The Magicians S4E1 – A Flock of Birds (Recap)
Welp, here we are at Season 4 of The Magicians! Before we jump into the insanity that the premiere episode, ‘A Flock of Lost Birds’, had to offer; I would just like us all to remember that this show is trifling.
It was bad enough that they ended Season 2 by straight up turning off all of the magic in the world, then had us just live with that for a year. They doubled down and little did I (and everyone else who hadn’t read the books) know they were going to pull the same shit again, only on a much bigger scale for Season 3. ‘Oh you’re sad that they took magic away from your show about people with magic? Well how about we straight up take away the people you like? All of them. See you next year!’ Which is what I’m sure the creators of this show said smugly, probably while smoking a cigar and twirling their mustaches or whatever it is devious people do.
Well guess what, creators of The Magicians? Next year is here and I’m ready for at least 13 episodes of madness and getting my feelings hurt by people who don’t actually exist. But before we can even think about getting there, there’s a lot to get into right here. So let’s begin, shall we?
We jump back into this world with a familiar and yet not so familiar scene; A woman named “Kimber” receives an envelope with an acceptance letter and winds up chasing a paper in the wind until she ends up going through a portal to upstate New York and to Brakebills University. The first person she encounters is a handsome, well-dressed stranger who asks her to follow him while dumping exposition about the new status quo regarding the school and magic, but also keeps things vague enough that Kimber has no idea what he’s talking about. In season 1, the well dressed man was Eliot, and the person chasing the paper was Quentin. In this new world order, the well dressed man is Todd in his best Eliot Waugh cosplay who escorts Kimber to take her entry exam to enroll into Brakebills.
While Kimber and the rest of the new class hopefuls take their tests, we get more insight into the new status quo as magic is now rationed by the library, which makes things run a lot less smoothly than before. Kimber apparently shorted out the globe when Professor Lipson found her, which is promising, but she fails every portion of the exam. As Dean Fogg discusses this with the professor, he looks through an instrument that looks like a handheld, steampunk version of phoropter and is able to see past the glamour over Kimber–Kimber is actually Julia. However, the instrument cracks because, as we see throughout the episode, the spell that was cast over her and the other questors (minus Alice) is strong.
Speaking of Alice, she’s still serving her prison sentence in the Neitherlands under the eye of The Library and The Order. A model prisoner she is not apparently because aside from just being all around abrasive and hostile to head librarian,Zelda and her cellmate next door, she’s made escape attempts. Still, Zelda makes her eat and afterwards takes a meeting with Dean Fogg to approve the new students he wants to admit to Brakebills, Kimber/Julia being among them. Zelda approves all of Dean Fogg’s admissions requests without a whole lot of fanfare and they discuss Alice and her fears about the fate of the rest of the questors. It’s here that we get our first glimpse of almost everyone else since the finale in a montage of while she and Fogg discuss candidly how it was really them who saved magic, and also how Alice is worried for their safety. Kady is a narcotics cop named Sam, Margo is an editor at a fashion magazine feeling the Miranda Priestly fantasy and going by Janet (a clever nod to her name in the book series). Penny is now the world renowned DJ Hansel and Josh is an Uber driver named Isaac. Considering Dean Fogg is the one who carried out giving them all new personas, it’s kind of hilarious that among cops, architects, and celebrities, the Dean decided to just make Josh an Uber driver. I have a suspicion that he chose those particular personas for a specific reason and not based on how much he liked them. Because let’s be real–I doubt he actually likes any of them very much.
So, I’m going to write a sentence here that after 3 seasons of this show I never thought I would have a reason to write. Are you ready for this? Here it goes: Kady Orloff-Diaz is the MVP of this episode. I know right? Kady who from the beginning, tended to be randomly forgotten about as a character for huge chunks of time. Kady, who is such an underrated asset to the team is the reason the questors start to come back together again. She busts a perp in what she thinks is a drug deal, but he gets off and goes free, which apparently happens a lot. She surveils the perp for what I’m assuming, is a way to catch him in the act and get something on him in order to put him away for good. But she ends up chasing him when he realizes he’s being watched. She follows him into a store with a familiar star symbol in the front and he seemingly disappears with the clerk saying he didn’t see anyone. As she’s leaving, Kady/Sam notices a tattoo on the clerk with a similar star symbol on his wrist — the mark of a hedgewitch.
