'The Magicians' Season 5 Episode 8 Review: A lot of minds in bodies they don't belong to brings up harsh truth
The show once uses impossible circumstances to really flesh out what makes their characters tick to great effect
Spoiler alert for 'The Magicians' Season 5 Episode 8 'Garden Variety Homicide'
Feet are something people take for granted. They’re a part of you, you take care of them, and you never want to see them hurt, but you go through most of your day without really being aware of them. You’re not aware, for instance, of how big or small your feet really are, right up until you put them in shoes that don’t fit. Margo Hanson (Summer Bishil) and Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) are this episode's "feet", proving that no matter how close you are to someone, it's not all that easy to walk a mile in their shoes.
After confessing his trauma to Margo in the aftermath of the apocalypse, the two are closer than ever. The pair have always had their own shorthand, and their own ways of connecting, and that relationship isn't static. While it might have seemed at first that Eliot was reverting to his secret-keeping ways, Margo snaps him out of it the second she realizes he's being "THAT Eliot." You would think people that close would be able to embody each other a lot better, but that turns out not to be the case.
There are really only two reasons you do a body-swapping episode — the first is purely for comedy and 'The Magicians' has got you covered there, from the very first moment Hale Appleman says "Ovary up." The second reason is to learn more about the characters by forcing them to deal with situations in a way they ordinarily wouldn't. Not many shows out there that have the same handle on their characters as 'The Magicians' does and the contrasts portrayed between Eliot and Margo's characters are nothing short of brilliant.
Margo is a self-aware, ruthless character. She takes the direct solution, fully aware of the consequences and how much it might cost. Eliot, in contrast, tends to attempt shortcuts to the easiest solution that makes everyone immediately happier, which ironically ends up twisting things even more. Eliot, however, has a vulnerability that defines him. It's a vulnerability that's not beyond Margo's capabilities, but definitely something that's not her first choice — just as brutal honesty isn't Eliot's.
Eliot manages to use some Margo ruthlessness to finally tell Josh Hoberman (Trevor Einhorn) what he needs to hear — even if that's not something either of them really wanted to say. Margo, in embodying Eliot's vulnerability, manages to see a side of Sebastian (Sean Maguire) that she can sympathize with, and comes upon a very important question — what is the Dark King's motivation?
Sean Maguire has portrayed a very sympathetic king, burdened by his need to hold on to Fillorian power. Things on 'The Magicians' are rarely what they seem, and now that the Dark King has been revealed to actually be, you know, dark, it's time to dive deeper into the mystery and find out what's really going on here. Especially now that he's been killed and mysteriously brought back to life already.
Answers might lie elsewhere in the Multiverse, as Alice Quinn (Olivia Dudley), Hamish Bax (Aaron Jennings) and Penny Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta) have to deal with a dimension-hopping symbiotic fungus that acts as a surprisingly effective metaphor for grief. Post-Apocalypse, the characters are currently clearly divided into Team Fillory and Team Brakebills (with poor Kady Orloff-Diaz (Jade Tailor) being stuck all alone on Team Hedge), and the division really aids the storytelling. It makes it easier to compartmentalize the many plot threads weaving their way through the show, and lets specific character dynamics develop.
Hamish is a charming new character, who is starting to make his mark, but it's going to take an episode or two before he's all the way there. Dean Adiyodi and Professor Quinn, however, are a surprisingly great pairing as they try to keep Brakebills madness under control. With all the apocalyptic Fillorian madness, it's nice to have some relatively grounded story at Brakebills... though the mention of the World Seed from 'The Magician's Land' and the introduction of The Couple mean things won't be grounded for long.
It's one of the season's strongest episodes, which manages to give each member of a large ensemble their time to shine. Trading out one apocalypse for another, the density of each episode is making it feel like we're getting two seasons for the price of one. And we're certainly not complaining.
The next episode of 'The Magicians' airs on March 4 on Syfy.