are summoned to the 23rd Timeline to help them get rid of their Beast who is still alive and kicking. Marina and 23TL Josh originally lured Julia and 40TL Josh there with a plan to sacrifice them to the Beast in exchange for him not eating anyone else (the Beast has apparently been asking for Julia even though he’s aware the 23TL Julia is dead already).  Twist of all Twists, the Beast turns out to be 23TL Quentin who Alice resurrected (without his Shade) after the original Beast killed him. We learn Beast Quentin killed Martin Chatwin, solidified his power, collected everything Fillory and lives in Castle Whitespire like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast before Belle shows up but more more violent and blood-lusty. After Quentin Beast kills 23TL Alice, Julia sticks her Shade inside him which causes him to have immediate regret over his actions. He hands Julia the Seventh Golden Key (which was what was powering him as Magic is out in this timeline too) and then kills himself.  Marina escapes to the 40TL and isn’t seen again this season. 23TL Penny returns with Julia and Josh (23TL Josh is killed earlier by the Quentin Beast).  Even though a Key is found, this is very much  a “plot in place” kind of episode but does great things for the Julia “becoming” arc and has some wonderful character interaction and beats.   Also, we learn that something called the “quickening” is coming for Josh due to his having bones a werewolf way back when.  You won’t learn anything more about this, this season so don’t worry.

Best Line of the Episode: “Act out.” – Josh takes us to Commercials right after he and Julia realize they’ve been tele-ported to the 23TL by the Quest.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

7.   Be The Penny.  Episode 4, aired January 31, 2018.  When it aired early in the Season (this was Episode 4), I called this a Top 3 The Magicians episode overall and I stand by how good it was; its just that so many of the episodes that came after it, were that much better.  In short, the entire episode is spent from Penny’s point of view as we watch him travel from Earth to Fillory (aboard The Muntjac where Margo is still holding court following the pirates debacle from the previous episode) to the Neitherlands (where Eliot, Fen and Fray escaped to last week and are trying to survive cannibals) and back again, watching his friends (“friends”?) react to the news of his death (Benedict of all people is the most broken up FYI) but also as he tries to figure out a way to get fully living again. He’s not alive and he’s not dead, nor is he a ghost. He is a classic “Check Other” box of stuck in astral projection form.  Luckily, he has a sidekick this episode, a pervy Brakebills student, Hyman Cooper, who some 90 years before also died while in mid-Astral Projection. Together, they help Penny figure out what his next steps will be including a skill in which Penny can project himself into things (like, a penny).

In plot movement, Kady spends the episode wrestling over what to do with Penny’s body -give it to The Library so Penny can begin his Billion Year Underworld Branch contract or burn it which is a finality in him ever coming back into that body. Alice pushes for working with The Library (a recurring theme this season) while Harriet (yay Marlee Matlin!) says she wouldn’t trust The Library even a little bit.   Julia and Quentin, using the help of Dean Fogg, discover and recover the Second Golden Key hidden away in the house of old magic bitch lady, Irene McAllistair. Margo makes big plans to dethrone and de-power the Fairy Queen. And in the last beat of the episode, Eliot, Fen and Fray make it back to Earth and The Cottage just in time for Eliot to discover the Second Golden Key (the Truth Key we call it) allows you to see Penny! Hooray!

Best Line of the Episode: “Eliot Did Nothing Wrong But Was Chased By Cannibals Through the Befucked Neitherlands Anyway” – the name of the Story Eliot gives to describe his time after leaving The Muntjac.

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

6.  The Fillorian Candidate.  Episode 12, aired March 28, 2018.  After a ridiculously accurate depiction of an American-style election in Fillory between Tick and Eliot, Margo is elected as High King! Turns out, her empathy towards the talking animals of Fillory, including a heart to heart she has with Humbledrum – the polite bear that is boning Fray – won her the hearts and votes of the million strong Fillorian Citizens.  Seems there is only about 50,000 humans and so the animal vote is Key to winning Fillorian elections.   Elsewhere, we learn that Alice’s assignment from Zelda is for her to power some sort of Siphon using the magical power residing inside Julia.  Q talks her out of killing one of their friends but overall, these two continue to grate with their unresolved relationship woes. It really was the weakest aspect of all the episodes this Season.  Julia’s journey of “becoming” continues as she regrows the One Way Forest she destroyed last year. Also, she heals Dean Fogg’s eyes and returns his sight. Also, also, in the gang’s effort to learn info about the Castle At the End of the World, Julia with Kady and 23TL Penny hunt down and resolve for good, the Reynard storyline.  You can hear that chapter of Julia’s (and Kady’s) life slamming shut for good and it feels good.  Quentin takes the final step of his own “becoming” and levels with his Father that he is on this Quest and will need to finish it, even if it means that his dad may die as a result of Magic turning back on.  Last, once she’s installed as High King, Margo concludes a new Fairy Deal wherein the Fairies are granted land and full citizenship in Fillory in exchange for the Sixth (and final – remember, Julia and Josh got the Seventh Key back in “Twenty-Three”) Golden Key!

Best Line of the Episode: “Eat My Ass.” – the foul mouth Bunny Text Margo receives from the Fairy Queen.