Of course, Kady/Sam doesn’t know what it means so she decides to do some research on a search engine that makes Bing look more appealing in comparison. As soon as she comes across an article about hedgwitches though, her machine flips out, sparking and shutting down. She tries to go old school and write it down, but her coffee spills. She goes to some sort of records room and on her way lights are literally just bursting as she walks. It’s beyond evident that the glamour spell doesn’t want her poking around about anything involving magic. She isn’t deterred, however and she goes to what looks like an abandoned house. From a distance the perp watches her and when he tries to use a long-range spell, it backfires on him. Sometime later, Kady/Sam does find him and he tells her that he wants no issues with her while she has the witness protection spell on her. Obviously Kady/Sam has no clue what he’s talking about and he realizes that she doesn’t know she’s under the influence of a spell. To protect himself against her, he wears a medallion which Kady/Sam takes, and before she can get more answers out of him, he runs away and gets hit by a truck, Mean Girls style.[
Asleep at her desk, Margo/Janet has a dream where she talks to an emanation of Ember that has been activated due to ‘a great ill being afoot in Fillory’. He’s vague because he doesn’t know specifically what’s wrong, but tells Margo/Janet, that as high king, she needs to fix it. Of course she doesn’t know she’s high king, so she insists that Ember is coming to the wrong person with this, which pisses him off and he yells at her to once again fix it. Then she wakes up. Despite having a whole new life, Margo/Janet is still in possession of her fairy eye though she obviously doesn’t know that. She’s seen doctors who tells her that things are normal though she insists that the eye is weird. She berates her assistant for this and for the fact that for some reason she’s unable to secure copies of the Fillory and Further books for Margo/Janet either.
While wearing the medallion, Kady/Sam is able to do some research without everything screwing up and she comes across a graphic pulp novel titled ‘A Flock of Birds’. The novel not only details her entire fake life, but that of the rest of the questors as well. As a result, she tracks down Margo/Janet and tells her everything she knows about magic and the graphic novel. Margo/Janet is skeptical at first, but gets on board after seeing her life detailed and they set out to find the rest of the characters in the book.
Remember Alice’s neighbor in the cell next door to hers? Well he and Alice have a conversation and he tells her how he ended up there, and wouldn’t you know it, her cellmate is Santa Claus. Wild. That’s right, in the world of The Magicians, Santa Claus is a black man in jail for a crime he didn’t commit as The Order got him on some murder charges after some elves died trying to obtain a book from the poison room for him. Santa tells her about how he tried to kill himself with a piece of his lunch tray, but how he’s glad it hadn’t worked because he has hope of getting out and wants Alice to have that same hope for herself. He makes her promise that she’ll keep hope alive, and in an almost childlike manner, she does.
I’m gonna drop a self-harm trigger warning right here, because in the next scene Alice has slit her wrists but gets rescued in time that she survives. She wakes up in the infirmary and when she spots a gross looking bug that I assume is a cockroach, she scrambles to grab it and puts it in her mouth. Zelda, (who thinks Alice tried to kill herself because she feels guilty about her friends) tells Alice that she wants to rehabilitate her because she thinks Alice has the capacity to be a master magician and could do great things working for The Order. Alice stays silent, and is sent back to her room as her wounds have healed enough (I assume by magic). When she gets there, Santa wastes no time berating her but she spits the cockroach out on to her lunch tray and lets him know that she didn’t try to kill herself, she just needed to get out of the cell. She doesn’t have a plan as much as she has a pre-plan, which somehow involves the bug so we’ll see how that goes, but that’s as far as we get with her plot for this episode.
Kimber/Julia goes to see Dean Fogg after everyone gets their disciplines but her because as of yet, she hasn’t been able to do a single piece of magic. She’s known around school (by some of the faculty even) as a squib, which without context is obviously not good, and with context is even worse, being classified as hate speech by Fogg. She’s discouraged, but like Julia proper is tenacious, determined, and not at all interested in actually throwing in the towel. Dean Fogg isn’t known for being a warm character, or one that’s even particularly nice, but he tells Kimber/Julia about Julia proper (without mentioning her by name) and about how he kicked her out and how something really bad happened to her as a result. He let’s Kimber/Julia know that he won’t be doing the same to her.
