The Magicians (Syfy, Wednesdays, 10/9C) has been a revelation in its second season. The writing, directing and performance have all reached a higher level (and the first season was pretty fine).
The characters are more nuanced; the world is deeper and even more intriguing.
This week’s episode, Lesser Evils, finds Fillory’s magical brownouts increasing; Quentin (Jason Ralph) is days away from death because his body can’t contain Alice’s Niffen (Olivia Taylor-Dudley) and Julia (Stella Maeve) and Kady (Jade Tailor) meet Renard’s (Mackenzie Astin) son (Christopher Gorham) – and he’s not just another guy, he’s a rising political star!
With Fillory on the brink of war, Eliot (Hale Appleby) is told of a highly risky alternative: one on one combat. To Margo’s (Summer Bishil) dismay, he says ‘rulers done gonna rumble’ – but only after making sure that the use of magic is allowed.
Quentin finds himself in a dungeon cell while Professor Lipson (Keegan Connor Tracy) examines him before delivering the news that he’s ‘dying quickly.’ But he refuses to box Alice’s Niffen – about the only thing that could save his life, aside from freeing her.
Meanwhile, Penny considers the option of working for The Library – despite the onerous contract – in order to get his magic back.
Written by Elle Lipson and John McNamara and directed by Rebecca Johnson, Lesser Evils is both metaphorical and literal – Senator Gaines is the lesser evil in comparison to his dad, being genuinely good and all; and the duel of kings is a lesser evil to all-out war.
In another sense, the title refers not just to the specifics of the levels of evil, but also to the making of those decisions – and the decisions made by Eliot, Quentin, and Kady are both surprising and of a level of maturity that they would not have been able to make in season one (though in some cases, they’re reached through less than mature reasoning).
There’s even a remarkably difficult decision that Summer has to make – and one that Fen (Brittany Curran) must make without even knowing what it might entail.
Johnson has a lovely script to work from and she does justice to every featured character – aided by a remarkably consistent cast.
Plus, Les Miz (this cast can sing!)…
I’m not sure Lesser Evils is the best episode of the season, so far, but it is definitely within hailing distance.
Final Grade: A