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

5.  The Tales of the Seven Keys.   Episode 1, aired January 10, 2018.   This was the Season 3 premiere and if we’re being honest, probably shouldn’t be as high on the list as it is. However, it introduced not only the season long arc of the Epic Quest to bring Magic back which involved all of the cast but it set up (or reminded us) of the storylines of each individual character.  Also, it introduced us to Bunny Texts! The Great Cock of the Darkling Woods! The Julia/Quentin Staircase Dance Scene! Bacchus! Crazy Fen with Wooden Toes! And the very best exchange of the entire season, the “I’m Grace Park”-coded exchange between Eliot and Margo where Eliot reveals that the Fairy Queen is using Margo’s purloined eye to spy on them.  Its an example of amazing writing that will be demonstrated time and again this season and reveals that The Magicians is all in on making great TV without a lot of thought or concern about doing things the traditional way.

Best Line of The Episode:  “Need Help, Love Eliot” – Eliot to Quentin, sending his first Bunny Text. Not that its necessarily the best line in the episode but it was the First Bunny Text … and that should be recognized!

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

4.  Will You Play With Me?  Episode 13 , aired April 4, 2018.  13 weeks after the Great Cock laid out an Epic Quest for Eliot and his friends to get Magic back, the action comes to an end in a classically twisty and emotional ride of highs and lows that only The Magicians could pull off.  With all of the Questers gather on Earth, Fen is acting High King of Fillory.  The Fairy Queen sacrifices herself to secure the safety of her people.  Julia is promoted to full fledged Goddess. Quentin uses an emergency shot of Magic to psychically link with the Daughter of the Quest Tale in the Castle at the End of the World where he barters her access to the Castle in exchange for taking up her watch.  The Questers battle a Monster created by the Gods but which cannot be controlled by the Gods.  Alice destroys the Keys! Julia drains her Goddess power into making a new set of Keys. The Super Friends turn Magic on. Only to be immediately attacked by The Library and Dean Fogg in a disturbing act of betrayal!! Oh Dean Fogg, how could you! In the wrap up, we learn that all of the Magicians have been memory wiped and assigned new personas, except 40TL Penny (who is still eating cupcakes, presumably, in the Underworld) and Alice who is a prisoner in The Library (the price she is paying for breaking a deal with them). On the Street, the Monster, living inside Eliot’s body, tracks down Brian Quentin and urges him to play with him and cut to black. See you in Season 4, bitches!

Best Line of the Episode: “Tears … for your enemy.” – The Fairy Queen to Fen before giving her a sweet kiss on the cheek and giving herself over to be sacrificed.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

3.  All That Josh.  Episode 9, aired March 7, 2018.  This is one of the best examples of the avant garde storytelling methods that The Magicians employed this Season.  Also, it really hammers away on one of the core themes of The Magicians which talks about the power of friendship and how you may feel alone but someone cares about you and you won’t be left alone. It also ties into the feeling of being an outcast or misfit and that feeling, despite the above, that you always feel alone.  Which, sure, isn’t everyone but its a decent amount of people and in particular, probably a lot of the nerd/geek culture that would be drawn to a show like The Magicians.  Not a lot of plot to worry about here: Josh, who we realize we haven’t seen since Bacchus’ party in episode 1 of this season, has been living in a pocket universe where his greatest wishes are granted. His greatest wish? To live in a 24/7 party house where people are always having a good time, dancing and doing a decent amount of recreational drugs. Also, singing. Lots of fucking singing. In the Key of E.  Kady, Quentin and Alice find themselves transported to this pocket universe and spend the episode trying to figure out how they can leave when Quentin eventually puts together that the Quest for the next Key is to convince Josh to voluntarily leave this perfect world and come home with them. Several songs are sung throughout the episode with Jade Tailor (Kady) and Trevor Einhorn (Josh) carrying the singing load but with the final song, Under Pressure, all of our core Questers (sorry Fen) have to come together (through the use of the Fifth Key – the Unity Key) and all sing as to convince Josh he belongs with them and that he needs to leave this world.  AMAZING performances from Trevor Einhorn in this episode but they all kick ass and you leave this episode really feeling like maybe you’re not as alone as you think.  B Plot has Julia and Fen trying to convince pegleg Skye the Fairy that Irene is evil and that as a Fairy, she can do magic.  Julia also “levels up” her god power.  In the C Plot, facing execution, Eliot and Margo spend the episode on the Muntjac speeding towards their end and Tick reveals himself to be a traitor to the crown who is now going to seize the throne following their over throwing.  At the last second, the Muntjac sides with Margo and Eliot (but mostly Margo) and takes flight (the Muntjac will remain a flying ship for the remainder of the Season).  I cannot love this episode and its execution any more than I do.  I heart it so hard.