Kady/Sam and Margo/Janet find Josh/Isaac and Penny/Hansel who they’ve filled in off screen about magic being real and the lives they’re living not being their own. They both seemed to have received it positively for the most part, but they’re unable to find Nigel/Eliot, Brian/Quentin, or Kimber/Julia, (the latter because she’s away at Brakebills) so they try to formulate their next move. Margo/Janet wants to find the author of ‘A Flock of Birds’, which was written 14 years ago, and Hansel has the idea of going to see the hedgewitch who got hit by the truck to ask him more questions since he apparently hadn’t died. Before they can decide though, Marina (who was originally the Marina from the 23rd timeline) shows up telling them that she’s there to help, though knowing anything about Marina, you know that’s most likely not the case. [
Because of the glamour, Marina 23 has no idea who any of them are as well, but she knows that they’re under one and that they are saturated with magic. She seems to have set up a pretty good life for herself in this timeline and found them because the hedgewitch that got hit by the truck is a friend of hers. After putting up protection wards, Marina tries to do a spell to see beyond the glamour to find out who they all really are, but it’s too powerful and they all get knocked down, knocked out, or both.
This episode only features one scene with Eliot and Quentin, but it’s a good one. Quentin is under the impression that he is a professor named Brian, and Eliot should be the son of an English nobleman named Nigel, but the monster from Blackspire is currently still inhabiting his body and holding a very confused and afraid Quentin/Brian hostage while he goes on a casual killing spree that he regards as nothing more than play time. The monster of Blackspire knows that Quentin has a glamour over him and tells him that he intends on killing his friends, even if Quentin/Brian doesn’t know who those friends are.
In the final scene of the episode, Margo/Janet, having been knocked out has another Ember dream, and the god is not pleased that Margo has yet to fix whatever is wrong with Fillory. When Margo tells him that she’s not in Fillory he transports her there instantly, leaving her stranded there confused, in the middle of the forest where some sort of ominous looking creature is lurking.
The premiere episodes of this show are never the most action-packed or exciting per se, but they always do a banger job at re-acclimating you to the insane status-quo of the world they’ve built. The actors are familiar with the characters they play by now that it seems like a real treat for them not only be playing these different versions of themselves but for us to watch them as an audience do their thing and still see shades of the characters proper bleed through. Aside from acting, it’s awesome to see characters like Marina come back and elements like hedge witches come back into play once again. One of the most clever aspects of the episode is the use of the high pitched noise that happened everytime the glamour over the questors was in danger of being breached. It was a recurring sound element that while sometimes more subtle than others elevated the viewing experience that much more. Not to mention, there was a moment during a discussion in Margo/Janet’s office that the sound crescendoed to a near obnoxious level, but the moment Penny/Hansel took Josh/Isaac’s hand the sound ceased instantly. I’m not sure what it means yet, but I have a suspicion it’s going to come back into play at some point.
In season 1 we learned that there had been 39 previous timelines and that there would not be another, but here we are in season 4 and we’ve gotten a soft re-boot of sorts without actually resetting that timeline at all. Four years in and there were some really cool nods to the first episode that I’m sure day 1 fans got a kick out of. There were no real downsides to this episode though there are plenty of plot points from last season that hadn’t been touched on yet and some that were only lightly teased. All in all, it’s the kind of premiere that instills confidence in you that the season ahead is going to be a good one. And just to end on a bit of great Magicians new in general, the show has already been picked up by SyFy for a 5th season!
Final thoughts: Best line of the episode unsurprisingly goes to Margo. There were about 3 from her that were gold, but I’m going to have to go with “The color correction on this model is so bad it’s racist”. It’s up in the air if Julia is still a goddess or not at this point, but I really hope that she is because we saw far too little of goddess Julia before she gave it up to recreate the seven keys last season. After her betraying the questors in the finale of last season, I pretty much wrote Alice off, but after this episode, I think I’m at least open to seeing if her redemption arc could win me over again. There was something about her, the most child-like among them with her love of unicorns, horses, and fluffy animals, meeting Santa Claus and finding it in her not to give up from him because he acknowledges her as a good person even after all of the bad she’s done that pulled at my heartstrings enough to at least wants to see where this goes.
But that’s enough of my take on things, what did you think about ‘A Flock of Birds’? What plot points of the show are you most looking forward to re-visiting this season? Which alter ego of the questors do you enjoy watching the most? Let me know down below and keep it right here for recaps of The Magicians on ForAllNerds.com!