The Magicians: The Best Episodes, Ranked – MovieWeb

The Magicians was a surprising, magical, and crazy TV show that we all miss. Here are its best episodes, ranked.
The Magicians was a TV show that lasted five seasons on SYFY. Adapted from books of the same name written by Lev Grossman, it tells the story of a group of students at a magical university. Some have called it Harry Potter for grownups, as there is magic; but also drugs, sex, alcohol, depression, and alienation. But it’s much more, as there’s also a magical world that has Narnia influences, and the show is much funnier, stranger, and unique than one might think with that description. The show lasted five seasons that gave us many adventures for Quentin (Jason Ralph), Julia (Stella Maeve), Eliot (Hale Appleman), Margo (Summer Bishil), Penny (Arjun Gupta), Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Kady (Jade Taylor). It’s a shame the show has been kind of forgotten, so to celebrate it, here are the best episodes of The Magicians, ranked.
As with any genre show with magic or other paranormal powers, there has to be an alternate timelines episode. This is the one for The Magicians; an episode where we can revisit everything that has happened in the three seasons, and see where it could’ve gone different (and worse), imagining the many what-ifs. Julia and Josh (Trevor Einhorn) visit timeline 23 and discover who the Beast is there and try to defeat him to get the key he’s been hiding. They also come back to our timeline with both Penny and Marina (Kacey Rohl), loved characters that had already died in our timeline. Is there anything better for an actor than working in a magic show where you can always get brought back?
Fan-favorite character Penny’s power was that he could teleport. In season three, he dies tragically while astral projecting. This being The Magicians, it doesn’t mean he’s really dead, as his soul wasn’t in his body. This episode is all Penny, as he tries to understand what is happening to him, how to communicate with his friends, and come back; and Arjun Gupta nails his showcase episode, showing his frustration, pessimism, and cynicism, but also his comedic chops and decisiveness, as he decides to leave his body behind and start a new phase of his life.
It’s a bank heist episode with magic involved! What if the team in Ocean’s Eleven had magic powers? How would they rob a bank? There have been many movies about magicians, but not many that celebrate what they can do and give us a sense of fun that would come from having those powers. This episode does all of this and more. This episode has all the answers, as they’re robbing a bank, so Julia can pay for an evil demigod abortion (it makes sense if you watch the show, we promise). “Plan B” also intelligently uses the power of each team member; and the intra-personal dynamics between them (in a moment where there’s a lot of drama), while also showing why Margo is the best.
Related: The Magicians Cancelled After 5 Seasons on Syfy
In both the books and the show, Quentin Coldwater is our point of entry to this world; the protagonist and its hero. It's always expected he'll be the hero who will save the day. Except he isn’t. Quentin knows that Alice is a better magician, so when there’s a weapon to be wielded, he passes the assignment to her (something that would never happen to a Harry Potter character). Quentin says it best: "I’ve been waiting for some powerful being to come down and say, ‘Quentin Coldwater, you are The One’ … every book, every movie, it’s about one special guy. I want to be the one, I do, it’s just the adult part of me, the part of me that understands how magic works, keeps screaming that it’s you.” That reasoning was a game-changer for the episode, the show, and the whole genre. About Quentin, Jason Ralph told Comics Beat: “So much of the book series is spent inside of Quentin’s head, and we get first-hand experience of his anxiety. Trying to translate that–those thought circles and self-doubt to film [and] to the physical manifestation of it in my body–became that sort of speech pattern [Quentin does].”
Josh has been around since the first season, but he always felt like an outsider, as the whole group forgets about him too often. A demon that feeds on happiness notices Josh's feelings about always being left behind, and creates a perfect party world for him. The only way to save him is for the gang to admit they haven’t treated Josh right, and become a team again. And the way to do it is by singing David Bowie and Queen’s "Under Pressure". It’s not the first show that has done a musical episode, but this episode manages to add some heart and emotions to give it meaning. It’s also greatly choreographed and sung, five minutes that make us smile every time we see it. Co-creator Sarah Gamble told Assignment X: You can, in fact, look forward to musical numbers [laughs]. John McNamara (the other co-creator) is kind of a musical freak, and he is sort of naturally inclined to experiment with form, and I guess when people are feeling strong feelings, he thinks about people singing.
Related: Wizarding World and Beyond: Why We Love Modern Magic
The Magicians loved to play and subvert the rules of the genre, but also of episodic television, as this third episode would have been a season finale in all other shows. The Beast, the big bad of season one, finally gets killed, and one of our leads sacrifices herself to do it. We should’ve seen it coming, as there’s a beautiful scene, before the action, between Quentin and Alice that made us think these two lovebirds could make it work. The episode surprised everyone as the third episode of a season is always a table settler, and this one left us scrambling for some air as it was a game changer for the whole show.
As you may see from the number of episodes listed here, the third season is the best of this show, and this episode is its best. Although there are three stories, this is Quentin and Elliot’s show. The two go on a side quest to the past, looking for a key. To get it, they must solve The Mosaic, a puzzle that reflects the beauty of life. As they try to solve the mosaic, days, months, and years pass. And with them, the relationship between Quentin and Eliot evolves: they fall in love, and out of love, Quentin has a kid with a woman, and when she gets sick and dies, Quentin and Elliot raise the boy and grow older together. When Eliot dies of old age, Quentin finds the missing piece of the puzzle while burying him, and they both come back to our timeline. They still remembered the life they lived, and what happened, making them different people from those who left, as what reflected the beauty of life was living it. It was a beautiful episode, one that dove fully into the chemistry between Eliot and Quentin, and both actors displayed the love between them and the maturity that comes from a whole life together. This episode gives us chills every time we re-watch it, as it's the kind of episode that made The Magicians one of the best SYFY channel original series.


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