Best Line of the Episode: “I don’t think we could have picked a better death.” – Eliot after Tick describes the manner of their choice of death.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

2.  Six Short Stories About Magic.  Episode 8, aired February 28, 2018.  Reveals! Betrayals! Nine Plus Minutes of pure sign language dialogue with no sound. “Six Short Stories” tells 1 overall story broken up into 6 specific character featured vignettes.   Story 1: Penny starts the sotry and acts as the MC for the episode. After meeting up with Sylvia, she leads him to Cassandra (see recap for mythology implications) who looks just like Alice; she’s the one who writes all the books in The Library.  He uses her stories to follow his friends’ plots in this ep and also see what he needs to do to get the Fourth Key back from Benedict while avoiding detection by The Library. In the end, Sylvia betrays him and The Library captures him.  Story 2: Poppy picks up the thread and we see she’s really just in this for her own selfish desire to get Magic back. She stays with Q until the heat turns up a bit in The Library and then she bounces. This is the last we see Poppy this season.  Story 3: Alice. Alice is way against the Mirror Bridges Plan to get to The Library. Also, she’s chasing magic for her own reason so she makes her own way to The Library and cuts a deal with Zelda to work for The Library. We don’t know the details yet.  Story 4: Eliot (and Margo). Two seconds of Eliot and Margo, who are on trial in front of a Wombat Judge, as Eliot makes a plea to drop all charges against them so they can save Fillory.  Story 5: Fen, having just learned her real daughter is dead, gets drunk and hangs out with Julia forming a bond that will carry through to the end of the Season. We also really start to dig into McAllistair/Slave Fairies storyline and Fen begins to confront her hatred of the Fairies.  Story 6: Harriet. Marlee Matlin finally reveals her whole story tonight. Through a 9+ minute scene, Harriet confronts her mother, Zelda the Head Librarian, about how The Library unnecessarily cock blocks access to Magical Knowledge and this is the source of Harriet’s issue with The Library and why she wants to bring it down. At the end of the episode, its unclear if she and Victoria have been killed or not when the Mirror Bridge is shattered with them in it.  In the end, Penny got the Fourth Key off to Kady and Quentin before being captured and so the Super Friends have the Depression Key back in their possession.

Best Line of the Episode: “But you’re just a human magician with no magic now.” – Zelda, being savage as fuck to Alice.

(Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

1.  A Life in the Day.  Episode 5,aired February 7, 2018.   Deep breath. This episode  moved me in a way that TV rarely moves me. The journey of Eliot and Quentin through a life spent together trying to solve the mosaic was not only so well written and filmed but the acting performances from Hale Appleman and Jason Ralph are so powerful that you can’t help but root for them, as a best friends, as lovers, as a couple, as two kings. In short, the duo find themselves in Fillory, long in the past, before Jane Chatwin has come up on the Mosaic and taken the Key which will allow her to make time loops.  Completing the tiles of the Mosaic proves a near impossible task which literally takes the boys over a hundred years to complete. In fact, Quentin who has watched his wife die (yeah, he got married while here), has watched his son grow up and leave the nest (yes, he had a son while here, he named him Ted after his father), and Eliot die (Eliot (and Quentin) grow to be old as fuck), finishes the Mosaic only after he finds a golden tile buried a short way from the Mosaic patch … which proves to be the last missing piece of the puzzle.  Right after he finally finishes the puzzle and has earned the Golden Key, Jane Chatwin comes upon him and he gives her the Key so she can do what she has to but it all works out in the end.

Eliot and Quentin originally travel to Fillory to try and save Margo from her all of a sudden Marriage that is about to take place with a Prince of the The Tribe of the Floating Mountain that is No Longer Floating.  Of course, they are way laid into a Fillory set well in the past but that doesn’t keep Margo from getting married. Unfortunately, the handsome Prince Micah is decapitated on the alter by his younger brother, Fomar. More unfortunately? Fillorian custom dictates that Margo proceed with the marriage to the younger brother. Margo’s mental breakdown while covered in Micah blood is one of Summer Bishil’s most emotionally moving performances of the season (in a season filled with Summer’s AMAZING performances).  Later on, while going through her wedding presents, Margo finds a letter from a long dead Q telling her she needs to get the missing Mosaic Key from Jane Chatwin which, as it turns out is buried on Earth with Jane’s corporeal body.  Anyway, at the end of the episode, Margo, Eliot and Quentin return together to Castle Whitespire and through some deja vu events, Eliot and Quentin, now alone, both recollect the entirety of their life lived together. And scene.  Read my recap because I can’t even let myself gush anymore about how much I love this episode and these people.

Also happening? Alice brings the Truth Key to Kady in the mental hospital but she is of the position that not Dead Penny can go fuck himself.  Elsewhere, Our Lady Underground finally appears to Julia to tell her to stop fucking around and try and grow the spark of magic she instilled in her. Still not wanting anything to do with it, Julia and Alice have the idea to transfer the Magic to Alice – more on that in the next week’s episode.

Best Line of the Episode: “With a friend, we solved it together.” -Old Man Quentin to Jane Chatwin. Tears, all the fucking tears.

THE MAGICIANS — “A Life in the Day” Episode 305 — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh, Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS — “A Life in the Day” Episode 305 — Pictured: (l-r) Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater, Sebastian Billingsley-Rodriguez as Rupert, Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS — “A Life in the Day” Episode 305 — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh, Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Alan Zenuk/Syfy)

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